"Hey, did you hear about [insert player on your favorite NFL team here]?"
If a friend or coworker comes up to you and asks you that question in early June, what's your immediate reaction? Where does your mind go when an NFL player is mentioned when there are six weeks before training camp and three months until meaningful games?
For me, my mind goes directly to one of two places, neither of which are good:
- Oh crap, did he get hurt?
- Oh crap, did he get into trouble with the law?
I'm guessing I'm not alone here. I wish I would think "Oh, he must have done something really cool through his charitable foundation", but that just isn't the case in the environment we live in today.
Unfortunately for a few teams, the latter of the two scenarios I described has made headlines in the past couple weeks. Nick Fairley, the promising young defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, was arrested just over a week ago in Alabama on DUI charges. He was also ticketed for reckless driving, no proof of insurance, and having an open container. It was Fairley's second arrest in less than two months--he was dinged with marijuana possession in early April. His teammate Mikel Leshoure pleaded guilty to possession just a couple weeks earlier. His other teammate Johnny Culbreath was arrested for the same crime in January. The three teammates have a cumulative total of three years NFL experience--they were all drafted last year.
Detroit isn't the only team dealing with young stars getting into trouble. Newly drafted wide receiver Justin Blackmon acquired his first DUI arrest as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars before hauling in his first catch as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It's even happening for the Vikings. Minnesota fullback Jerome Felton was picked up on DWI charges this past weekend, possibly jeopardizing his status with the team. Of course all players mentioned are innocent until proven (or pleaded) guilty in a court of law, but they could still face sanctions from Roger Goodell in the near future.
You've all heard the phrase "no news is good news", right? Never has that statement held more truth than at this point of the NFL offseason. Unless a team is announcing a fat new contract for one of their players, almost every bit of news that comes out this time of year is of the negative variety. Fans are still dreaming of touchdowns, tackles, and titles. They're getting holdouts, handcuffs, and humiliation.
The NFL has undoubtedly become a 24/7/365 league. Everything is over-scrutinized. Fans have an insatiable thirst for all things NFL whether it's June or January. When a player farts, we'll probably hear about how it smelled on Twitter within the hour. So when meaningful football is still months away, the spotlight shines extra bright on players when they have brushes with Johnny Law. It might not be completely fair, but that's the nature of the beast.
So if it feels like it has been weeks since you've heard anything meaningful about your NFL team, don't be disappointed or frustrated. Thank your lucky stars that your guys are staying away from TMZ and the police blotter. The only thing that's helping NFL teams right now is practice. Quiet, boring, Allen Iverson-style practice.
Let's just hope that we don't hear a peep out of any other Vikings until Training Camp.