Meriweather a big Redskins question mark

When Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan was considering signing safety Brandon Meriweather this spring, he called Patriots coach Bill Belichick to ask if he thought it was a good idea. Belichick cut Meriweather just before the start of the 2011 season, and Meriweather wasn't productive last year with the Bears, so Shanahan wanted to know if something was up -- and more importantly, whether the guy could still play. Belichick told Shanahan he thought Meriweather could still play and would fit well as the strong safety in the kind of defense Shanahan likes to run.

Now,the Patriots were basically using traffic cones at safety and cornerback for much of last season. If Belichick thought Meriweather could still play, that means he cut him for attitude or personality reasons. The source who told me the story about the Shanahan-Belichick phone call said Belichick thought Meriweather was getting too cocky after making a couple of Pro Bowls and needed to be knocked down a peg. So out he went, and he floundered with the Bears in a system that Shanahan believes fit him poorly. Shanahan signed Meriweather on the belief that he could do the things he needs his strong safety to do, and the plan is for Meriweather to be the starter at that position.

Why do I bring all of this up? Well, the news today on Meriweather is that his DUI case has been resolved. According to ESPN 980 in Washington, he was found guilty and got a 180-day suspended jail sentence and a $300 fine. Probably lost his license for a few months, too, which means he'll need rides to and from training camp. But that's not really the point here, is it?

NFL players getting arrested for drunken driving is so commonplace now that it's easy to forget what a stupid, selfish and serious crime that is. If Meriweather is already a guy with a questionable attitude and/or personality, this isn't the kind of thing that helps convince you it's all going to be OK. This is the kind of thing that establishes Meriweather, already a question mark after the 2011 he had, as someone on whom the Redskins may not be able to rely. And that's not good, considering how shaky their secondary already is.

Meriweather could be suspended by the NFL for this. It's a murky issue, since DUI is, I believe, covered under the substance abuse policy and therefore the commissioner might not be able to suspend Meriweather if this is his first offense. But even if he can't be suspended for this, he could certainly be suspended if he does anything else this stupid away from the field. If the Redskins were to lose Meriweather for a few games, Reed Doughty likely would step in. And that'd probably be fine, since it's not as though he'd have to replace Troy Polamalu. The bigger point is that Shanahan, who has been preaching the importance of character on the roster and in the locker room, is in a position where he has to count on a guy whose reliability is in question. At a time when the Redskins are trying to build something successful and sustainable for the long term, that's a tough thing to have to deal with.