Irvin Plays Ball

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DALLAS: The trial that gripped football-crazed Dallas ended Monday, when Dallas Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin avoided jail time by pleading no contest to second-degree felony cocaine possession. Irvin will receive four years' deferred probation and a $10,000 fine, and his playing status remains up in the air. "The rule of thumb is that if you're convicted or plead guilty to drug charges, you are looking at a four-game suspension," reports TIME's Carlton Stowers. "But the commissioner is in no way limited in how long a suspension he can give Irvin. A decision should come quickly because the league has been investigating this for a while already." In Dallas, Stowers says, the trial has been front-page news and led television newscasts ever since the March 4 drug bust of Irvin and two topless dancers at a Dallas hotel. "There are more national media covering this trial than any in Dallas since Jack Ruby," Stowers reports. "That's remarkable for some tiny drug case. It took on a life of its own and kept getting bigger and bigger." The bombshell in the trial came last month when Dallas police officer Johnnie Hernandez was arrested for allegedly soliciting Irvin's murder. Hernandez was upset because Irvin threatened the police officer's girlfriend, Rachelle Smith, after she gave damaging testimony to a grand jury. On Friday, Smith testified outside the jury's presence to a life of drug use and sexual escapades by the married Irvin. "After hearing Smith's testimony, the defense lawyers huddled over the weekend to discuss how to cut their losses," Stowers reports. While Irvin was able to cut his legal losses, it will be difficult for him to be able to recover publicly. "His potential for endorsements has been damaged irreparably," Stowers says. "His reputation took a deep hit. He behaved quite immorally for quite some time. And instead of appearing apologetic about it, he behaved arrogantly in court." -- Josh Dubow