By Michael Marot | The Associated Press
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cornerback Isaiah Rodgers Sr. lost the biggest bet of his life Thursday.
He was waived by the Indianapolis Colts shortly after the NFL suspended Rodgers and two other players indefinitely for gambling on NFL games last season.
The Colts also cut backup defensive end Rashod Berry after Berry and free agent defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor received the same punishment for the same infraction. None of the three can seek reinstatement until after next season.
Tennessee Titans right tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere received a six-game suspension for betting on non-NFL sports at the team’s facility, though he can participate in all of the team’s offseason and preseason activities including preseason games.
For the Colts, the decision came swiftly and decisively — even for a potential starter like Rodgers.
“We have made the following roster moves as a consequence of the determination that these players violated the league’s gambling policy,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard said in a statement. “The integrity of the game is of the utmost importance. As an organization we will continue to educate our players, coaches, and staff on the policies in place and the significant consequences that may occur with violations.”
Those rules bar players, coaches, team officials and all league personnel from betting on NFL games, placing bets at team facilities or team hotels or having someone else place a bet for them.
NFL executive vice president of communications, public affairs and policy Jeff Miller said last week only players are permitted to bet on non-NFL games following consultation with the NFL Players Association.
Still gambling policy violations are becoming increasingly common with the expansion of states legalizing sports wagering and other forms of betting and the ease with which bets can be placed on mobile devices.
And it seems remarkably prevalent in a league that imposed no gambling suspensions between those involving Paul Hornung and Alex Karras in 1963 until Art Schlichter in 1983.
At least 10 players have been suspended in the past year, beginning with the 2022 season-long suspension of former Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley. He was reinstated in March and now plays for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Five players were suspended for gambling infractions in April, four from Detroit.
The Lions have since released receivers Quintez Cephus and Stanley Berryhill and safety C.J. Moore after Cephus and Moore received indefinite suspensions. Lions general manager Brad Holmes said at the time Cephus and Moore “exhibited decision-making that is not consistent with our organizational values and violates league rules.”
Berryhill and receiver Jameson Williams were given six-game suspensions. Taylor also played for the Lions last season and was released in May.
The other player, Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney, also received an indefinite suspension. Toney, a seventh-round pick in 2021; Williams, the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2022; and Petit-Frere still have jobs.
While the league already has reinforced its gambling policy to the more than 17,000 NFL employees, it’s also making the rounds for annual presentations at team facilities.
“The league just comes in, they give their piece on it with what they talk about and how they handle it and what the players need to know and going forward in that matter,” new Colts coach Shane Steichen said after the investigation into Rodgers’ actions went public earlier this month.
It’s not just that there’s more gambling.
A website that covers sports wagering, sportshandle.com, reported an unidentified Colts player placed ”hundreds” of bets, some on Colts games. Rodgers later responded to the report with a Twitter post in which he acknowledged making “mistakes” while hoping to “repair” the damage.
Rodgers, a fourth-year player from UMass, won’t get that chance in Indy. But Tennessee is taking a different approach with its starting right tackle.
“We believe in Nick and know that he has deep respect for the integrity of the game and our organization,” the Titans said in a statement. “We will continue to emphasize to our players the importance of understanding and adhering to league rules and policies.”
Losing key players to suspensions is taking a toll.
New Titans general manager Ran Carthon made Petit-Frere the centerpiece of a revamped offensive line. He’s the only returning starter expected to play the same spot as last season and can’t return until after Tennessee’s bye week, Oct. 29 against Atlanta.
In a statement he posted on social media, Petit-Frere apologized to the Titans and his family while making clear his bets were legal under Tennessee law.
“It is only being sanctioned because it occurred at the Titans facility …,” Petit-Frere said in the statement. “I have always strived in every stage of my life to follow the rules. Even after attending a league presentation, I was unaware about the specifics around placing bets from a team facility.”
Former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and current broadcaster believes not knowing the rules is simply an excuse. He also called on the NFL to provide support for those in the league who have gambling addictions.
“I know for a fact that the Jets and Giants, in OTAs and minicamps, went over these policies with their teams incessantly so they know what they can and cannot do,” said Esiason, the NFL’s 1988 MVP. “So, any player that comes out and says, ‘Well, they didn’t tell me,’ that’s a pile of crap. It’s on the player to be the professional that you’re supposed to be and earn the money that you’re earning and play in a league that you’re privileged to play in and protect that league’s integrity by not betting on the league.”
Berry and Petit-Frere were teammates at Ohio State before Berry was signed by New England as an undrafted rookie in 2020. Berry spent most of last season on the Jags practice squad before joining Indy’s active roster Jan. 4.
The bigger blow in Indy is losing Rodgers in a secondary already under reconstruction. He was expected to provide a veteran’s voice in a young position room that includes four draft picks. Now, he’s out of a job as the Colts move forward.
“I think any time something like this comes up, you’ve got to push it aside and move on,” Steichen said. “But the players have been good so far in the building.”
AP Pro Football Writers Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tennessee and Rob Maaddi and AP Sports Writer Kyle Hightower in Boston also contributed to this report.