Column: Arrests and trials, the real cost of the NFL's business

  • Article by: JIM LITKE , AP Sports Columnist
  • Updated: July 12, 2013 - 7:11 AM
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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

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In the past few months, more than two dozen NFL players and a sprinkling of front-office executives have been arrested for crimes ranging from petty to deadly.

No matter how bad it looks, remember that's not a crime wave by any fair measure, let alone by league standards. Think of it instead as just the cost of doing business. Everybody in the NFL already does.

To be fair, any company with that employs 9,000 people is bound to have some bad apples. And this year's number of arrests, give or take a few, lines up with last year's pace.

So no one should have been surprised to awake Thursday morning to news reports that Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Lincoln, Neb. But because the NFL is all about image, about "protecting the shield," as commissioner Roger Goodell never tires of saying, Dennard's team pretended to be.

Another jersey trade-in offer may be in the works even as you read this.

"The New England Patriots are extremely disappointed to learn of Alfonzo Dennard's arrest," a team statement said. "We take this matter very seriously and are working to get more information on the incident."

Please. Let's not forget the bottom line is always personal responsibility, and that Dennard climbed into his car likely knowing that the entire league and his team in particular — former Pats tight end Aaron Hernandez is being held on a murder charge — was already feeling the heat.

And that he was on probation after punching a cop during a fight in the same town a week before the 2012 draft.

But let's not forget, either — because the Patriots certainly can't — that the reason they were able to pluck him all the way down at the seventh round of that draft is because Dennard had several previous scrapes on and off the field.

Once you stop to think about it, the cynicism that underpins the whole "crime-in-the-NFL" phenomenon is almost breathtaking.

A respected agent said earlier this week that just about every time he meets with one of the league's general managers or personnel chiefs, the guy knows exactly how many potential troublemakers are on his roster. There's even a code word for those players: "turds," as in "I can't risk a chance on another turd. We've already exceeded our quota."

There's upwards of 10 on just about every squad, the agent estimates. He said they tend to be clustered around a handful of defensive positions where meanness and a short memory are essential, with wide receivers being the most notable exception on the other side of the ball.

"They want guys who say 'gimme the damn ball," and guys who can turn around the play after they get beat and start talking trash right away about how it won't ever happen again," he said. "Without those nasty, selfish guys, competing on a regular basis is practically impossible."

According to the agent, who asked that his name be withheld because he's still negotiating deals, the number of headaches a team takes on can generally be calibrated by how desperate it is to win. Think of the Cincinnati Bengals a few years back, or on a smaller scale, how Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hired a bodyguard to make sure wide receiver Dez Bryant didn't find himself in any more compromising positions.

The problems in New England at the moment may spring from a different source — hubris, or as the agent put it, "too much faith in the 'Patriot Way.'" But in every case, teams know exactly what they're doing when they draft, trade or take a flyer on a knucklehead like Dennard. The only thing they can truly be "extremely disappointed" about is when one or another does something stupid or dangerous while they were his enablers.

There were at least 17 different teams touched by the more than two dozen arrests these past few months, and anytime a problem extends that wide, it usually runs top to bottom as well.

As noted above, this is first and foremost about personal responsibility. And to be fair, Goodell hasn't been shy about doling out harsh punishment to any employee, and even harsher punishments to the league's higher-ups. But what's clear is that his message, no matter how many times he warns rookies to "protect the shield," is still being greeted in too many corners of the league with little more than a wink and a nod.

So why not just spare us the lecture?

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Cleveland 4 Suspended
Kansas City 2
Baltimore - W. Chen 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - M. Pineda
Kansas City - D. Duffy 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
Seattle - J. Paxton 6:07 PM
Toronto - J. Happ
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt 6:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Houston - N. Tropeano 7:05 PM
Texas - D. Holland
St. Louis - A. Wainwright 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - T. Wood
Arizona - J. Collmenter 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
LA Angels - C. Wilson 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
San Francisco - J. Peavy 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - D. Haren
Colorado - T. Matzek 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Buffalo 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Green Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Tennessee 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Carolina 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Detroit 9/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Tampa Bay 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Miami 9/28/14 12:00 PM
Oakland
Jacksonville 9/28/14 3:05 PM
San Diego
Atlanta 9/28/14 3:25 PM
Minnesota
Philadelphia 9/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
New Orleans 9/28/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd 11:32
NY Islanders 2
Ottawa 5:00 PM
NY Islanders
New Jersey 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Detroit 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Washington 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
St. Louis 7:30 PM
Dallas
Anaheim 8:00 PM
Colorado
Colorado 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Los Angeles 9:00 PM
Arizona
Arizona 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
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