2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Player Misconduct

Leading up to 2010 NFL Training Camps there have been too many stories of player misconduct.  Recently Green Bay Packers DL Johnny Jolly (pictured) was suspended for the season by the league for drug charges

Hard to believe 3 years after NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell instituted a Player Conduct policy that gave him much latitude in its application, we are still talking about players putting themselves in bad situations.  Sure the majority of the NFL’s over 1500 players are good up-standing types, but since the Super Bowl ended in February there has been a steady stream of player misconduct that has fans, media, and league officials concerned about a pattern. 

And to make matters worse, now the players involved seem to be more “high profile”.  No longer is everyone talking about the misdeeds of a 2nd string nickelback (i.e. Adam “Pacman” Jones), now quarterbacks who are the league and franchise’s faces are producing negative front-page news too, that may have implications going into the 2010 NFL season. 

Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (a shooting occurring after his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy in a strip club for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms (arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City), former Oakland Raiders QB / 2008 NFL Draft first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (arrested for illegal possession of Codeine to allegedly produce a drink called “The Sizzurp”) and too many others. 

The situation that Roethlisberger got himself into was most distressing to Goodell and everyone else as he is the marquee player of one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.  Though eventually the authorities in Georgia decided to not press charges for sexual assault against Big Ben, the salacious details and accusations, including the showing of taped interviews with the alleged victim, will follow Roethlisberger, the Steelers and NFL for a long time. 

The former 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has been suspended for the first 6 games of the 2010 Season, but it is looking like his early summer good behavior could have his suspension lowered to 4 games instead.  However good behavior by Roethlisberger and the NFL’s other bad boys withstanding, it will be interesting in CBA negotiations if NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith wants to call Goodell and his sometimes heavy-handed administration of the Player Conduct Policy to task.  Because you know the league will counter with tales of how disorderly players have taken signing bonuses and other guaranteed money and not lived-up to their end of the bargain.

Hopefully the final days before training camps begin (Cleveland Browns rookies report on July 23rd) will be free of player misconduct as fans and media should be looking forward to the action on the gridiron rather than NFL players on the police blotter.

2010 Player Misconduct Suspensions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 6-game suspension (Player Conduct – two sexually related incidents) — Out until at least Week 8 vs. New Orleans, but could be shortened to 4-games based on league review
  • San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, 3-game suspension (Player Conduct – Multiple DUIs) — Out until Week 4 vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta Falcons OT Quinn Ojinnaka, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Domestic Violence) — Out until Week 2 vs. Arizona
  • Seattle Seahawks LB Leroy Hill, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Drug Charge) — Out until Week 2 at Denver (also their could be an additional suspension coming for Player Conduct – Domestic Violence)
  • Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly, indefinite suspension with the minimum for all of the 2010 season (Player Conduct – Drug Charge)
  • Free Agent WR Plaxico Burress, indefinite suspension (gun charges) that will end once he is released from prison

*** It should also be noted that when a player serves a suspension, he does not get paid and misses out on game checks.

Other possible misconduct violations

  • Miami Dolphins DE Phillip Merling – Domestic Violence
  • Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rodgers – Carrrying a weapon into the airport
  • Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux – Drug Chrages
  • Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – Assault
  • Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – Citation for Assault
  • Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick — Possible probation violation from a shooting that occurred after his 30th B-Day Party
  • Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms — Arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City
  • Free Agent QB JaMarcus Russell – Drug Charges



Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Bengals to sign Pacman Jones

It seems the Cincinnati Bengals have room for one more “maverick” as notorious NFL problem player Adam “Pacman” Jones will soon be joining the team

It used to be a running “joke” around NFL circles that the Oakland Raiders and their patriarch Al Davis were the “Statue of Liberty” for NFL reclamation projects — Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  In the past, Davis had been a master of picking-up cast-offs, usually players with “character” issues like former high motor pass rusher Lyle Alzado, and turning them into productive players on winning teams. 

Well anyone looking for the NFL’s new version of Father Flanagan’s Boys Town doesn’t have to look any further than the Cincinnati Bengals – noteworthy problem players on the team’s current roster include DE Frostee Rucker, WR Matt Jones, WR Antonio Bryant, WR Maurice Purify, DT Tank Johnson, DE Carlos Dunlap, and others.  However it seems that Bengals owner/GM Mike Brown and head coach Marvin Lewis are willing to take-on another “rap-sheet” player. 

