SAN DIEGO — Before they give running back Eric Bieniemy the football, the Chargers might want to ask for his car keys.
Bieniemy, Colorado's all-time scoring and rushing leader, arrived Monday in San Diego after being selected in Round 2 of the NFL draft a day earlier, then tried to explain why the police want him as badly as the Chargers.
A bench warrant has been issued in Colorado for Bieniemy's arrest for failing to appear in Garfield Associate County Court on charges of driving with a suspended license and for speeding.
"It was a mix-up in court dates," Bieniemy said.
This latest scrape with the law, however, has nothing to do with Bieniemy's May 1 pretrial conference in Boulder on charges of leaving the scene of an accident.
"That, too, was also a misunderstanding," a smiling Bieniemy said.
It should also not be confused with the three previous traffic violations that led to the suspension of his driving privileges or his plea of no contest to charges of interfering with a firefighter on duty last July 4.
"That was another odd incident that happened," Bieniemy said.
And that business about pleading no contest to disorderly conduct charges for a barroom brawl--that's old news.
"That was another unfortunate mishap," Bieniemy said.
Aurora assistant city attorney Mike Hyman, however, told the Rocky Mountain News in Denver that Bieniemy's most recent problems with the law might jeopardize the eight-month deferred judgment he received in September for interfering with a firefighter.
"Does that make him a bad player?" said Coach Dan Henning.
General Manager Bobby Beathard said the Chargers did their homework on Bieniemy before the draft, and he said this is one fine young man.
However, trouble pursues Bieniemy like a hyperactive linebacker.
It began his freshman year at CU when he responded to a racial slur in a bar by becoming embroiled in a fight.
A year later, Bieniemy was ticketed in Westminster, Colo., for driving a defective vehicle and received two points on his driving record. Drivers in Colorado are allowed eight points on their driving records before their driving privileges are suspended.
Three months later Bieniemy was ticketed in Aurora for speeding and four more points were added to his record. An improper left turn in October last year resulted in another ticket, three points and the suspension of his license. His license was to remain suspended until this October.
On March 21, however, he was stopped on I-70 outside Rifle, Colo., going 92 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone.
"I thought it was 84 m.p.h. or something," Bieniemy said. "I was coming out to California on spring break."
Kathy Schouten, the clerk of Garfield Associate County Court, said Bieniemy will have to post a $1,000 bond to free himself from the bench warrant, and then still will have to answer charges of driving with a suspended license and speeding.
"He was summoned to appear on April 10 and called and said he had no way of getting here and was granted a continuance to April 17," Schouten said. "He failed to appear. It's a mandatory appearance; it can't be handled just through the mail."
Bieniemy said his Denver-based lawyer, Richard Myers, was handling the matter for him. "If you have any questions, call him," he said.
Myers' secretary said he was out of town and unavailable for comment.
"No attorney has been in contact with us," Schouten said.
Bieniemy's mother, Fern St. Cyr, acknowledged her son's license had been suspended but was upset with the attention afforded to the bench warrant that was issued April 17.
"His attorney has seen about it," she said. "I don't know why it got out or what's going on. You know how the press is here (in Denver). Whenever something happens with Eric, it's faxed all over the nation."
Bieniemy faces 10 to 90 days in jail, fines of $10 to $300 and 12 additional points added to his driving record if he's found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident.
"I thought once you exchanged information you could leave the scene," he said. "I went home and reported it to the police and then they arrested me for leaving the scene."
Bieniemy reportedly told the police he was only a passenger in his friend's car at the time of the accident, but the driver of the other car identified Bieniemy as the driver.
"Are you thinking of getting a chauffeur?" asked a reporter after listening to Bieniemy's driving escapades.
"That's cold," Bieniemy said. "That's cold."
Bieniemy, however, might be headed for more hot water.
Last July 4, firefighters responded to a call at the home of Bieniemy's mother in Aurora. Bieniemy allegedly identified himself to authorities as his brother after allegedly throwing a forearm into a firefighter.
"My little brother had put some fireworks in a plastic bag, and so the fire started and we put it out," Bieniemy said. "Since the fire was next to the wall, they thought it was electrical. I said, 'Excuse me, sir, the fire started in the trash bag.'