Marcell Dareus was on defense, and the cameras captured his every move.
But this was not football Sunday in front of tens of thousands of fans in a big stadium.
Instead, Dareus on Tuesday found himself in a far different defensive formation: huddling with his lawyer and then standing in front of a town justice in a small Town of Hamburg courtroom, where the Buffalo Bills defensive lineman declined a plea deal in a case stemming from an alleged street race May 30.
Dareus turned down an offer to plead guilty to reckless driving to settle all of the charges he faces in Hamburg, his lawyer said.
The 24-year-old Dareus had passed a throng of reporters as he made his way into Hamburg Town Hall, and then he sat alone in the second row of the gallery, not far from those in handcuffs awaiting their own hearings.
The Pro Bowl defensive tackle, dressed in a gray suit and light pink shirt, appeared calm. He occasionally glanced down at his cellphone to bide time until his case was called.
When that time came, Dareus stepped forward with his attorney, Michael P. Caffery, and stood before Town Justice Gerald P. Gorman. Assistant District Attorney Bethany A. Solek joined them.
The four whispered for a few minutes, and heads nodded, but only a two words were loud enough and clear enough for everyone else to hear: “September” and “ninth.” That’s when Dareus is scheduled to return to Town Court for further proceedings and motions.
After Dareus’ Jaguar crashed into a tree May 30, authorities charged him with reckless endangerment, reckless driving, participating in an illegal speed contest, leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, failure to keep right, speeding and making an unsafe lane change.
“If we’re unable to work out a resolution on Sept. 9, the case would then be scheduled for a non-jury trial,” Caffery told The Buffalo News.
After the judge set the return date, Dareus left in a black Mercedes-Benz sedan, with Caffery behind the wheel.
Dareus declined to comment.
His next court date falls between the first and second weeks of the National Football League regular season – two days after the Bills’ season opener in Chicago and five days before their home opener against Miami.
It has been an offseason of legal trouble for the fourth-year pro, a 6-foot-3, 331-pounder coming off a year in which he posted 71 tackles and 7½ sacks and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.
Following a voluntary spring practice on a Friday afternoon, Dareus and teammate Jerry Hughes were allegedly involved in a high-speed street race near one of the Southtowns’ busiest intersections.
Dareus lost control of his white 2012 Jaguar, and the car crossed over two lanes of oncoming eastbound traffic on Milestrip Road near McKinley Parkway, according to Hamburg police.
The Jaguar jumped a curb and passed through some grass and the parking lot of the Mongolian Buffet restaurant before crashing into a tree about 10 yards from the restaurant’s front entrance.
Dareus, who was uninjured, exited the crumpled vehicle and fled, police said. He was arrested within 15 minutes.
If convicted on reckless endangerment – a misdemeanor and the most serious charge – he could face up to a year in jail.
Hughes, who was not charged, reportedly drove away from the scene in a black Camaro.
Dareus also faces felony charges from a separate incident that could result in a suspension by the NFL.
On May 5, Dareus was arrested following a traffic stop in his native Alabama. He was charged with possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. He allegedly had synthetic marijuana.
Drafted third overall out of Alabama in 2011, Dareus also had team disciplinary issues last season. Bills head coach Doug Marrone benched him for the beginning of the Bills’ final two games for showing up late to team meetings.