As multiple sources are reporting that Cincinnati is very near to signing free agent cornerback and notorious NFL Bad Boy Adam “Pacman” Jones — suspended in the past for the entire 2007 season and part of the 2008 season (player misconduct policy) for numerous run-ins with the law including a much-publicized strip club shooting in Las Vegas.

Jones must have looked better in his recent audition than an earlier tryout in February, where it was reported that he was grossly out of shape.  Pacman will be trying to return to the NFL for the first time since the end of the 2008.  During the 2008 season, the NFL had suspended the former 2005 first round pick (6th overall) from West Virginia again (4 games) after foolishness that included allegedly fighting a paid Cowboys’ security staff member in a hotel.

During his brief time with the Cowboys in 2008 — 9 games w/ 6 starts – Jones didn’t appear to still have the same burst and coverage skills that once made him an in-demand player despite his off-the-field problems.  So at age 26 and having missed almost two full years away from the field over the course of 5 years, that the 2009 AFC North champion Bengals are clearly Pacman’s last stop in the NFL. It will be interesting to see if the former Tennessee Titans and Dallas Cowboys talented yet infamous corner can return to the dangerous player that he once was – in his second season for the Titans in 2006, he had 51 tackles, 12 pass deflections, 4 INTs – returned one for a touchdown — and 3 TD’s on punt returns.

I am figuring that the Bengals will use Jones in the nickel, dime, and on special teams as they already have talented corners Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph.  There are also rumors that the Bengals may try Pacman at free safety in competition with 2010 third-round pick Brandon Ghee and holdovers Tom Nelson and Chinedum Ndukwe (currently in the team’s doghouse) .  For his career, Jones’ numbers are 146 tackles, 4 INTs, 1 sack, over 2000 return yards and 4 TDs in 39 games played.

If the Bengals do sign Jones, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer – took Cincinnati’s defensive ranking from 21st to 4th in just one year – will be his new best and worst friend.  Zimmer, who has been in contact with former player Deion Sanders (Pacman’s friend), has made it abundantly clear that Jones is not coming in to start and that he will need to play with more discipline than he has shown in his career.

Though the Bengals have given second chances to multiple players, like the late Chris Henry, team chemistry is everything to Zimmer, Lewis, and Brown.  Zimmer recently said of the potential Pacman signing, “If we sign him…I’ll be on him at all times.”

So with Adam “Pacman” Jones soon to be entering the fold, I am wondering if the Bengals have any room left in their wacky locker-room for malcontent receiver Terrell “T.O” Owens, who is having trouble finding a job this offseason.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The NFL Suspends Roethlisberger for Six Games

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger received a 6-game suspension from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league

After less than one week of thinking it over, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided it was time to give his decision regarding any suspension of troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Goodell informed the Steelers and Roethlisberger that the star quarterback would be suspended for the first six games to start the 2010 NFL Season without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. A six-game suspension would cost Big Ben $2.841M in base salary or $473,529 per game.

Much like when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was suspended to start the 2009 season, Roethlisberger’s suspension can be shortened — to 4 games — if he meets certain terms set forth by the NFL and the Steelers.  First and foremost, the league wants Big Ben to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals then he must also hit others parameters set worth by the NFL and Steelers to even be considered for his suspension to be reviewed.

One of the biggest caveats that Goodell also placed on Roethlisberger is that Steelers’ star will not be able to attend any team off-season activity until he has completed the medical evaluation. The Commission said the rehabilitation of Big Ben was a two-step approach designed to hold him, “accountable for his conduct and provide him an opportunity to change his behaviour and establish himself as a responsible individual.”

I think after reading the Milledgeville 572-page investigative report, that Goodell and the Rooney Family were disgusted and had no other choice than to “justifiably” put Roethlisberger on the self for what appears to be habitual behavior.  In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell wrote “The personal conduct policy makes clear that I may impose discipline ‘even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime’ as, for example, where the conduct ‘imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person’.

