Commentary: History Repeated Itself

The Vikings knew all the history of Koren Robinson's past and felt good enough about giving him another chance, a test he seemed ready to pass. Yet, history repeated itself and the Vikings are left to pick up the pieces of their roster.

In some depressing way, Koren Robinson has written his own commentary – a sad one that, while it shocked many on the team and in the media, probably shouldn't have come as much of a surprise at all.

As much as those who knew or thought they knew Robinson wanted to believe the worst of his alcohol struggles were behind him – he received the Ed Block Courage Award from his teammates and the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award from the local media – he proved late Tuesday night on his way back to Vikings training camp that it's a struggle he doesn't always beat. In his game, 364 days of victories followed by a loss one night translates into a much bigger loss. His police-reported 104 miles per hour proved he can't just run from it.

As much as people in the crowd wanted to believe he was done with alcohol, they should have known that alcoholism can't just be put stuffed in a basket and sent off to sea. Even Robinson knew that, as he tried to make himself "bulletproof" before training camp began when he attended a rehabilitation center to try to get his mind and emotions right for the stresses that automatically come with a grueling and public work setting known as an NFL season.

For fans, the NFL is fun and recreation. For players and staff, it is a job – one that is fun at times and infuriating at other times. Such emotional highs and lows can't be easy for a recovering alcoholic to deal with, and as Vikings coach Brad Childress put it Wednesday after Robinson was arrested, "Obviously, it was too strong of power and too strong of an influence."

In fact, the team knew this was a possibility based on Robinson's history.

When they originally signed him in September 2005, he was fresh out of a 28-day treatment program. Since then, he has talked openly and candidly about his demons and his attempts to stay away from embarrassing his family again.

Tuesday night, he embarrassed everyone involved when he made several mistakes. First, having a drink. Second, driving after having a drink. Third, speeding while driving after having a drink. Fourth, trying to evade police and leading them on a high-speed chase for 16 miles, from just north of St. Peter to a mile or two from the Vikings' practice facility.

The news was sad and, as Childress succinctly put it, "disappointing" for everyone that was affected, including his family, the team and the fans that supported and rooted for his battle to become a victory. Robinson's former coach in Seattle, Mike Holmgren can relate.

"I heard. People told me what happened," Holmgren said Wednesday. "I don't know many of the details, but I will say what I always said about him. He is a likeable guy. I like him a lot. It saddens me when something like this happens. I pray for him, that he gets his life in order before something real bad happens. I have told you this before, when he was with us, I tried to help. I felt I kind of failed the kid somehow, but he's got to get a grip on this, clearly, before something bad happens."

In July 2005, Robinson arrived at Kirkland (Wash.) Municipal Court to serve a one-day sentence for a May 2005 DUI stop that he pled guilty to. In exchange for that plea, Robinson's blood-alcohol levels (two .191 tests, over three times the legal limit in Washington) were stricken from the record, and a reckless driving charge was dropped.

However, when Robinson arrived to serve his one-day sentence (one year with 364 days suspended), two police officers said that they smelled alcohol on Robinson's breath.

Between his arrest and his hearing for that incident, the Seahawks issued this statement on its web site:

"We are extremely disappointed and concerned with Koren's situation," said a club spokesman. "We have established several programs, both league- and team-sponsored, to support and help him. We will continue to encourage him to use this support network and believe he should be held accountable for his actions."

But even the Seahawks knew they were dealing with someone who had a problem. The signs and incident reports were piling up, and so were the media reports.

In an October 2004 article in the Tacoma News Tribune, Mike Sando reported on Robinson's past troubles:

"A search of public records revealed 21 cases implicating Robinson for various misdeeds, including four allegations of negligent driving since 2003. The records show repeated failures to appear in court, cases going to collection and lawyers taking care of matters at the last minute.

"A negligent-driving conviction from April 2003 stemmed from a more serious charge of reckless driving, records show. There were 13 other traffic-related cases, including one from April of this year in which an officer cited Robinson for traveling 105 mph in a 60 zone. The most recent case was dated Aug. 12 (2004), four days before Seattle played an exhibition game at Green Bay. That case involved allegations of reckless and negligent driving. Six other incidents originated from Robinson's home state of North Carolina, including four in 1998."

In Seattle, Robinson's legal troubles began in February 2003, when he was arrested for failure to disperse outside a nightclub in Durham, N.C. Seven months later, he was benched for one game by the Seahawks for missing team meetings, a practice that was becoming more common for him, according to a Seattle source.

The history with Robinson was there, and the Vikings protected themselves to some degree by giving him roster bonuses as opposed to a strictly high-end signing bonus. But, while they protected themselves against the salary cap by absorbing only a $1.1 million commitment to Robinson so far, they didn't insure themselves on the depth chart.

Now, they are left to search the waiver wire and investigate trades. While it can be argued that they were simply giving a player one more chance, they also took a huge chance with their roster and, like Robinson, they failed that test.

Both the team and Robinson can recover, but it will likely be on different paths. Robinson appears headed toward a season-long suspension and might be lucky to resurrect his career – and a life of sobriety – at some point down the line with another team. The Vikings, on the other hand, will be scrambling for a much quicker – and probably easier – fix.

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