The Untouchables: Life in the NFL

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Here is something to think about; since the Super Bowl roughly six months ago, more than thirty National Football League players, and a couple of executives, have been arrested. Think about that for a minute. Thirty NFL players have been arrested in the first half of 2013. That’s more than half an NFL roster in a 6 month period. These arrests are not just unpaid parking tickets, OH NO, these are big boy crimes. The alleged crimes range from murder and attempted murder to gun possession charges and let’s not forget the aforementioned DUIs.

It seems obvious that the NFL has issues with crime but why do players and executives, who are living the dream and making obscene amounts of money, risk it all? Roger Goodell installed harsh penalties, the justice system installs harsh penalties but when life in prison can’t deter this criminal behavior then what will? Aaron Hernandez, a star player on one of the most prolific teams in the NFL, fresh off a major contract extension, murders a guy in cold blood? And now we hear he’s allegedly connected to multiple previous murders and violent crimes? Where do players draw the line? How do players, who can have anything they want, put themselves in such compromising situations? They are untouchable!

Or are they?

Lets dial this in a little further and focus on the Broncos. While every team has had multiple players and executives arrested since 2000, the Broncos rank 3rd in that time period with 35 (37 if you count the recent arrests of executives Matt Russell and Tom Heckert for DUIs). The Vikings and Bengals are tied for first with 40 apiece. You would think the Broncos, whose fan base routinely makes fun of the fans of its divisional foes, the Raiders, for being criminals, would to stay out of trouble. Fun fact: The Raiders are in the middle of the pack with 19 arrests; the Broncos have nearly TWICE that many. We have Knowshon Moreno, Matt Prater, DJ Williams, Brandon Marshall, Elvis Dumervil, and the most notorious of all, Perrish Cox – just to name a few. Perrish Cox exemplifies the crime issues facing the NFL. He put himself in a compromising situation because he thought he was untouchable. His attitude seemed to be “Do first and ask questions (and deal with the consequences) later”. Despite most people believing Cox was guilty, he was acquitted and is now enjoying his freedom and recently played in the Superbowl for the San Francisco 49ers.

It is the nauseating long list of  DUI charges, both on the Broncos and across the NFL, that shocks me the most. With 24 hour car services provided by the NFL and boatloads of cash, it’s easy for players to obtain other means of transportation in the event they have too much to drink. The number of DUI arrests the NFL is alarming, especially when such arrests can be so easily avoided. Too many players must look at these arrests and think this could never happen to me. It hearkens back to that feeling of being invincible or untouchable. They feel above the law. They feel that nothing bad can happen to them. Bad things only happen to “regular folk”. Two of the worst DUIs have come from Broncos’ executives. The recent arrests of Matt Russell and Tom Heckert brings up a question I would like answered: Is it the organizational culture that leads to high numbers of arrests on certain teams or is it that the players themselves think they are invincible.? One thing is for certain, NFL owners must love having players back for OTA’s and training camps since they are under a daily routine and away from temptation and trouble. I will say this though, the Broncos players have stayed out of trouble this offseason. It must be that Super Bowl mentality over at Dove Valley shining through.

Recently Rick Reilly tweeted “The NFL doesn’t have a gang problem. it has a gun problem. 75% of players have them. More guns = More mayhem.” It’s a shocking statement for sure, but I have to disagree with him. To me, that statistic shows that players do not think they are invincible. In fact, it shows that players know just how vulnerable they truly are. For sixteen Thursdays, Sundays and Mondays, plus playoffs and the Super Bowl, players are held to incredibly high standards and are able to do things most people could only dream of. In the minds of fans these players accomplish the impossible every week; they are like real life superheros, as famous as Superman and Batman. But with fame comes jealousy, and with jealousy comes anger. It is this anger that causes so many problems for NFL players. Think back to the stabbing of Steelers Mike Adams, the mugging of former Bronco Javon Walker, the slaying of Darrent Williams (with bullets intended for former Bronco, Brandon Marshall). The Redskins Sean Taylor was shot and robbed in his own home. The threat for players is real. Now, while I understand that not all players are using guns to protect themselves (Aaron Hernandez I’m looking at you), most understand the clear and present danger they face.

If players know that they are not invincible or untouchable then why do so many act like they are? Is it because us, the fans, that see them that way? Is it the money and fame that cloud their judgment?

Answer that question and we might be on our way to solving this issue.

-Chris Hitchcock

Follow me @Chris_Hitchcock