The NFL season begins next Thursday, the 8th of September. This past summer has seemed longer than usual because of the lockout, and now the wait appears to be more than worth it. I’ve got so many fantasy leagues going this year I can barely keep them straight; yes, the anticipation for the 2011 season seems heightened compared to past seasons, except in Cincinnati. But more than lockout potential, more than free agent signings, more than rule changes, one headline grabbed my attention above all the rest this offseason: Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib will not be suspended for helping his mother shoot a man in March.
First, let me just say that I love Talib; have since he returned an interception for a touchdown to help Kansas beat Virginia Tech in the 2008 Orange Bowl. But if there were ever a warrant for a few-games-long suspension, now would probably be it. Talib faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Texas. Last time I checked, that’s normally not something for which people get a simple warning.
And it’s not like this is a one time incident; Talib has a history of violence. Two years ago, he drunkenly punched a cab driver in the head while the driver was probably going at a decent speed down Interstate 275 in Tampa. At his rookie symposium in 2008, he got in a fist fight with a teammate. In all those altercations, he has been allocated a grand suspension total of one game. One game! How is that possible? The man probably would have been suspended for an entire season by now if playing any other professional sport, and likely for life if playing an Olympic sport. But NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell lets him slide time and time again. Although Talib’s not the only one.
Last year, Cincinnati running back Cedric Benson and New York Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards were both involved in violent bar fights in Texas and Cleveland, respectively, during the offseason. Benson faced a misdemeanor assault charge for punching a bar employee, and Edwards plead no contest to aggravated disorderly conduct and received probabtion, 180-day suspended jail sentence, and a $1,000 fine. Yet Goodell doesn’t suspend them? Benson also plead no contest, and he has begun serving a 20-day jail sentence in Texas for that incident, but to pile it on, he was charged with the same crime for punching a former roommate in Austin last month. The charges will be dismissed if he performs 30 hours of community service and pays an undisclosed amount of restitution to the victim. Honestly, it’s surprising the Bengals even have a team.
It’s a backwards system Goodell is enforcing; tackle the quarterback too aggressively? $25,000 fine and possible suspension depending on the severity of the hit. Shoot someone? No suspension, you’re okay to play. Common sense tells me that is wrong, why doesn’t it tell Goodell the same thing? If he’s not careful, the game on the field could eventually regress to this:
If you have to serve jail sentences for crimes, it should be half the season, no questions asked; even if it’s the first run-in with the law for that player. Twice, and it’s a full season. Three times, and you’re out of the game forever. That’s it. Bye-bye. See ya later. Enjoy the view from county. Punishments for crimes off the field need to be much harsher than for penalties on the field. Goodell won’t try to enforce such a system, though; if you stab a man at a club, at worst he’ll probably just make you kick the ball off from the 40-yard line. After all, safety does come first.