Andrews pleads not guilty to drug charges

Patriots player arrested in Lowell in car with 'strong' odor

Email|Print| Text size + By Tania deLuzuriaga
Globe Staff / February 6, 2008

LOWELL - If the script had been followed, he would have been on a Duck boat, waving at delirious fans and savoring a Super Bowl victory.

But there was no victory and no parade, and yesterday found Willie Andrews of the New England Patriots ducking onlookers in a Lowell courthouse, facing charges that he was dealing marijuana.

Police arrested the 24-year-old special teams player in Lowell yesterday in a Ford Crown Victoria with tinted windows, where they smelled a "strong pungent odor" and found three bags of leafy substances along with bundles of cash totaling $6,608, according to a police report.

"It was obviously somewhat startling to realize that an individual that's often a role model to children and considered to have some esteem in society would be in a situation like that," Lowell Police Superintendent Tim Lavallee said at a press conference yesterday. "But, quite honestly, professional athletes and people from all walks of life succumb sometimes to issues with drugs."

In a hearing that seemed to be orchestrated to keep the player out of the lime light, Andrews pleaded not guilty to charges of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in Lowell District Court. The charge was not read aloud, and the sophomore player was not required to show his face in the courtroom, although he was present. He was released on personal recognizance, but did not have to post bail. He must check in with a parole officer if he plans to leave the state.

The Patriots declined to answer questions yesterday, issuing a brief written statement: "As is our policy, team discipline will be handled internally."

Police said the arrest sprang from an anonymous caller who reported seeing plastic bags of drugs on the seat of a black Crown Victoria. Officers found the car at a gas station and watched Andrews get into it and pull onto a street near the University of Massachusetts at Lowell campus, a section of the city not known for drug activity.

The car had an expired inspection sticker, and the officers discovered that the car's registration had been revoked "for insurance purposes," the police report said. When the officers pulled the car over and smelled the strong odor, they asked Andrews to get out of the car. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound defensive back told the officers he had drugs on him.

"The defendant stated that he had some on his person hidden in his groin area," the arrest report says. Police found more marijuana under the front passenger seat. Police said about 8 ounces was recovered, worth about $500.

Yesterday wasn't the first brush with the law for Andrews. In 2002, he was arrested and charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon. Already on probation for criminal mischief at the time, he served 30 days in jail before starting his freshman year at Baylor University in Texas.

He seemed to rebound in college, staying out of trouble, setting multiple school records as a return specialist, and starting every game his final three seasons there. He was an All-American candidate in 2004. He was a seventh-round draft pick for the Patriots in 2006.

Andrews, who makes a base salary of $360,000, has had a promising career. He played in Sunday's 17-14 loss to the New York Giants. Last year, he tied for the lead in special team tackles, the first time a rookie led in that category since 1998. Last October, he scored his first NFL touchdown on a 77-yard kickoff return against the Miami Dolphins.

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story about the arrest of Willie Andrews of the New England Patriots in yesterday's City & Region section gave an incorrect name for the Lowell police superintendent. He is Ken Lavallee.

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