(Reuters) - Josh McNary, an Indianapolis Colts reserve linebacker charged with raping a 29-year-old woman in December, has been placed on the NFL’s commissioner exempt list, the league said on Thursday.
Being on the list means McNary cannot play or practice with the team, which is in the NFL playoffs, until his legal issues are resolved.
McNary, a second-year NFL player, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday and was free after posting $25,000 bond.
The linebacker was charged Wednesday in Marion County Superior Court with felony rape, criminal confinement and battery. He is accused of attacking the woman in his Indianapolis apartment when she rejected his advances.
“He scared me, intimidated me,” the woman told detectives.
The Colts, who had asked NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to place McNary on the exempt list, play the New England Patriots in the American Football Conference championship on Sunday with the winner headed to the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.
McNary’s lawyer, Edward Schrager, released a statement saying the player denies all the accusations.
The charges and affidavit are not evidence of wrongdoing, but “simply one side’s story,” the statement said. “Joshua has full faith and confidence in the American way, including its justice system.”
McNary, 26, is primarily a special teams player for the Colts. He played in college at Army, becoming the school’s all-time sack leader, before serving two years of active duty in the military.
He was signed by Indianapolis as a free agent in April 2013.
“The Colts sincerely hope this extraordinarily serious matter will be resolved expeditiously and that justice will prevail,” the team said.
Cases of domestic violence and sexual assault have rocked the National Football League in the past year and Goodell has responded by toughening sanctions against offenders.
In the past year, several players have been placed on the exempt list, including 2012 NFL most valuable player Adrian Peterson, who was charged with spanking his 4-year-old son with a switch.
Having McNary on the list “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 Colts said.
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Bill Trott, Doina Chiacu and Eric Walsh