The Indianapolis Colts put backup linebacker Josh McNary on the commissioner's exempt list Thursday, less than 24 hours after prosecutors filed criminal charges against the 26-year-old.
McNary faces charges of rape, criminal confinement with bodily injury and battery resulting in bodily injury — another off-the-field problem for a league that has been plagued by them this season.
McNary will not be permitted to practice with the team or attend games, including Sunday's AFC Championship Game at New England. He will, however, continue to be paid.
Punter Pat McAfee said players were "blindsided" by the serious allegations that were released publicly Wednesday.
"I feel sorry for all of the parties involved, but I do believe that in this country that you are innocent until proven guilty," McAfee said. "If he is guilty of something, then I hope justice will be served."
While coach Chuck Pagano kept his team focused on this week's challenge — the AFC title game — team officials issued a statement just before the start of practice to explain the roster move.
"That designation will permit the investigation provided by the league's personal conduct policy to run its course and will afford Josh the opportunity to focus on his defense against the charges," the statement read in part.
"The Colts sincerely hope this extraordinarily serious matter will be resolved expeditiously and that justice will prevail."
NFL: St. Louis must build new stadium
St. Louis planners must build a new football stadium, or the city will not hold onto its franchise, a key NFL executive said Thursday.
NFL Executive Vice President Eric Grubman, who is in charge of stadium development as well as developing the Los Angeles market, came to St. Louis on Thursday to meet with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon's two-man stadium team.
He confirmed, for the first time ever by a league official, that St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke is indeed "looking" elsewhere.
• NFL combines will take on an "older" look when the league adds one for veteran players to go with the massive event it holds for potential draftees. The veterans' combine will take place March 22 at the Arizona Cardinals' training facility. "This is the natural evolution of our combine series," NFL Director of Football Development Matt Birk told the Associated Press.
• Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was named the NFL's Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, becoming the first Dallas staffer to win the award since its inception in 1993.
• The Cowboys won't be retaining their entire coaching staff. As expected, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan is leaving to become offensive line coach of the Washington Redskins.
• The improper installation of a modular fireplace or a material defect caused a fire that resulted in $500,000 in damage to the home of Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera on Jan. 5. The Charlotte, N.C., fire department released its final report, saying it has ruled out foul play or criminal activity.
• Denver receiver Emmanuel Sanders was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl, replacing injured Atlanta star Julio Jones. This gives the Broncos an NFL-best 10 Pro Bowl players, tying an NFL record set by the 1996 Panthers.