Just like us fans, Roger Goodell is likely praying for the start of the NFL season to hurry up and get here. Not because the NFL commissioner loves the game, which surely, he does. Instead, the football season serves as a major distraction to keep the NFL’s players from getting into trouble, aka, getting pinched by the cops.
28 active NFL players have been arrested (as of July 20) since Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 5) according to ArrestNation.com, along with four guys receiving citations and one being formally charged. In full disclosure, Lions DT Nick Fairley accounts for two of the 28 arrests in that time period. Nice job big man. Way to be consistent.
Before we get into what this means (if anything) for football, and whether or not this is an athlete-arrest epidemic, let us take a look at a few of my favorite crimes some of these guys allegedly committed:
- Disorderly Conduct
- Driving under the influence
- Suspicion of third-degree assault with substantial bodily harm
- Fugitive warrant (so hard core…perhaps my favorite of the bunch)
- Possession of marijuana
- Third-degree criminal sexual conduct
- Failure to carry insurance (yes… car insurance. Seriously)
- Possession of marijuana
- Misdemeanor assault
Despite my wisecracks, there is some pretty serious stuff listed above. Many of the arrests were for DUI or similar infractions. This is not good, no matter which way you slice it.
But is this out of the norm? Not as of late. 30 NFL players were arrested during the same time frame in 2011, according to the San Diego Union Tribune’s database of NFL arrests (https://www.utsandiego.com/nfl/arrests-database/).
In contrast, there were 17 arrests From Aug. 1 2011 to Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 6, 2012), according to the Union Tribune arrest database.
After five to six month of a completely regimented lifestyle provided by an NFL season, some guys seem to travel too far to the other side of the freedom spectrum.
Too much spare time coupled with pro sports money can prove to be one bad combination for some folks.
Folks like young Dez Bryant, one of the six player-arrests to be made public within the last six days from 7/15-7/20.
Bryant might indeed be the next coming of Michael Irvin in Dallas, but for all the wrong reasons. The troubled Cowboys receiver was pinched after his mother called the police accusing Bryant of slapping her face, pulling her hair and ripping her clothing during the alleged assault.
Bryant’s arrest comes after a string of negative incidences, none of which involved an arrest. Going into his third NFL season, the former Oklahoma State Cowboy has been inconsistent on the field while also showing flashes of brilliance. Various accounts of Bryant’s troubled upbringing have been published over the past few years, and Jerry Jones and the Cowboys are certainly aware.
Just like teams force players to take physical exams before each season starts, why not bring in a psychotherapist to sit down with each guy for an hour or two for a mental health evaluation? Chris Henry could have used one. So could PacMan Jones. How about Michael Vick?
Some arrests may be considered equal by the law, but that is not the case in the court of public opinion. When your typical fans hear about Adrian Peterson’s arrest at a Houston nightclub, he is likely to get some slack considering his clean record and good-guy image. Bryant, on the other hand, hasn’t been afforded the same treatment for obvious reasons.
As annoying and cliche as it is, “perception is reality,” and the NFL does indeed have some problems in the perception department.
Lockout. Head injuries. Bankruptcy. Suicide. Dementia. Shootings. DUIs. Foot fetishes.
Okay, well, a foot fetish is no biggie, but the rest of the NFL’s issues are substantial. The league tries a traditional method of prevention with the Rookie Symposium where current and former players, along with other speakers, warn the NFL’s newest members of the myriad of distractions and deal breakers they could potentially face during their careers. While the symposium is a start, it’s not enough.
Commissioner Goodell has yet to publicly address the string of player arrests this offseason, and I’m not sure that he needs to. Will people stop watching football because guys are getting popped for DUIs and assault? Probably not, at least not to any measurable degree.
In looking at the big business picture, perhaps the league doesn’t view these discretions as a detriment. Why not? Take a gander at this info nugget from an article on The PostGame from Oct. 2011:
"The numbers don’t lie. One in every 45 National Football League players (2.2 percent) is arrested. The national arrest rate is 1 in 23 (4.2 percent), according to the FBI in 2010. What does this mean? Technically, NFL players get in 47.6 percent less trouble than your average Joe."
But that doesn’t make it right. Goodell has been criticized for his authoritative rule and heavy hand. I have, for the most part, agreed with Goodell’s disciplinary actions but the league needs to find a better way of preventing its core of rich and talented young men from making one mistake too many.