Oct 102012
 

Widows, even though I haven’t found the exact science for making picks, I stand by all of them from last week. The teams that I chose to win were already winners in my book based on their efforts in support of “A Crucial Catch”, the NFL’s program to support breast cancer awareness and education. I learned a lot in the research process and had fun writing my article last week.

In addition to being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Around the time when I was choosing the “scientific” formula to be used each week to make my sophisticated Widow’s Picks, The Artist Formerly Known as Chad Ochocinco was arrested for domestic battery against his wife. Chad Johnson’s arrest, and the ensuing media circus surrounding an NFL player so publically being inappropriate, inspired my decision to take a week in October to choose winners based on the team with the fewest players arrested for violent crime. I chose this week because the third week of October has been designated by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) as “The Week Without Violence”. I hereby decree, by the power vested in me by football widows everywhere, that the nice guys will finish first this week!

I know what you’re thinking, Widows. How can I expect men who get paid obscene amounts of money to beat up on each other on the field be expected to hold it together off of it? It’s really quite simple, and it harkens back to my thought that everything they need to know about football, they learned in Kindergarten. For example, in Kindergarten, we learn the difference between our “inside voice” and our “outside voice”. If you scream on the playground, it’s all good. If you scream in the classroom, you stand in the corner. The distinction is clear. In the NFL, there are rules and penalties. My husband pointed out a great litmus test when making decisions about behavior. If it gets you a 15 yard penalty during the game, best not try it at home. Speaking directly to Chad Johnson in this case, no head butting allowed! Not even if the other guy is wearing a helmet!

Further inspection revealed something that footballs fans already know, although Widows like me didn’t even have this on the radar. Apparently, again sort of like Kindergarteners, some NFL players do better when they are being monitored. For example, I found several articles that referred to Tennessee Titan Kenny Britt’s “crime spree” that occurred during the lockout prior to the 2011 season. This is one example of apparently several instances in which players engaged in behavior that would have been addressed as violations of the player conduct policy, yet couldn’t be addressed during the lockout. Lockouts are temporary, and that one came and went. Damage to one’s character lasts forever. Maybe this is a stretch, but if we started hearing about a crime surge among Chicago teachers during their recent work stoppage, would we dismiss it since they are off the clock? If a person behaves badly and no one was around to pay them, is it still wrong? Since this chapter of NFL history is in the record books, and I don’t have a great answer, I will climb carefully off of my soap box. (Note that I haven’t said word one about these guys as role models for the young men my husband and I are raising.)

I understand that it may not be reasonable to expect that the crime rate among millionaires between the ages of 22 and 40 playing pro football would be any different than the rate for other men in the same age group. I am not going to get into the debate about whether or not these gentlemen should or should not be regarded as role models to our nation’s young people. However, I am very interested in how teams and the League as a whole, respond to criminal activity and other misconduct on the part of players.

Chad Johnson was fairly swiftly cut from the Dolphins. Detroit cut corner back Aaron Berry following an assault arrest. In April 2012, the Vikings cut running back Caleb King after he fractured a man’s skull in a fight that ensued because the guy said that King looked like comedian Eddie Murphy. Seattle cut Jarriel King following an arrest for suspicion of sexual assault of an intoxicated woman. In many cases, however, players continue to play. I guess not everyone should lose their job just because they get into trouble with the law. However, the NFL has acknowledged the issues surrounding risky personal behaviors and has responded.

The NFL has a mandatory program for all rookies called The Rookie Success Program. This program includes education on topics such as stress management, anger management, domestic violence, substance abuse and impulse control. Player Assistance and Counseling Services are also available. Modeled like a typical employee assistance program, these services are designed to assist players with issues that they face upon transition into the NFL, throughout their career, and during transition out of the league. There is recognition on the part of the league that life in the NFL is not without pressure and players may need resources, not only to help them be better players, but to be better people.

Widow’s Warning: People are innocent until proven guilty. Some of the cases I found have not yet been decided in a court of law. I am basing my picks this week on arrests, with no presumption of guilt. No NFL players were harmed in the making of my picks. So, may the team with the fewest thugs win!! Here’s hoping for no domestic violence in their homes, no brandishing of weapons, no bar fights, and, for heaven’s sake, calling a cab when drunk!!

