Recently, Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, has imposed some severe suspensions on a few players, namely Adam “Pacman” Jones and Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals. His stated policy has been something to the effect of cracking down on players’ off-field legal troubles and mishaps due to the repercussions they have on the league. My question is what about offenses committed “on the field” such as the incident last season with Albert Haynesworth of the Tennessee Titans during their match-up with the Dallas Cowboys?
Haynesworth did serve a 6 game suspension and was not much of a factor after his return, but there was speculation about criminal and civil charges being filed also. Should this type of behavior not be met with more severely than an off the field incident? The replay video of Haynesworth stomping on the helmet-less head of Cowboys center Andre Gurode was played around the world. It had much more global repercussions on the NFL than the other more localized legal troubles of several players last season.
The Titans required their wayward tackle to attend anger management classes prior to returning to the team, but this was not an NFL mandate. Which begs the question of whether the NFL should or could meet out such personalized punishment. Maybe trying to reform or otherwise regulate players’ conduct other than by hitting their pocketbook would be a more productive means of reducing such behavior. Most of the problems could be traced to the fact these are relatively young men who usually have very little skill in dealing with the sudden fame and fortune often associated with playing in the NFL.
Perhaps Mr. Goodell such research some type of incoming rookie training classes that deal with such topics as how to handle the media, financial counseling, etc. Most teams already implement various forms of intelligence and psychological exams with their draft picks prior to inking contracts. In light of the recent decision to provide extended medical insurance for ex-players, there seems to be plenty of money for such initiatives earlier on to enhance the league’s reputation and overall longevity. This off-season’s legal troubles for notable players such as Michael Vick of the Atlanta Falcons can’t entirely be eliminated, however an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The basic fact remains, the NFL is comprised of a large cross-section of adult young men whose behavior compared with the number of players, isn’t that bad relatively speaking. It’s usually only the most notable of players’ transgressions that the media appears to report. Mr. Goodell’s initiatives are very commendable, but in the bigger picture, still fall short of the goal.