Conduct, Deion And The Draft

IRVING, Tex. - It is not a surprise to hear that ex-Cowboy Deion Sanders believes the NFL's new personal conduct policy is far too harsh, specifically as it applies to the year-long suspension of Pacman Jones.

Meanwhile I am skeptical, as the NFL Draft approaches, about how on-the-clock teams will truly react when "The Next Pacman'' or "The Next Deion'' is available when they pick.

Is behavior so important now that teams will pass completely on obvious personal-conduct risks? Or will "The Next Pacman'' simply slip down a round? If you agree that Deion himself, back in the day, was a personal-conduct risk, would you not select "The Next Deion''? Or would you grit your teeth, bring him to town, get him some big-brother supervision, accept that he's going to push the behavioral envelope, and ride a decade of Pro Bowl-caliber play to success? Sanders himself obviously falls on the side of tolerance. Not only can it be assumed that Deion would keep selecting Pacmen, he doesn't even believe the NFL has the right to discipline him under the guidelines of the new policy.

Says Deion: "Suspend him if you must, but you just can't tell a grown man where he can and can not go. ... It's not the league's duty to get that involved in the private lives of its players. If you worked at a fast-food chain, your manager couldn't tell you to stay away from clubs and make sure you're home by 1 a.m. Why not put Pacman under house arrest and put an electronic monitor on his ankle? Of course, then he'd probably get fined for wearing one without an NFL logo on it. ... Pacman is not in jail and the NFL isn't prison. What if his daughter gets sick and he needs to take her to the emergency room or run to the drugstore to get some medicine? Is he supposed to call the league and ask for permission first? Or does his ankle bracelet go off and his whereabouts are shown live on the NFL Network?"

Deion is, as always, doing it with flair. And the former Cowboy is not without bias, having himself been a "fornicator'' and most everything else that involves "life on the envelope'' back in the day.

But Sanders is missing what the new policy can do FOR players. Players in the league now. Players about to enter the league via the NFL Draft. Kids who aspire to be players in the future.

This is a policy FOR the players.

May I take Deion's pro-Pacman argument point-by-point?

It's not the league's duty to get that involved in the private lives of its players. In this particular case, I'm hoping the NFL's decision to involve itself in Jones' private life SAVES his life. SOMEBODY needed to get involved, doncha think?

If you worked at a fast-food chain, your manager couldn't tell you to stay away from clubs and make sure you're home by 1 a.m. No. But if you worked at a fast-food chain and were working under a contract with a morals clause and your manager instructed you to not throw money into the air, beat up strippers and trigger a shooting -- and then you allegedly did those things -- ol' Wendy's might have a problem with you.

Why not put Pacman under house arrest and put an electronic monitor on his ankle? Of course, then he'd probably get fined for wearing one without an NFL logo on it. If Deion's point is that the NFL does everything to over-control its marketing and to milk from it every single possible dollar, he is correct. It is a sometimes-objectionable approach that has served the NFL well. And it's an approach that has served Deion well, too.

Pacman is not in jail and the NFL isn't prison. What if his daughter gets sick and he needs to take her to the emergency room or run to the drugstore to get some medicine? Is he supposed to call the league and ask for permission first? Wait a minute. ... The 'ankle bracelet' thing was a hypothetical created by Deion. ... and now Pacman REALLY has an ankle bracelet? That's some tricky debate-class technique there, Deion. But in truth, Pacman is completely free to "run to the drugstore.'' Unfortunately, given his rep, I'd be afraid "run to the drugstore'' would be turned into "drug run.'' Personally, if my daughter needs medicine, I'm probably not 911-calling Dr. Pacman.

Bottom line: If I were Commissioner, I'd have waited for more information to come in -- or maybe even a conviction. Nevertheless, it's impossible to argue on the side of Pacman Jones. Assuming he is a troublemaker, what's his defense? "I don't spit on and beat up women all that much''? And again, working on that assumption, what is the right number of games? Is it 16? Is 14 enough? Is it 12?

Sorry, Deion. A shooting and a beating and a melee and strip clubs and 10 previous police-blotter appearances and a bag of "making-it-rain'' money and this would be the exact wrong time to be making pro-Pacman arguments.

Furthermore, this very harsh policy – had it been in place a few years ago – wouldn't have punished Pacman; it might've saved him. Indeed, one wonders whether a certain all-time great cornerback might've even been BETTER had their been some rules in place to keep him focused on the righter side of the envelope.

One also wonders, as it applies to this weekend: While teams obviously care about behavior, do they care so much that they will wash their hands of personalities like Pacman and Deion? Or do they not want to be quite that clean?

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