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Old 03-04-2007, 09:34 AM   #1
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Default NFL needs to tackle its criminal element

Ron Cook: NFL needs to tackle its criminal element
Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Go ahead, blame Pac-Man Jones. The creep deserves it. Though it's uncertain what role, if any, he played in a triple shooting at a Las Vegas strip club last month, this much we know: The incident was the 10th in which he has been involved with police the past two years.

Despicable.

But what about the Tennessee Titans' responsibility?

Didn't they realize they were taking a risk on a player of Jones', ahem, character? Didn't they know about his background at West Virginia? How he faced a malicious assault charge -- later reduced to a misdemeanor -- as the result of a bar fight? Did the Titans have to draft Jones with the sixth overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft and guarantee him nearly $15 million? Do they have to keep giving him chance after chance?

Ridicule Chris Henry, if you must. The creep deserves it. He was arrested four times last year, sadly replacing quarterback Carson Palmer as the face of the Cincinnati Bengals, a team that had nine players arrested since the start of 2006.

Detestable.

But what about the Bengals' responsibility?

Didn't they realize they were taking a gamble with Henry? Didn't they know about his background at West Virginia? How he was suspended for half a game in his final season after making an obscene jesture to the Rutgers' fans? How later that year he was suspended for the big game against Pitt after violating team rules? How he showed up quarterback Rasheed Marshall on the field in his final game in the Gator Bowl? Did the Bengals have to take him in the third round of the 2005 draft? Do they have to keep giving him chance after chance?

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

No, not that West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez needs to start recruiting a higher caliber of person.

That the NFL teams often are just as responsible for their players' abhorrent behavior as the players themselves.

And that the teams deserve what they get when their creeps cause trouble.

This isn't meant in any way as a defense of the players, who almost always are guilty of horrendous judgment if not criminal behavior.

Jones, a top-notch cornerback and terrific return man, and Henry, a superb wide receiver, are, by all accounts, bad people.

Jones' latest incident is something else. According to the strip club owner, Jones started a melee early Feb. 19 by throwing money on the stage, then reacting angrily when the dancers picked it up. The owner told The Nashville Tennessean that Jones threatened a security guard. He also said Jones was with the man who allegedly did the shooting that left three people injured, one paralyzed.

Jones and his attorney denied that Jones had any role in the shootings and said he didn't know the shooter. The attorney said Jones was questioned by police as a witness, not a suspect.

Whatever.

No matter, it has already been a tough few months for the NFL. In addition to the Jones' incident, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson was arrested for the third time in 18 months on a gun charge shortly before his bodyguard was shot and killed at a Chicago nightspot, Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was shot and killed outside a Denver club after a New Years Eve party and Super Bowl hero Dominic Rhodes of the Indianapolis Colts was arrested on a drunk-driving charge.

Yeah, the NFL's precious image has taken a beating.

But just as troubling is the way the teams react to their miscreants. Jones and Henry still are with their clubs. But it's not just the Titans and Bengals managements that too often look the other way when there are problems.

In the name of winning, of course.

The St. Louis Rams gave defensive end Leonard Little a $19 million contract extension after he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a woman in a drunk-driving incident and then was arrested and acquitted on another drunk-driving charge. The Minnesota Vikings gave offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie a big contract after he was involved in the team's infamous Love Boat escapades. The Bears played Johnson in the Super Bowl last month after a judge -- presumably a Bears fan -- granted him permission to travel to Miami for the big game.

And the teams wonder why their players think they can get away with anything as long as they produce on the field?

The teams, obviously, can't save themselves.

That's why it's kind of neat that several players are stepping up. Most of the NFL players are good, solid people who are tired of being lumped in with Jones, Henry, Johnson and the others. Palmer of the Bengals, reacting to the many arrests of his teammates, has been especially outspoken, telling the Cincinnati media, "If it doesn't stop, we're not going to have any fans left and I don't blame them. It's ridiculous."

Another Bengal -- wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- was one of several players who discussed player conduct and possible repercussions at a meeting late last month in Indianapolis that also included Steelers owner Dan Rooney and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. A three strikes-and-you're out policy was suggested and will be examined further at the owners' meetings this month.

Admirable, if lenient, the policy needs plenty of work before it becomes official. Is a strike determined by an arrest or a conviction? And does driving with a suspended license count as much as, say, assault and battery?

The truth?

The NFL teams could go along way toward eliminating these problems if they just used a little common sense.

Don't bring the troublemakers into the league in the first place or, at the very least, get rid of them the first time they act up, salary-cap implications be damned. Playing in the NFL and making the money the players do is a privilege.

Three strikes seem like too many.

One is more than enough.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07063/766655-87.stm
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Old 03-04-2007, 09:47 AM   #2
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Default Re: NFL needs to tackle its criminal element

Excellent read. I agree with it. One strike is enough. After that, sorry, you lose... go flip burgers.
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Old 03-04-2007, 09:57 AM   #3
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Default Re: NFL needs to tackle its criminal element

Its a nice article.

My thoughts are basically that the NFL is a business and the vast majority of teams aren't too worried about the conduct of their players as long as its strictly off-the-field.

Common wisdom seems to be that you can draw a line between, for example, Pac-man Jones the player and Pac-man Jones the private individual.

If Pac-man continues to produce the goods on the field then his owners will continue to wring their hands, express sympathy for his victims.......then carry on as normal.

Carsons outburst on the subject was not prompted by any great empathy for the Bengals fanbase - it was more likely the result of a frustration at Bengals players being so indisciplined that they are having a negative effect on the Bengals on-field performance - and as a result Carsons on field performance.

Now, some teams clearly make a conscious effort to recruit players with a strong moral compass - but I do I think that they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart?

Probably not - no.

The savvy teams - the Patriots, the Steelers, the Colts of the NFL, realise that you can't so easily disassociate the player and the private individual - that sooner or later someone who acts like an a-hole in his private life is going to bring some of that attitude into the locker room - then you have a cancer on your hands.

You have a guy who is capable of negatively influencing characters who are impressionable - youngers guys, rookies.

Now you have a malcontent locker room.

Next, you have a team that is not pulling its weight on the field, losing games and generally producing less than the money invested in it warrants.

The way I see it, you have two options - the NFL has to directly tie off field misdemeanors to on field production - fines are little or no use - wins need to be deducted, and draft picks confiscated.

In short, you need to hit owners where it hurts - in their pocket not in their conscience.

The second option is to wait for the rest of the league to wise up and look at what the Patriots, Steelers and Colts have achieved in the salary cap era - and realise that thuggish off field behaviour is bad for business.

I won't hold my breath for either.

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Old 03-04-2007, 04:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: NFL needs to tackle its criminal element


exactly how many chances can you give a guy Titans?
The guy should be cut by them just to prove that they
are not going to tolerate stupidity...
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Old 03-04-2007, 04:23 PM   #5
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Default Re: NFL needs to tackle its criminal element


Sorry, if I had just thought before I wrote the last post
I would have realized that all the Bengals players would
be looking for work
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