The understandably heated Goodell wrote further, “As the District Attorney concluded, the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing (or facilitating the purchase of) alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The personal-conduct policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that ‘undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.’ By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard.”

Goodell closed his letter to Roethlisberger by writing, “Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare…In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.”

I fully support Goodell’s and the Steelers’ decision as Pittsburgh is one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises and a large majority of their fanbase is angered by the actions of one of the stars from their two recent Super Bowl winning squads.  Much like Vick’s case, Goodell will personally be involved in the review of Roethlisberger’s progress. 

I really like the approach that Goodell and the Steelers took in Roethlisberger’s situation.  In the past the Commissioner set precedents with players like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick via the player misconduct policy, so he had to come down hard on Roethlisberger and he did.  Fortunately for Roethlisberger, the punishment comes without any charges from the legal community, but it is time for him to heed the words of the Georgia D.A that told him to “Grow Up”.

So where does everyone go from here.  Well… the Steelers are “listening” to offers for Big Ben going into the draft and they have also signed veteran Byron Leftwich through 2011.  Clearly there will need some fence-mending from Roethlisberger with the team and I believe the Steelers will give him, the proverbial, “One Last Strike”.  I don’t believe any team, not even the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders, is ready to take on Big Ben and the problems that he brings right now.  It would take a blockbuster deal for any team to bite and I don’t see that happening.

As for Roethlisberger, it is time for him to understand that playing in the NFL is not a right, but a privilege and if he doesn’t watch it, he can easily become a forgotten footnote – just ask Pacman Jones. 

We will see by September, if Big Ben decides that football is his first priority.  But this story or the salacious details around it are not going away anytime soon.


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Martellus Bennett’s ‘Black Olympics’ video is a Disgrace

In the wake of America’s first black president in office plus the many progresses made by African American since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s.  You would think that in the Year 2009 and approaching the 90th season of NFL play that I would have much more on and off the field positive stories to write about than something called the “Black Olympics”.  But after viewing Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett’s egregious video, I thought it was only proper that I join Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock and many others in setting the record straight for another NFL player that “Just Doesn’t Seem to Get It!”

Let me state that I love some good humor just as much as the next individual.  My tastes span from Richard Pryor to Chris Rock, but I can’t imagine how in his right mind that Bennett thought the “Black Olympics” was a good idea or even funny.  In an era where sadly to say some African Americans are still struggling for equality, the Bennett brothers, Martellus and Michael – a Seattle rookie, thought it would fun to emphasize offensive racial stereotypes of African Americans and then broadcast them to the world via YouTube.  The video shows the pair chowing on fried chicken and watermelon plus drinking Kool-Aid all in a timed fashion.

Bennett recently said on Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s Dallas radio show that he thought the spoof was not racially insensitive and Irvin being Irvin agreed with him.  “I don’t really think it’s offensive,” the second-year tight end told Irvin. “It depends on your sense of humor and how you look at things. We were just having fun and it was very funny for me and my brothers, when I look at it I just can’t stop laughing. If someone takes offense, I apologize. That wasn’t my intention. It was just us having fun.”

But the Bennett were dead wrong!   I was already surprised that Martellus Bennett was involved again in these type of shenanigans after he had been fined $22,000 earlier this year by the Cowboys for insulting blacks and gays in another YouTube video.  But you would think someone in the Pro Football Hall of Fame like Irvin would understand and convey to the young tight end that being role models and representatives of “America’s Team” – like it or not – requires much more.  Bennett needs to understand that the news around the NFL already has enough negative player stories — Michael Vick’s Dogfighting case, Donte Stallworth’s drunk driving manslaughter situation, the many misdeeds of Pacman Jones and many more — that kids, particularly those in urban communities without male role models, do not need more fodder to tear down their self esteem especially from their “so-called” NFL heroes.

