NFL Sends Mixed Message with Suspensions

A couple of times each season, the NFL suspends players for certain violations whether it be legal issues, substance abuse or an illegal hit. With the Chiefs' Eric Warfield being suspended for the first four games of the season this week because of a DUI, I looked at some other players who have been suspended by the NFL over the past few seasons and the results made me scratch my head.

First off, let me say that any NFL player stupid enough to get three DUIs in ten years deserves everything he gets. I am not sticking up for Warfield's stupidity. I mean seriously Eric, pay someone $30,000 a year to drive you around from bar to bar.

I don't mind Warfield getting suspended four games for his third DUI offense, in fact I think it should be more like eight games, but when you compare Warfield's suspension to a couple of better known players, you have to wonder what kind of message the NFL is sending.

I think everyone will agree that Eric Warfield is no superstar by any means. Outside of Kansas City, 95% of the population probably doesn't even know this guy exists. But what about Leonard Little? While Little may not be a household name, he is certainly a bigger star than Warfield is.

In 1998 Little pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter after an accident where Little was intoxicated and took the life of 47-year-old Susan Gutweiler. Let's not even talk about the fact that Little only served three months in prison for this crime, let's focus on how the NFL dealt with Little.

In 1999 the NFL suspended Little for the first half of the season without pay. That is eight games for killing another human being. Warfield got four games for driving under the influence and Little got eight games for doing the same thing but also killing someone. The NFL had a chance to make a statement with Little but instead they made sure he was back in time to help the Rams make their run at the Super Bowl.

Little really learned his lesson too because five years later he was arrested for driving under the influence once again. Of course, Little was found not guilty in a court of law and the NFL did nothing. Eight games for involuntary manslaughter isn't a sufficient punishment in my opinion.

If you are one of the few lucky few who have the ability to be a pro athlete and you are stupid enough to almost throw it all away and take someone's life in the process, I think a year's suspension is more than fair. Maybe Little could have taken a year off from sacking opposing quarterbacks to think about what the Gutweiler family was going through and all the pain he caused them. Instead, he earned a Super Bowl ring.

Now we come to my favorite suspension: Jamal Lewis. Lewis pleaded guilty to using his cell phone to set up a cocaine deal and served four months in prison and two months in a halfway house. Seeing that Lewis is a much bigger superstar than Warfield and Little are, the NFL took this opportunity to make an example of him. The league suspended Lewis for two games. Let me repeat that; two games for being involved in a cocaine deal.

Let's break this down. Players like Darren Woodson, John Lynch and Rodney Harrison have all been suspended one game in recent years for hitting someone too hard. According to the law in the NFL, feel free to go out and sell rock if you want to but make sure you don't play the game like Jack Tatum and Ronnie Lott did because the suspensions are virtually the same. Should taking part in a cocaine deal only warrant one more game than an "illegal" hit? According to the NFL, the answer to that question is yes.

The NFL has policies in place and the length of suspensions is given out based on those policies but the league needs to take a closer look at the message they are sending. Two games is nothing. It's an ankle injury. Any team in the league can survive without a player for two weeks, no matter who it is.

It's a shame Warfield wasn't selling drugs out of his home. If that was the case, his suspension would have been cut in half. Let's just hope that Eric doesn't kill anyone in the near future or he will miss another four games. But don't worry Chief fans, if that does happen, Warfield will be back in plenty of time to help the Chiefs make a playoff run, granted he even makes the team. The NFL will make sure of that.

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