DADE CITY, Fla. (AP) - Cleveland Browns linebacker Darren Hambrick turned himself into authorities earlier this week on felony grand theft charges that he stole a check from the Carolina Panthers.
Following practice on Monday, Hambrick, who signed as a free agent with the Browns in August, flew to Florida to answer to an arrest warrant issued against him.
Hambrick, 27, is accused of stealing a $5,682.51 check from the Panthers three weeks after joining the team in October 2001, court records said.
He was issued the payroll check on Nov. 11, but then asked the team to stop payment on that check because he never received it, records said.
Another check for the same amount was sent to Hambrick, and on Jan. 29 a man who identified himself as Hambrick cashed both checks at a Bank of America branch in Dade City, court records said.
A bank representative told a detective she contacted Hambrick and asked him to return the $5,682.51, but he refused, records said.
"We initiated the complaint against him back in March for grand theft, the state attorney issued the warrant, and somehow he got wind of the warrant and turned himself in," Dade City police Capt. David Duff said.
The Browns play at Tampa Bay this Sunday, and Duff said if Hambrick hadn't turned himself in, police may have arrested him this weekend.
When Hambrick was approached for a comment Wednesday in the Browns' locker room, he was ushered away by a member of the club's media relations staff.
Hambrick played for the Panthers last season after spending three seasons with the Dallas Cowboys.
The Browns signed him on Aug. 10 after Pro Bowl linebacker Jamir Miller suffered a season-ending injury.
"We have been made aware of a situation that occurred prior to Darren Hambrick joining the Cleveland Browns involving a duplicate check issue," Browns spokesman Todd Stewart said. "It is our understanding that all monies have been returned. We are awaiting further information from the authorities and Darren's attorney."
The Browns have not said whether Hambrick will be disciplined.
Hambrick arrived at the Pasco County just before 6 p.m. on Monday and posted $10,000 bail in less than two hours, a jail spokeswoman said. An initial court appearance had not been scheduled.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to a fine, probation or jail.
Hambrick's agent, Derrick Harrison, declined comment.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)