Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The first year of reduced training
schedules has made for a more pleasurable offseason for NFL players.
Some seem to be enjoying their time off a little too much.
The arrest of Detroit Lions cornerback Aaron Berry last weekend on a driving
under the influence charge continued what's been a rather disturbing trend
of poor decision-making by players involving motor vehicles and impairing
substances. Berry's brush with the law came two weeks after veteran New York
Giants offensive lineman David Diehl smashed a few parked cars while driving
drunk in Manhattan and three after Jacksonville Jaguars rookie receiver Justin
Blackmon reportedly had a blood alcohol level of .24 when nabbed by police in
his native Oklahoma.
Seven current NFL athletes in all have been apprehended on suspicion of DUI
since late April, with several others arrested for marijuana possession
earlier in the offseason.
Those numbers, along with the extensive media coverage that each of those
arrests has gained, has raised its share of questions. Does the league have a
serious epidemic on its hands, and has the added downtime created by the
decrease of offseason training activities and practice time under the new
collective bargaining agreement contributed to the problem? And, finally, has
the heavy emphasis that Roger Goodell has placed on controlling player conduct
during his reign as commissioner actually been working?
To answer the last question, Goodell's hard-line policies -- albeit highly
controversial in some instances and confusingly arbitrary in others -- have
been quite effective. According to USA Today, there were 79 NFL player arrests
in 2006, his first season as commissioner. That number has gradually declined
every year since, with 62 reported violations this past season.
There have been 22 known arrests as 2012 reaches its halfway point, putting the
league on pace to drastically lower its police blotter total from the previous
Other statistics suggest that the popular public perception of the NFL being
infested with rogue characters lacking responsibility and accountability is
way overblown. An ongoing study conducted by the San Diego Union Tribune found
that about one of every 45 players have been arrested since 2000, a number
well below the national average of one in 23 persons released by the FBI in
That's around 2 percent of the player population, a figure similar to the
rate of offenders in Major League Baseball, a sport with far less of an image
problem (at least in terms of criminal behavior), and sizably lower than the
NBA. An analysis done by Minneapolis television station WCCO in October found
that over 5 percent of pro basketball athletes in the United States had been in
trouble, with MLB coming in at 2.1 percent.
The NFL's record of DUI crimes, approximately one out of every 144 players, is
almost precisely in line with the national standard of one in 135 people.
So why the bad rap? It could be that Goodell's crusade on improving player
safety and the league's gargantuan popularity have indirectly had a negative
effect on his other primary priority, off-field conduct. Less offseason work
has led to less news for scribes and bloggers covering the game year-round,
pushing incidents like Berry's, Diehl's and Blackmon's more into the spotlight
because there's frankly not a whole lot else to write and talk about at this
That's not saying those stories aren't newsworthy or relevant, however, or
that the recent rash of bad judgements by players isn't a serious concern. It
was an issue for years in Cincinnati and quickly becoming one in Detroit,
which has wrested the dubious title of the NFL's house of hooligans from the
Bengals following a flurry of off-field missteps over the past few months.
Berry's arrest was the sixth involving a member of the Lions' roster since the
team's NFC playoff loss to New Orleans in January, with running back Mikel
Leshoure and defensive tackle Nick Fairley each having two separate run-ins
over that time frame.
There's been plenty of bad publicity on the field as well, with several stages
of poor sportsmanship -- defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's infamous Thanksgiving
Day stomp of a Green Bay lineman, a litany of personal foul penalties that
highlighted a nationally televised defeat to the Saints back in December,
hyperactive head coach Jim Schwartz's postgame spat with the equally intense
Jim Harbaugh after a loss to San Francisco -- tapering the euphoria from a
breakthrough 10-win campaign by the long-suffering franchise.
Still, don't expect Detroit to stray too much from its wild ways, as the
swagger that's been fostered out of Schwartz's fiery pedal-to-the-medal
demeanor has been as essential a factor in the club's return to respectability
as any other. Or for Goodell to back down from his uncompromising philosophy
on player discipline.
And as for the consequences that come from those lines of thought, it's just
something the NFL has to live with.
KUDOS TO KELLY
Of course, there are a countless number of positive deeds done by the NFL and
its players each and every day as well, most of which go unnoticed and
unpublicized simply because they don't usually grab headlines. One such do-
gooder is former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim
Kelly, who was among those recognized at the 2012 Jefferson Awards ceremony in
Washington last week.
Kelly was named in the category of Outstanding Athletes in Service and
Philanthropy for his work toward raising research and awareness for Krabbe
Leukodystrophy, a fatal nervous system disease that claimed the life of his
son, Hunter, at age 8 in 2005. He and his wife Jill established Hunter's Hope
Foundation, a non-profit organization created to broaden public knowledge
of the disease, increase the chances of early detection and awareness in
young children and provide support for families afflicted by Krabbe's, that
same year. Kelly also serves as the chairman of Kelly for Kids, a foundation
that has distributed more than $4 million to charities for disabled and
disadvantaged youth in the Buffalo area since its inception.
The Jefferson Award, known as "The Nobel Prize for Public Service," is one of
the nation's highest honors for community service and volunteerism. Other past
NFL winners include Peyton Manning, Warrick Dunn, Troy Vincent and Nnamdi
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