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National Columnist

Noble gestures by some NFL players might just save a life


I'd like to shake their hand. Find out where they play. Where they live. Who they are.

For now, it's enough to know they exist -- those seven NFL players who turned in guns to league personnel in the wake of the Jovan Belcher tragedy. Apparently they were so shaken by the impulsive ferocity of Belcher, the Chiefs linebacker who killed his girlfriend and then himself on Dec. 1, that they gave away their personal firearms. Didn't want them -- not anymore. Not after they saw what could happen. One of them, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, said he was giving away his gun because he didn't trust himself.

Who would do such a thing? Who would admit that? We don't know. Their actions are public knowledge, but not their names, and for now their actions are enough. Heart-warming. Hope-inspiring. But knowing they're out there won't tide me over for long -- eventually I'm going to want to know who they are. To celebrate them.

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These men aren't heroes, not exactly, but they are role models. They are strong and they are brave.

OK, you know what? They are heroic, in their own way, because they've done something with this goal in mind: Make the world a safer place.

That might not sound as heroic as a diving interception or a long touchdown run, but what they did is heroic in its own way -- and the world needs as many heroes as it can get. The NFL, specifically, needs more heroes and role models in the wake of two straight Saturdays from hell, first Belcher killing girlfriend Kasandra Perkins and himself with a gun, then Cowboys lineman Josh Brent killing teammate Jerry Brown in a one-car accident involving alcohol.

Turning in their guns? That's noble. And before we go any further, assuming I've not gone too far already, this is not a column about gun control or the Second Amendment. I'm not Jason Whitlock or Bob Costas, making assumptions about Jovan Belcher or anyone who owns a gun. This isn't a call for passivism or an invitation to hold hands and sing Kumbaya.

This is merely an appreciation of seven men who know their limitations -- or, more precisely, don't know their limitations -- and have sought to protect themselves and others by removing deadly weapons from their midst. That's remarkable humility for the machismo NFL, a show of strength most people couldn't muster.

Admitting you're vulnerable? Few people do that, which is why there are few truly strong people in this world. Sorry to get all Confucius on you, but only from strength does a person admit his weakness. People who never admit weakness are fooling themselves, and nobody else. Those seven NFL players who turned in their guns know themselves well enough to know they might not be strong enough to own a firearm. Bravo, you seven. Standing ovation.

The same goes for the 60 or so players who use the NFL Players Association's car service every month. The car service is offered for early mornings like Saturday, when Josh Brent and Jerry Brown were too drunk to drive -- but what the hell, Brent gave it a shot anyway. According to police, he was driving faster than the 45-mph speed limit when he hit a curb, causing his Mercedes to flip, skid roughly 900 feet and burst into flames. When police arrived, Brent was trying to pull Brown from the car. Brown was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

That's why the NFLPA offers the car service, and 60 or so NFL players call that phone number every month and wait for a safe ride home. If you live in or near an NFL city, that could be your hometown. Could be mine. Are you grateful? I am. One less drunk driver on the road is a good thing, wherever that road may be, and it's not easy to make such a decision under those conditions. Lots of us have been there, and we know the conditions. Drunk? Me? I'm not drunk. Watch me spin in a circle (giggle). See? Almost made it! Gimme my car keyth.

NFL teams offered a similar service before the NFLPA took it over in 2009. Apparently, some players had been afraid to use a team-sponsored car service. They worried that a late-night phone call for help would be held against them. That line of thinking is astoundingly short-sighted -- on both ends. For players to think a team would punish them for seeking a safe ride home, and for teams to hold such a phone call against their players. Drinking is legal for adults, and players are going to do it. The NFL knows that about them, and it knows that about us.

NFL telecasts are sponsored by beer commercials that ask people to drink responsibly and celebrate designated drivers. Staying sober to drive everyone home is a noble sacrifice to make. So is calling an $85-an-hour car service for a ride. So is removing a gun from your house, if you suspect that would be a good idea.

It doesn't take much to save a life. Damn sure doesn't take much to end one.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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