One and Done, Or Three and Out?

In this off season of football, the issue of player conduct has come to the forefront, league-wide. Ever since the new commissioner Roger Goodell has been elected, he has been trying to make it a point to "clean up" the image of the NFL.

The commissioner implemented a new conduct policy a few months ago that basically gives him the right to suspend players if they've been arrested or even questioned by authorities, even if they haven't yet had their day in court. He exercised these powers by suspending multiple offenders Adam "Pacman" Jones of the Titans, and Chris Henry of the Bengals, 16 games, and eight games respectively (Pacman plans to appeal the suspension).

NFL players these days are getting labeled as thugs, criminals, and gangsters, by the average "Jo Schmo" who just reads the headlines of the local newspapers. I understand that it is certainly headline material when an NFL player gets arrested, but those actions shouldn't force everyday citizens to lump the entire league together as a band of rich, above the law, criminal misfits. In fact, the percentages of NFL players arrested are actually lower than that of the public in general. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, since the year 2000, an average of one in 45 NFL players gets arrested. Comparatively speaking, that number is one in 23 non-football playing citizens, according to the FBI. Approximately one third of those NFL arrests stem from some form of drunken driving. The drunken driving arrest rate of NFL players in one in 144, compared to a national rate of one in 135. Just because these guys make headlines when they screw up, doesn't mean that they're considerably more dangerous than the people living on your street.

So given these statistics, how do the Jaguars fit in to all of this? In the last twelve months, there have been approximately 71 arrests of NFL players (arrests, not convictions). Over this period of time, six of those 71 players were on the Jaguars roster, which is approximately 8.5%. The only team in the NFL to have more arrests over the same period of time is the Cincinnati Bengals, as they've accounted for 11 arrests, or 15.5%. Bengals, Jaguars, Colts, Titans, Steelers, and Chargers, players have accounted for 37 of the 71 arrests, an alarming 52.1% from just 18.8% of the league. Some may attribute these numbers to coincidence, but there is definitely an issue with the personnel of these teams.

So getting back to the original question, should the Jaguars implement some type of zero tolerance policy? A zero tolerance policy is easy when the alleged wrongdoing came from a guy who isn't counted on by the team, a perfect example would be Ahmad Carroll. Carroll, as everyone knows by now, was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, carrying a pistol without a license, possession of ecstasy and possession of a firearm during the commitment of a felony. The team subsequently released him shortly thereafter, but it wasn't likely that Carroll was going to be in the Jaguars long-term plans at cornerback, which made that decision to cut Carroll a pretty easy one. It's easy to take a holier than thou stance, and preach that the team should cut any guy who gets into trouble, as long as they are second or third-tier guys, who will probably not be difference makers. What happens if one of the stars of the team has an issue, a guy who the team depends on, and has a large monetary investment in? I would imagine that it would be easier for the front office to "get the player help," and forgive in that type of situation.

I don't judge players on their off the field actions. Guys make mistakes, so do I, so does everyone. However, it seems as if the new commissioner is going to start cracking down on player arrests, especially if the poor behavior comes from repeat offenders. With the amount of arrests that the Jaguars have had in the last twelve months, the remaining players on the team need to learn from their teammates mistakes, and avoid putting themselves in situations where they can get into this type of trouble. The commissioner is making it a point to change the league's image and it is likely that the Jaguars will be the highly scrutinized if there are any more off the field issues. In short, the Jaguars will likely not have to set any kind of zero tolerance policy, because Commissioner Goodell may take care of the punishment on his own.

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