By Will Stevenson
Motivations are different for every player in the NFL. Long-term contracts, signing bonuses, new opportunities for family and friends, fame are a few of the motivations for NFL players these days. In a league in which a player can sign a contract one day, and be cut the next, it would seem that each player must be at the top of their game both on the field and off the field. With the media coverage and insider information around the teams, it seems harder to get away with things off the field anymore, but we all know that not to be the case. We usually only pay attention to stories that give credence to our outrage, which really means we will only give a fuss to the stories that are put in front of us. Usually when we hear a story, the chances of that being the first occurrence is not likely. Whenever we hear stories such as domestic violence, drug and/or substance abuse, or violating team rules, it can be pretty certain that was not the first time it had happened with that particular player. In most instances, if you are a great player, you can come back into the league to earn your way back into the good graces. If you’re not great, you will be cut, point-blank. So how many chances do you give a player with “character issues”? How many chances do we give teams who continue to ignore these hot-button player issues by signing them, only to excuse them once they sign them?
Josh Gordon was reinstated, Junior Galette tore his ACL, Tre Mason is in the news, Aldon Smith is Aldon Smith and Greg Hardy is circling a NFL training camp near you. There are more, but these are just a few names in the news right now. Just notice that I did not put the teams on here, because we do not fault teams for taking chances on players, we fault players for not making something out of that opportunity.
The NFL is not lessening their stance on marijuana anytime soon, especially with possible CBA negotiations coming up soon. It would be pretty hard to run those ‘Punt, Pass, Kick’ programs with the kids and not get a few jokes. Although I’m not in line with the NFL’s stance on marijuana and suspensions, it is a rule. I will say I am not the best at following rules or policies, but if all you have to do is not fail a drug test, and you get notifications on when you will be “randomly” selected…Just Don’t Smoke. I am applying the sensibilities of most Cleveland Browns fans have and I am sure that is the only thing they are cheering for. Do you really care if Josh Gordon smokes or not? I doubt it. Most fans just don’t want him to get caught, which seems to be theme for him over the past couple years with the smoking and drinking: He is close friends with Johnny Manziel, who happens to be in the substance abuse program (for alleged use of hard drugs and alcohol), in and out of rehab, an alleged domestic dispute and he’s not that good on the field as well. Josh Gordon is an outstanding talent, and he hasn’t even played in a very long time by football standards. Here’s the thing: He’s Good! He’s Hope! And it is July, so Browns fans can hold on to the fact that the process for Gordon to be on the field by Week 5 is happening. So whether or not you believe marijuana and alcohol to be an issue for this young man, the Browns want him, Goodell has conditionally approved him to play, and Gordon wants to play. In the end, that’s what matters to us all, we get what we want.
I wonder what the conversation is between Greg Hardy’s agent and whomever handles the invites into training camp for each NFL team? I feel Hardy’s agent has a note card with all the possible questions and answers to what each team would like to know about Hardy and his rehabilitation. So do we as fans care if our team signs Hardy or anyone like him? We kind of went at Jerry Jones and the Cowboys for signing him last season, and there seemed to be no remorse on the part of Hardy, which settled on the domestic dispute. So where do we as fans of these teams stand: Are we on the side of winning at all cost, give guys another chance, or to stay away from all public relations turmoil? In this sports world where everything is linked together, good and bad, it’s hard to stand on one premise of an issue as if that’s the only thing that matters. Although this may never again occur in Hardy’s life, the argument of “He can help us” versus “No way we need a guy like that on our team” continues to go back and forth. The one issue is this: Players like Hardy are everywhere. They are on the teams, in the front office, in the stands, and in the media. We are surrounded by guys like Hardy. We are also surrounded by teams would could care less about PR hits if you can get Hardy on a one-year cheap deal as the Cowboys did (cheap as in no long-term deal with incentives).
(P.S.: I hate saying “what Greg Hardy allegedly done” because the proof is there, and witnesses were intimidated, therefore there was no case other than civil court).
So how do we draw the line on player issues when it comes to them signing with a team? Are there certain issues we let slide? Are there certain issues we will not forgive? Were there any Cowboys fans that refused to cheer Greg Hardy even when he was getting his sacks? For the casual football fan, Greg Hardy may be an issue, but to many hardcore fans, they just want to see their team win and are willing to sacrifice whatever human decency they have to achieve it. We all tend to rationalize our football players when it comes to our best interest.
- You know if Josh Gordon stays out of trouble, he can be a force.
- If the right team and the right situation signs Hardy… He can contribute.
- Once Galette rehabs, he’ll be a force maybe… (Domestic abuse issues since college).
- All Manziel has to do is clean up his act…
Why do some NFL players continue to cut off their own hand when it comes to player behavior off the field? Millions of dollars are literally yours if you can keep your nose clean. For many guys in the league, it’s not an issue, but for some it seems to be harder. In a masculine/testosterone (and sometimes estrogen) driven league in which staying on the field despite broken limbs and torn muscles is the rhetoric, having “fun” off the field is a must. We can all agree partying is something that will always happen: Posting videos of you smoking weed, or Instagram posts of affairs and who you were in bed with and pics and videos of drugs is…dumb. Ludacris made a song called “Keep It On the Hush” which goes, “Keep it on the hush/Don’t saying nothing/Isn’t gon’ be no talking/While I’m doing my thing”, and this song is something the players could follow. Stop getting caught! That’s it. I do think it’s too much for us to expect around 75 guys on an NFL roster to all be perfect citizens. I do think we all expect as fans is that our players not get themselves into trouble. The money is there, and even if a player is a backup to the backup, all we ask is that you stop getting caught. We would really hope you would stop the foolery off the field, but that will never happen.
Now in the case of Greg Hardy or Junior Galette, you’ve done your deeds, and now you must wait to see if any of these teams will do what teams do: Which is wait to see if other teams fall in line will the narrative of not singing guys who have domestic abuse in their past, but only if this player’s past is in the media and they have to be a certain age which is at least over 27 and be at a position in which we don’t really need because we have young guys but if we can get that player at a cheap rate and put incentives in the contract and sign him in camp but probably release him then we might just wait. See how horrible that looks when you rationalize?
We are not going to hold teams to a high standard, because this is football. Every team has a handful of players on their roster that have something in their past. Marvin Harrison allegedly… well, he was quiet enough to somehow slide through that mess. There are teams who take stands against signing or drafting players that have had off the field issues, but we all believe people can change, and all they have to do is produce on the field. Teams think they can “save” a player by keeping them around other players that can and will influence good and decent off the field behavior. So can we blame the teams? I do feel as if I am romanticizing how teams treat certain players with these type of issues, so forgive me for being… naïve’.
- Speeding over 100 mph
- Drinking and Driving
- Posting issues onto social media
- Secret videos of partying with drugs
- Riding around the city with a duffel bag full of money and prescription drugs.
- Getting into disputes at nightclubs
Oh I’m sorry… #5 was about an owner. Just overlook that one.
#Browns #NFL #JoshGordon #FreeAgency #Greg Hardy