NFL's grip on player control tightens
Teams are realizing it's OK to expect a little more from its employees. And it's OK to say so, no punches pulled.
"We are upset and embarrassed by Tank's actions last week," Bears General Manager Jerry Angelo said, referring to Johnson getting pinched for speeding and suspicion of DUI in Arizona. "He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't, and we have decided to move on."
Said Bears head coach Lovie Smith: "A lot of people within our organization gave extra time and energy to support Tank: players, coaches and our front office. We did our best to establish an environment for him to move forward. Ultimately Tank needed to live up to his side of the deal."
Johnson, who just got out of jail last month and had to ask a judge if it was OK for him to travel to Miami for the Super Bowl, suffers from serial stupidity. It's not like Angelo and Smith were out on a skinny branch with their comments.
Still, it's almost jarring to see professional athletes being held to the standards of behavior active in normal, professional society, isn't it?
The post-arrest spin cycle, the soft-peddling of criticism or - even worse - the insulting silence from teams that followed similar dustups seems to be fading.
Goodell's no BS stance - amplified by support from the league's franchises and the scores of actual good guys who play in the NFL - has given teams the ability to call it as they see it when it comes to their own players.
In other words, if a guy is a moron, he can't stick around.
Witness the words of new Dolphins coach Cam Cameron after the recent arrest of scrub defensive tackle Fred Evans for scuffling with Miami police officers.
"We will not condone this type of behavior," Cameron said. "I assure everyone it will be dealt with seriously."
This is a sea-change. And a necessary one. "No comment" doesn't cut it anymore. Nor does insisting that the issues are family matters best dealt with "in-house."
People who follow the league don't expect every player to be brushed and in bed by 7:30. But whether they're fans, advertisers or critics, they want to see some chagrin when a guy gets stupid.
This isn't about trampling rights and rushing to judgment every time an accusation's made against a player. The Duke lacrosse case should still be fresh enough in people's minds to understand the irreversible damage that does.
But when there's ample evidence that somebody has been up to some level of no-good, say something.
When he was released from jail in May, Johnson was persuasive in claiming he was going to turn over a new leaf. He said that Goodell had to protect the reputation of the league and that he took responsibility for his previous actions. He said he wanted to be the NFL Man of the Year.
Doesn't appear that's going to happen anytime soon.
Meanwhile, Goodell was in Florida on Monday, talking to the incoming crop of NFL rookies.
"I'd be naive to think everyone would be able to understand (the expectations)," Goodell said after speaking. "But I think we're making players more aware of the standards of behavior. We're giving them more tools and resources to make sure they can make those decisions."
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