What We Learned This Week in the NFL Offseason:
- NFL in the midst of nightmare week for player arrests
Ladies and gentlemen we have only 10 Sundays to go until our most cherished past-time returns to us. Ten Sundays of running errands, doing chores, taking vacations, flipping through the channels, and missing football are left. If I was Roger Goodell I’d say those Sundays couldn’t go by faster. I’d say that Roger Goodell was having the worst week ever but I’d probably guess that the family members of Odin Lloyd and Jerry Brown Jr. would debate that. This week an NFL star has been charged with murder, an NFL rookie has been charged with attempted murder, an NFL player awaiting trial for manslaughter was arrested for a second failed drug test, and just to top it all of another player was arrested on weapons charges. How’s that tougher discipline working out for you now, Rogeez?
In case you’ve somehow sworn off NFL news (aside from my MMQB of course) during the offseason, you’ve most likely seen the downfall of former New England Patriots star TE Aaron Hernandez play out this week. Well, it’s not exactly done with as now that he’s been arrested and charged with murder, he’s being held without bond and now investigated for a previous double murder. The Patriots, who were initially celebrated for taking a flyer on a “troubled kid” out of UF in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, cut the tight end who they had just signed to a five-year extension last summer which included a $12.5 million signing bonus. Hernandez was arrested for murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd as well as multiple gun charges and is now being investigated for a 2012 double murder.
In addition to this week showcasing a prominent NFL player’s fall from grace, it also included an NFL rookie’s cut before ever taking a snap as Cleveland undrafted free agent rookie linebacker Ausar Walcott was cut after being charged with attempted murder for allegedly punching a man outside a club in Northern New Jersey. This wasn’t Walcott’s first arrest. In 2011 he was arrested for assault and battery while at school in Virginia and was suspended by the team but reinstated when the charges were dropped. Walcott is the second Browns rookie to be arrested this offseason. Their 7th round pick, Armonty Bryant was charged with DUI in Oklahoma about a week after being drafted by the Browns in April. Bryant had also had a previous felony drug arrest in college.
Always to be unique and not fall down to peer pressure, the Dallas Cowboys have yet to cut their most recently arrested player, DL Josh Brent, who most will remember was involved in a car crash that killed a Dallas Cowboy practice squad member named Jerry Brown Jr. Brent was awaiting trial for intoxication manslaughter charges for the crash and has been booked into the Dallas County Jail for failing his second consecutive drug test while being out on bond for those manslaughter charges. The Cowboys have yet to release Brent, who was allowed to join the team on the sidelines for their game immediately following the crash that killed another player, and haven’t commented on the situation either. One of my many questions on this situation includes, um, why is he awaiting trial for the intoxication manslaughter? Why hasn’t he taken a plea? Is he really going to dispute the fact that he was drunk and got into a car accident that killed another person? Ok so I have more than one question.
To top of the week of arrests, Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged became the 29th NFL player arrested since Super Bowl Sunday after officers found unregistered guns in the car he was riding in. Lefeged was a passenger in a car that fled a traffic stop for speeding. Once the cops took a peek inside the car they found marijuana, a container of vodka and orange juice and a semi-automatic pistol. I clearly have a different idea of a Saturday night out than this dude does. Lefeged was caught with another passenger fleeing from the car. What an episode of C.O.P.S. that would have made huh? If you haven’t heard of Lefeged before it probably has something to do with the fact that he’s an NFL safety who apparently can’t out-run a cop in northeast Washington.
Commissioner Roger Goodell was supposed to come in and be the big, bad wolf to the players when it came to disciplining their off-the-field misbehavior. He fought bitterly to hold on to the power to be the supreme and ultimate disciplinarian of the NFL players. And for what? So 29 NFL players could be arrested now since the Super Bowl? So that young and ignorant players like Aaron Hernandez can see the examples set before him like Pacman Jones and Ray Lewis and know that just as long as he can make a franchise some money he will be forgiven of just about anything? The Patriots have been cheered this week for taking swift action to cut Hernandez and offer a chance for fans to exchange his jersey in their stores but why were they also cheered for drafting Hernandez in the first place? Everybody loves a comeback story and turning a “bad boy” good, especially if they can turn him good by putting him under the “Patriot way”.
Hernandez was questioned in a shooting while at the University of Florida and admitted to failing multiple drug tests while in school (though never suspended or kicked off the Gators team that went on to win a BCS Championship) but became a star in the league playing for the Patriots opposite Rob Gronkowski raking up 18 touchdown receptions and almost 2,000 receiving yards so far in his short career. You think Hernandez invented his “above the law” attitude that led him to this alleged execution-style murder completely out of the blue? Hell, the Patriots handed this 23 year old kid $12.5 million last summer. Back in the day the football players used to get the breaks when it came to passing classes, now it’s for excusing away their crimes. Do you honestly think if, for whatever reason, Hernandez gets out of these charges like Lewis got out of his that he wouldn’t expect to be let back into the NFL? I don’t know what the solution is. I don’t know if it’s as easy as firing Goodell because while that would bring me great joy, it might not solve the problem of athletes who are growing up thinking that their talents are more valuable than another human life. Do you think that Josh Brent got the message that his contributions to the Cowboys team were more valuable than Jerry Brown Jr.’s life when they still haven’t released him and even welcomed him back to the team immediately after the accident? If you or I were in a drunken-driving crash over the weekend that killed a coworker, our bosses would totally welcome us back with open arms, right? As long as our bosses felt that we could make them millions of dollars they sure as hell would.
Things have gotten to the point where some NFL players feel like they don’t have to bother getting their guns registered to abide by the state’s laws they’re living in because we’ve all welcomed Plaxico Burress back from his gun incident with open arms. We laughed off Ricky Williams failing drug test after drug test and walking away from the game only to return with open arms years later that now a player awaiting manslaughter charges feels he’s not obligated to follow the laws against marijuana. I’m not exactly saying that these are the direct causes of these players’ recent troubles but it’s a trend that I’m not a fan of for sure. The majority of NFL players stay out of trouble, never get arrested, devote hours of time and tons of money to charities, and are overall good guys, there is no doubt about that. I’m saying that maybe the NFL should stop trying to rehabilitate the “bad boys” and sacrifice the potential money the player with the “troubled past” would make for them for the potential harm he might cause to people in the process. Maybe instead of saying that a troubled player with great talents deserves a second, third, or fourth chance and NFL owner or coach should give a first chance to a player with a great character with the willingness to improve their talents.
So I’ve taken up my entire MMQB to rant about the ugliness of the NFL week of arrests. What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Do you think this is a growing trend that can be corrected? What are your thoughts about the current discipline problems in the NFL?