Passan: Two Troubling Topics

Today, Rich Passan takes on two hot topics: Phil Savage's comments about religion, and Reuben Droughn's ability to attract the attention of police officers. You may not agree with what Rich says, but he's never been afraid to speak his mind about sensitive issues...

Two topics too hot to handle, but that won't stop us.

It has been said on more than one occasion that getting involved in discussions regarding politics and religion is not wise. They lead to sharp disagreements and ultimately intense, ugly arguments.

There are no gray areas when it comes to these topics. It's either black or white. And no matter how politically correct or incorrect you are, there are no winners in such conversations.

Browns General Manager Phil Savage stepped onto that slippery slope recently, thoughtlessly invoking religion into a speech at a celebrity luncheon in the Canton area and linking it with football players, notably members of the Browns.

Savage, who claimed he was "not an overly spiritual person," nonetheless added that "we want Christian players who can play football well. We want guys who can play football in a good way. If they happen to be Christian, I think it's a positive."

He cited how his religious beliefs emboldened him in his power struggle with Browns President John Collins late last season and helped him get through the crisis.

Now there's nothing wrong with being religious. I'm reasonably certain Savage meant no harm when he made those statements. And it's commendable he's looking for young men who play the game "in a good way."

When it comes to sports, however, religion has no business being in a conversation. That should be a private matter. It is a personal choice.

When I look at football players, I don't think of them as religious men. I certainly didn't with the late Reggie White and he was a man of the cloth.

I saw White as one of the greatest defensive ends I have ever seen. I saw him a pass-rushing, quarterback-molesting mountain of a man who did his job in extraordinary fashion. I thought of him only as a football player.

When I look at athletes in general, religion is the last thing on my mind.

All I want to know is if the player can make plays in the clutch. Whether it's catching a long pass or breaking a long run in football, getting the key base hit or making a brilliant play on defense in baseball, nailing a big three-pointer or important free throw in basketball or making the big stop in goal in hockey, performance is the main thing.

This is not a PC or PI thing. And I'm about as PI as they come. This is about common sense, something Savage did not use.

I'd like to think that if he had the opportunity to go back and make that same speech again, he'd do it differently. He wouldn't even bring up the subject.

On this occasion, his choice of words was unfortunate. Sometimes, it's far better to think than it is to speak. This is one of those times.

According to the sometimes reliable Web site Pro Football Talk, the league office is unhappy with Savage's remarks.

Best guess is they'll probably tell him privately to keep his religious opinions to himself. And that's the way it should be handled.

* * * * *

There is no question that Reuben Droughns is a terrific National Football League player. He runs hard. He plays hard. He gives it all he's got. Popular with the media. Pretty much the entire package.

But the Browns running back has a propensity for getting into trouble. Some people suggest trouble finds him rather than the other way around.

The latest skirmish Droughns has had with the law involves an incident with his wife at his offseason home in the Denver area. That follows closely with his acquittal in a DUI case.

Now I don't know the particulars in the latest incident. I can go only by what the police report says. And it says Droughns did some mighty nasty things to his wife. Pushed her around. Literally threw her out of their house.

Police reports don't lie. They are to be taken seriously.

Hours after Droughns turned himself in to police, his wife reportedly sought to drop the charges against her husband. That has yet to be resolved, but it certainly makes one wonder why she would recant.

Now what Droughns does with his off-the-field life is his business unless it's against the law. And this appears to be just that.

But you can bet the NFL is looking long and hard into this latest matter. The league's personal behavior policy is set up to punish those who do not comport themselves in a civil manner off the field. If Droughns isn't in the league's crosshairs, I'd be surprised.

I don't care if he rushes for 1,000 yards a season for the next 10 years, Droughns has now had two brushes with the law. That's strike two in my book, regardless of how the latest case turns out.

A rush to judgment? Perhaps.

But I'm from the where-there's-smoke-there's-fire crowd. If it happens once, fine. But now that it's happened a second time, that's a pattern. And this kind of pattern usually leads to something that's no good. A forest fire would be next.

If what Droughns does off the field is in any way a reflection of the club, then I don't want any part of him. All of which leaves Savage with a dilemma.

After cleaning up the mess that Butch Davis left, Savage is now faced with a two-time miscreant in Droughns, his best running back.

Does he keep Droughns on the roster and hope strike three never arrives? Or stick to his principles of having a roster full of good guys and deal Droughns and his new contract to another team?

Coming off a second straight 1,200-yard season, Droughns' stock is as high as it probably will ever be. Savage can take advantage because there is always a team out there that doesn't care what a player does off the field. The Oakland Raiders?

It says here that Droughns would be better off wearing another team's colors. Silver and Black? And the sooner, the better. No sense in tempting fate.

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