Public embarrassment enough for Barnett

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell should refrain from suspending Packers linebacker for night club incident, says PackerReport.com's Matt Tevsh

There is a chance that Nick Barnett could be the first Packers' player punished by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under the league's personal conduct policy.

As reported by various Green Bay media outlets on Wednesday, Barnett will be charged with two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an altercation this past June that started at a night club in Appleton (about 30 miles outside of Green Bay).

With the legal process apparently in motion for Barnett, the 26-year-old middle linebacker only chose to lightly comment after practice on Wednesday about the charges. Head coach Mike McCarthy did the same, instead referring to a statement released by the team. Said Packers' spokesman Jeff Blumb in the statement: "We are aware of today's announcement by Door County District Attorney Ray Pelrine of the pending complaint against Nick Barnett. This matter is in the hands of the legal system. Out of respect for that process, the Packers will not have anything further to say at this time."

McCarthy did, however, address the commissioner's recent history of imposing league suspensions on certain troubled players even before the legal process has run its course. He indicated that the Packers are prepared to handle such a situation.

"That's part of the territory," he said. "If something would happen, I guess you'd probably put that in the mindset of dealing with an unfortunate injury. So based on the way things in the past year have been dealt with ... when you do have to make a change throughout your roster as far as getting the next guy ready, we're prepared for that. So if you're looking for a plan, yes, we're prepared for that."

Barnett has already served some sort of punishment with the public embarrassment. He was temporarily jailed after the incident before being released on bond. As far as his professional career is concerned, the worst could be yet to come from Goodell.

Goodell has acted swiftly in dropping the hammer on several players with suspensions - including at least one, Adam "Pacman" Jones, before the legal process reached a decision. To do the same to Barnett, though, would be unfair. While his situation is to be taken seriously, it does not warrant a suspension any time soon. More information has to and will become known.

Goodell is already walking a fine line by taking such matters into his own hands but no doubt has his own people investigating each case. In theory, his philosophy represents a good effort toward cleaning up the "dirt" of the NFL. Taking the game away from players is a better punishment than a hefty fine which often was the common penalty before Goodell took over in Aug. 2006.

Barnett should receive the benefit of the doubt from the league, however, because his incident smells of having one bad night. Call it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe he was provoked and should have known better. Almost every NFL player faces that situation at least once in their life because of their celebrity status.

To rush to judgment before Barnett has his say would be the commissioner's biggest mistake yet enforcing the personal conduct policy. He has to be aware of Barnett's legal issues, but must give them time, and if need be, even meet with Barnett directly to discuss the situation.

Only those closest to Barnett know the "real" Barnett. He certainly has not done anything publicly to suggest he is a bad guy. In the locker room and on the field, he has displayed an energetic aura and is always upbeat. To say that such a personality would cause him snap in one instance is not totally fair. There are definitely two sides to this story.

Barnett knows all too well the pratfalls of running a night club business. Without rehashing details, he had some public issues with his own club in Green Bay, "Five-Six," before it closed down. So Barnett does have a history, just not one that falls is line with Jones or even Michael Vick. Any suspension handed out by the league at this time would not only be premature, but also inappropriate.

Matt Tevsh is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com.


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