So, today the NFL announced Bengals WR Chris Henry will be suspended for the first 8 games of the 2007 NFL season, and Titans CB Adam “Pacman” Jones will be suspended for the entire 2007 NFL season. I’d like to write a great deal about this, but work sucks this week, I’m tired, and it’s depressing to think about. Still, I do have some comments. Before I launch into those, though, I want to point out Peter King’s column, Len Pasquarelli‘s offering, and Paul Kuharsky‘s blog post.
As a Titans fan who runs a blog that focuses more on the Titan than any other team, losing Pacman is a huge blow to the Titans’ defense. Nick Harper was an upgrade at cornerback, but Pacman at the end of the year was one of the top 5 CBs in the league. He was also a dynamic return man, leading the league in punt return average and also ranking high in kickoff return average. On a team that doesn’t have that many very good players, losing a star-caliber performer like Pacman is a great loss.
These suspensions are about twice as long as I expected them to be. Pacman clearly violated the CBA for failing to report his two arrests, and deserved a suspension for that conduct. But on the scales of NFL justice, a 16 game suspension is only merited for a third failed drug test. In Peter King’s column, he compares Pacman’s suspension for an entire year to that of Rozelle suspending Alex Karras and Paul Hornung. Minor technicality: Karras and Hornung bet on NFL games. Baseball’s punishment for this act is a lifetime ban, as was made well known from the story of the Black Sox and Pete Rose (later than the Karras/Hornung suspensions); comparing Rozelle’s act to Goodell’s decision announced today strikes me as nothing short of asinine.
One of the things that bugs me about the length is how Goodell will deal with future cases of suspension. The next one on the horizon is Tank Johnson, and that won’t happen until after Tank Johnson finishes his 4 1/2 months in prison. Were I a fan of an NFC Central team other than the Bears, I’d be planting as many stories as I possibly could in the news media, trying to influence Goodell’s decision. This gets to Pasquarelli’s column, and what I feel maybe the most troubling aspect of the Henry/Jones suspensions. Here’s the key part of Pasquarelli’s column
The blindfold that often blurred the vision of commissioner Paul Tagliabue is gone. Tagliabue is a good man, but he also is an attorney and often fretted more over due process than enunciating a can-do policy of punishment against repeat offenders. Also gone, it seems, are any bindings that once tied the hands of the commissioner and limited the scope of his ability to maintain the integrity of the league.
Tagliabue’s style was to allow such issues to dangle, to leave them unresolved by the NFL until they were first resolved by the court system. By comparison, Goodell, all too aware of a burgeoning problem and negative ramifications in the court of public opinion, is a veritable hanging judge.
We’ve now established the key principle underlying future Goodell decisions: throw them to the wolves. Let us not wait for the light of day, but instead look people in the eye, and stab them in the front.
Take a gander, again, at the NFL announcement, namely the conditions that apply to a potential reinstatement of Pacman following the suspension:
He must have no further adverse involvement with law enforcement.
It’s nice to know the concept of moral hazard is an unknown one in Park Avenue. Pacman’s a notoriously troubled young man with a history of questionable behavior. An adverse involvement with law enforcement, based on the background, is arrested and/or charges filed. Any idea how difficult it would be for that to happen? Steve McNair’s DUI charge, based on an illegal stop, springs to mind immediately. Even closer at hand, Pacman’s alleged spitting incident from this past summer; the charge was later dropped, and there was no independent corroboration that Pacman was even present at the scene at the time of the alleged incident. Yet, these would seem to fit the definition of adverse involvement with law enforcement contemplated by Goodell. The potential for mischief here is strong, a possibility Tagliabue seemed to understand and respect, but one to which Goodell seems unheeding.
In conjunction with the team’s player development director and other professionals working with him, Jones must develop with the Titans a structured program of community service or other activity. This program must be submitted to the league office for review and approval.
If thar be any doubt in your mind this is a blatant public relations move, this utterly amorphous qualification should utterly annihilate it. This is all about ensuring Pacman Jones doesn’t make the NFL look bad.
The NFL’s release includes language that Pacman’s status will be subject to review after the Titans’ 10th games. I haven’t mentioned this because I don’t think it’s important. My prediction is that Pacman Jones hasn’t a chance in hell of being reinstated during the 2007 season. In fact, my prediction is that the Week 17 game of the 2006 season against the Patriots will prove to be Pacman’s last NFL game. He has become a lightning rod around issues that the NFL and people related to it (see, e.g., Herm Edwards’ comments cited in Pasquarelli’s piece), and must pay the price for it.
One other issue is that it seems incongruous that Pacman will get 16 games when Leonard Little got 8 games for committing manslaughter, Ricky Manning got one game for pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault, and multiple banned substance positives are required to reach that level. The answer, really, likes in the Collective Bargaining Agreement; the Commissioner has much greater discretion in some areas than others, and Pac’s mistake was to fall into an area where discretion is virtually unlimited.
Last note, on personal bias. I don’t know Pacman Jones, I’ve never met him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him from closer than the stands in the Edward Jones Dome in the 2005 season. As is probably evident from reading the blog, I have a great deal of respect for his football abilities. This doesn’t mean I’d want to hang out with him. From what I’ve read about him, I suspect we wouldn’t get along. I wouldn’t want to be his friend, and he wouldn’t want to be mine. But I’ve been on the outside looking in of enough groups to recognize when one of The Other is being sacrificed to satisfy those on The Inside, and I don’t like it.