NFL: The runaway league

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Photo above: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at his pre-Super Bowl XLIX press conference.
Photo by Claudia Gestro

The New England Patriots may have been delayed in enjoying their victory parade due to foul weather, but that has not stopped the rest of the league from getting a head start to their off season nonsense. Less than 72 hours after the 2014 season officially ended with the Patriots beating the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, the league, particularly its players, have demonstrated an inability to transition to their down time.

The Cleveland Browns are a mess, not just on the field, but off it as well. Last year’s first round pick and quarterback of the future, Johnny Manziel, has checked himself into rehab. Whether or not this was his doing, his agent’s, team, or the league is not fully known. However, what is known is this is not his first time. Apparently, while a “student” at Texas A&M, Manziel under went some form of counseling.

Johnny Manziel (YouTube)
Johnny Manziel

Manziel’s team mate, Josh Gordon, has been suspended for a full year for once again violating the league’s drug and alcohol rules. Gordon is widely considered one of the most feared players in the league with incredible talent but seems to be unable to “just say no” when it comes to drugs and booze. If Manziel can not learn from Gordon’s mistakes, Browns fans can start arguing over whether or not the team should pick a quarterback or receiver with their first round pick this spring.

However, it is entirely possible Cleveland won’t have a first round pick this year when the draft roles around since they are under investigation by the league for the use of cell phones during games. It seems more than just the Patriots are thought to try and cheat to win. If this is true, Cleveland can start thinking about 2016 because next season will already be over for them.

The Atlanta Falcons are also under investigation by the league. Their offense? Seems they may have actually piped in added crowd noise during their home games. Anyone who watched the Falcons under achieve last year will know the only noise their crowds made involved booing just before running to the stadium exits half way through the third quarter.

Another player in hot water is Terrence Cody who was indicted the other day for animal cruelty. Terrence who? Since he lacks the same name recognition and financial draw as Michael Vick, it is safe to say, if found guilty, Cody’s career has officially gone to the dogs.

Indianapolis Colts linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson, was arrested for assaulting a pizza delivery guy. In D’Qwell’s defense, at least he did not punch his girlfriend. Still, when a guy asks for extra cheese and he plays in the NFL, you might want to make sure you do not mess up his order. Only time — and pepperoni — will tell whether or not Roger Goodell takes “Pizzagate” as seriously as he does other crimes.

Then there is the report that Green Bay Packers linebacker, Letroy Guion, was arrested for felony marijuana and weapons charges. I guess the frozen tundra of Green Bay is enough to make the toughest football player want to pack heat.

Warren Sap (YouTube)
Warren Sap

Finally, there is retired Hall of Fame football player and suddenly unemployed NFL Network talking head, Warren Sapp. He managed to get arrested for solicitation and assaulting a hooker. Sapp, who entered the NFL under a cloud of marijuana concern will probably claim his actions were not his fault. What do you bet he blames the NFL for his behavior due to all the blows to the head he took over his career?

Oh, and did I mention the league still has to solve a little matter known as “Deflategate?” In less time than it takes to say, “Roger Goodell needs to be fired,” you have plenty of proof the league’s problems go far beyond the commissioner’s office. The NFL has become a runaway league filled with physically gifted, and juiced up, players, who seem incapable of handling life outside the structure provided to them during the season.

To think, in the 1960’s, almost all professional football players had to work regular jobs when the season was over because they did not earn much more than ten thousand dollars a season. This is a drop in the bucket when you see today’s players getting fined that much for inappropriate celebrations. Players once had to fit in with the norm of society to earn paychecks on assembly lines, selling cars, real estate or insurance, or working construction. Today, they just have to be able to pass their drug tests and stay off the police blotter to collect a paycheck most fans can only dream of.

Why do we see owners and the league wanting to extend the length of the NFL season another two to four regular season games and an extra round of playoffs? In part, it is money driven, no doubt. The more games played means more tickets sold, more television revenue, and greater profits.

However, another component has to do with the players. Increasingly, they seem less able to handle their free time and staying out of trouble. An owner would rather lose a star player to injury than to an arrest. By extending the season, teams have more control over their over paid, modern day gladiators. In other words, the players need constant supervision to protect the money owners have invested in them.

At this rate, if I am a prison guard who plays in a prison football league, I may want to rethink scheduling a game against a team of prisoners. From where I am sitting, the prison team has plenty of talent to pick from.