Week 6

Steelers over Titans (Ben Rothlisberger, you are lucky you are playing the Titans!)
Falcons over Raiders
Chiefs over Buccaneers (Jermaine Philips, still a Buc, arrested for domestic violence, specifically strangulation, of his partner)
Jets over Colts
Browns over Bengals (The Browns have some VERY naughty boys to thank for being picked to win. See Cedric Benson below. He is impacting 2 teams this week.)
Eagles over Lions (Michael Vick may have paid his debt to society, but if they weren’t playing the Lions, I’d have gone the other way on this game)
Rams over Dolphins (Gimme and “Ocho”! Gimme a “Cinco”, what’s it spell…? I know they cut him, but I stand by this pick)
Ravens over Cowboys (Cowboys, thank Dez Bryant and his recent “Family Violence” incident)
Cardinals over Bills
Patriots over Seahawks (Jarriel King was charged with 3rd Degree Criminal Sexual Conduct earlier this year, Leroy Hill remained a Seahawk after a domestic violence arrest and marijuana possession charges)
Giants over 49ers
Redskins over Vikings (Chris Cook, still a Viking, arrested last year for brandishing a gun)
Texans over Packers (Before his time with the Packers, Running Back Cedric Benson was arrested for an assault that caused injury to a family member.)
Chargers over Broncos (Defensive End Elvis Dumervil was arrested this summer for aggravated assault)

Sep 182012
 

I watched the Falcons beat the Broncos 27-21 last night and marveled at the defensive game plan put together by the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They confused Peyton early and often to stake the Falcons to an early lead and then held off the late Manning surge to escape with a hard fought victory last night. I noted that running back Michael Turner didn’t exactly have a great game last night, rushing for 42 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.

What I didn’t know was that Turner’s night was about to get a whole lot worse.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Falcon’s running back was arrested early this morning for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Turner was allegedly driving his Audi R8 97 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-85 northbound near Indian Trail Road just after 4 a.m.

Turner of course is now entitled to his legal process and presumption of innocence, and this article isn’t just about Michael Turner. Rather, the purpose of this post is to raise a simple question: what the hell are NFL players thinking when they choose to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car?

This has been quite a year for NFL players and DUI arrests. Since the end of the 2011 regular season, here is a list of the players arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence:

July 20 – Titans WR Kenny Britt (DUI)
July 19 – Chiefs CB Donald Washington (Possession, Driving under influence of drugs, Speeding)
July 14 – Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (DUI)
July 10 – Rams DE Robert Quinn (DUI)
July 2 – Buccaneers CB Eric Wright (DUI)
June 23 – Lions CB Aaron Berry (DUI)
June 10 – Giants OT David Diehl (DUI)
June 3 – Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (aggravated DUI)
June 2 – Vikings FB Jerome Felton (DUI)
May 27 – Lions DT Nick Fairley (DUI, Eluding police)
May 9 – Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (DUI)
April 26 – Redskins S Brandon Meriweather (CUI)
February 1 – Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (DUI)
January 27 – 49ers LB Aldon Smith (DUI)

You get the point… I could essentially put together a football team with the number of players arrested. So why are NFL players not getting the point? And what is the league going to do about it? This is the same NFL that has partnered with MADD to create a game-day designated driver program for fans but couldn’t get players to use a Safe Ride program set up by the league for players, which was ultimately shut down because it wasn’t used. So what gives?

Yes, the league regularly takes disciplinary action against players for various acts of misconduct, and no doubt Turner will face a penalty once the facts come out. But that is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. The past several seasons have been full of tales about the NFL’s increased focus on good citizenship and personal responsibility, yet it is still a cause for celebration whenever PFT’s meter for days without an arrest hits double digits. I get that these are young adults that think they are invincible. What they seem to fail to get is that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and that privilege can (and should) be compromised when a player cannot meet basic behavioral expectations. Unfortunately, the coddling of athletes from high school through college and into the pros has too many of these young men thinking that there will always be someone else to fix the problems that they create and they can therefore avoid responsibility for their actions. The old argument raised by Charles Barkley that he wasn’t a role model isn’t even a question to many players anymore, and this is extremely disheartening, especially to a parent who attempts to be a role model to his own children and who is disappointed when athletes that his children idolize fall far short of being good citizens (thank you, Michael Vick).

I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are many, many NFL players that “get it”, but as we all know if takes many pieces of good publicity to make up for just one bad one. And 15 DUI arrests of NFL players in 2012 is giving the NFL a black eye that no amount of positive news is going to overwhelm.

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones received some criticism for creating a personal code of conduct for Dez Bryant as a result of Bryant’s off-field issues. The plan was complete with a 24 hour security detail to protect Bryant from himself. Maybe Jones is on to something.