It's been a year since NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took over for Paul Tagliabue in the NFL front office. Goodell has ruled the NFL with an iron fist, suspending more players than ever before and making players accountable for their actions off the field. It seemed that things would be different in the NFL and players would finally straighten up. With all of the suspensions and punishments handed down, some of the players still haven't figured out that it's a privilege to play in the NFL.
Over the weekend, Cedric Benson and Marvin Harrison were the latest NFL players to get caught up in off-field troubles. Benson was busted for BWI (boating while intoxicated) and resisting arrest. Harrison is linked to a shooting that took place at his bar in Philadelphia. Benson had character issues before this incident, but this is a surprise for fans of Harrison.
Harrison is a very guarded and quiet individual. He is one of the few wide receivers that play the game stays that allows only his play on the field speak. Harrison's quarterback is Peyton Manning; another reason that this story has been so surprising to most. Manning even spoke of Harrison's dedication not only to football, but having a clean lifestyle off the gridiron.
No one can watch these guys once they've left the field and are on their own. It's up to each of the players to live their lives however they choose to. Not every football player is a role model, but the ones that are in the spotlight have an obligation to the fans and to children to try their best to stay out of trouble. Goodell can't go away from his normal way of ruling the league though. He can't play favorites.
Although Harrison has been an upstanding citizen and a model for what NFL players should be, he is involved in a situation that could bring legal implications. Letting Harrison slide and making Benson pay for his actions would be wrong. Goodell should also pay attention to the precedent he has set with players like Tank Johnson and Pacman Jones as well.
I hope that future NFL stars pay attention to what's going on in the league right now. Taking a look a Jones and seeing how he has been punished should deter players for getting in trouble or letting trouble find them. That's why teams go through extensive background checks and interviews with rookies looking to come into the league.
Teams spend big money on the potential of these athletes and these same athletes owe it to the teams to try and be upstanding. Players like Darren McFadden already have an asterisk beside their name before ever playing a down of football on the field. Does this help though? Is it fair to judge these players before they're ever in the league.
I'm a big believer in second chances, but the past is a good indicator of the future. You have to be careful with players like McFadden. After all, Jones was a troubled player at West Virginia. His character issues followed him from Morgantown all the way to the NFL. Now we see where he is.