The first arrest came quietly on the day the NFL lockout began. Chris Cook, a cornerback for the Minnesota Vikings, was charged with brandishing a firearm. After that arrest came the sordid, the silly, the ugly, and the downright frightening.
One NFL assistant coach called what's happened since that day the "lockout to lockup" period of this ugly labor strife. It has indeed been a stunning few months as players both little known and elite have been introduced (and in some cases reintroduced) to the legal system. After Cook came Mario Henderson, arrested for carrying a concealed firearm. The Cowboys' Bryan McCann was charged with public intoxication. The Packers' Johnny Jolly was charged with possession of codeine with intent to distribute.
|Green Bay defensive lineman Johnny Jolly is among the players facing likely suspensions when the lockout ends. (US Presswire)|
One trade association team representative said he's been in touch with a number of players and issued a warning. "I told them to work out and keep busy," he said. "I told them if we're truthful with ourselves, these arrests aren't a coincidence."
On March 26, Jason Peters, the Eagles offensive lineman, was charged with resisting arrest in Louisiana. Buccaneers corner Aqib Talib faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The Raiders' Louis Murphy was arrested for possession of non-prescribed Viagra pills. The Chiefs' Mike Vrabel for stealing beers. The Titans' Kenny Britt was charged with eluding an officer after a car chase, a felony.
No, this isn't the greatest moment in NFL history. Adolpho Birch, the NFL's senior vice president of labor policy and player development, said last month players will be held accountable under the league's personal conduct policy for violations committed during the lockout once it actually ends. Mr. Birch, to borrow a line from the movie Jaws, is going to need a bigger boat.
It must be said -- the vast majority of NFL players are good, smart men with families, college degrees and good sense. I've met hundreds of them. Most don't do perp walks. They don't do the back end of a cop car. They do dinner and a movie.
That doesn't mean these numbers aren't troubling. Initially, I thought the connection between lockout and lockup was a tenuous one. Balderdash from an idle media looking for something to write in the absence of real NFL news.
Now, I'm not as confident. There were 10 arrests since the lockout's start from March 12 until about mid-April. The longest stretch without an arrest during that period was only eight days. In the same period last year, when there was no lockout, there were eight arrests. Not a huge leap but an increase nonetheless.
The problem is the arrests keep coming. Chargers defensive end Antwan Applewhite was busted on Friday for driving under the influence.
"It's disappointing to hear about the issue involving Antwan Applewhite," said Chargers general manager A.J. Smith in a statement. "We'll continue to monitor the situation and let the legal process run its course."
Let's run that quote through the universal translator. Beep, beep, beep ... while innocent until proven guilty, Applewhite is still likely a goner. Smith has had little tolerance for some players with off-the-field problems.
Britt's arrest is one of the more troubling because of its alleged audacity. Police say Britt was speeding in a blue Porsche going 71 mph in a 50 mph zone. That's not the interesting part. Many of us have driven 20 mph over the speed limit. But when an officer tried to stop Britt the car accelerated away through traffic, police claim. Police say they later located it on a local street as Britt and his passenger were walking away. They both denied being in the vehicle. Britt was charged with eluding a police officer (a third-degree felony), lying to an officer, and obstructing governmental function (both misdemeanors).
It's possible most, if not all, of the arrested players are innocent or won't be found guilty. Cook, in fact, only recently was found not guilty of his gun charge. These arrests might be a statistical anomaly, or it could mean that the lockout is having more damaging effects than previously known.
No one knows for certain. We may never. What we do know is the arrests are starting to add up.