The Cowboys had “No Comment” on the video, but I am hoping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with the Bennett brothers and possibly hand down some kind of disciplinary action for their behavior.  Some people may think that this line of thought is too heavy handed and everyone should just “lighten-up”.  Plus what right does the NFL have to interlope into a player’s private work during the offseason.  But in today’s world where the NFL wants to be a global marketing entity, this type of behavior cannot be tolerated.  Already the NFL’s headman has used the open-ended NFL Player Conduct Policy associated with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to administer discipline in all kinds of situations.  And all Goodell has to find a similar example from the sports pages to support this type of action is go back to October 2000.  Do you remember the firestorm around the NBA caused when former Sixers guard Allen Iverson released a hip-hop rap single off his debut CD filled with NBA fan unfriendly lyrics?  League officials met immediately with Iverson causing the want-to-be rapper to shelve his 40 bars CD for the betterment of the league and giving a half-hearted apology, like only Allen Iverson can do.

The NFL, Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones, and any other person/entity affiliated with the league do not need the “Black Olympics” video and the problems that it brings.   I can only imagine what prominent former NFL players and trailblazers like Mel Blount, Doug Williams, James “Shack” Harris, and others think of Bennett’s tasteless video.  Sadly Bennett like every other rookie in the 2008 NFL Draft class visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer in a program that Irvin encouraged Goodell to implement to teach youngsters coming into the league about respect for the legacy of the National Football League. 

I guess Bennett kept his eyes and ears shut during his tour as he neither understands nor appreciates the history of the NFL. Especially the plight of men like Charles Follis (first black player in professional football), Fritz Pollard, and the four men that helped to re-open the NFL to blacks in 1946 (Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, Bill Willis and Marion Motley).

If Bennett needs something constructive to do until training camp, I have an idea…read a book.  My suggestion is Outside The Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League  by Charles K. Ross.  Just maybe Bennett, in all of wisdom at age 22, will learn something about the “journey” of the black football player in the NFL and the legacy that he needs to help preserve. 


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Troubled Bears RB Benson Expected to be Released

It seems that troubled running back Cedric Benson has run out of the chances with the Bears organization as the team is expected to say “Bye, Bye” to him later today

(Philadelphia, Pa) Bears RB Cedric Benson’s visit to Halas Hall Monday will be his last as a Bear, according to the Chicago Tribune.  After Benson’s second highly publicized incident this off-season and the NFL cracking down on player misconduct by fining franchises, the move to cut the troubled running back seems logical. 

Benson was arrested this past weekend and was charged with drunken driving in downtown Austin, Texas. On the heels of the former Texas Star’s BWI incident, the mischievous running back probably had run out of chances with the Bears organization. Bears GM Jerry Angelo said of Benson’s latest arrest, “Disappointment is too much an often used word when we’re talking about Cedric. The No. 1 lesson for every player is protect your job. We’re all held accountable for our actions”.

I still remember covering the 2005 NFL Draft and attending Benson’s initial press conference.  Over and over in the media gathering the former University of Texas star –ran for 5540 yards and 64 TDs in college — talked about how “Ricky Williams” of all people was a role model to him.  Unfortunately for Benson even though he had Ricky’s dreads, he never produced Williams’ numbers on the field.  However Benson sure did find ways to follow in Williams’ troubled footsteps off the field plus exceed them by having repeated problems with the law.  Benson never produced over 1,000 yards in a season and had been questioned in the Bears locker room for his lack of desire with an overall impression that he was somewhat coddled by a patient front office. 

Bears head coach Lovie Smith tried every avenue in motivating Benson, but in the end the stoic coach must be thinking that he sent the wrong running back packing after the 2006 season — Thomas Jones left via free agency to join the Jets.  The 2007 season was a disappointment for Benson as a starter for the first time.  Benson couldn’t follow up his strong 2006 season — appeared to have turn the corner rushing for six touchdowns plus scoring in the Super Bowl while splitting carries with Jones – producing only 674 yards and 4 TDs plus being benched late in the season.

It clearly seems that the Bears have moved on after they selected upstart Tulane running back Matt Forte in the second round of the ’08 draft.  Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner recently said of Forte, “I love Matt Forte, He’s got the size, he’s got the hands. He’s smooth as an athlete, very smooth. How many touches do I see him getting? A lot”.

The expectations were high for Benson after his selection as the fourth overall pick in 2005, but he now will need to find a new NFL home.  We will have to wait and see if some team takes a chance on Benson as a reclamation story or if he fades into “Blivion” as Mike Tyson would say.  Benson’s disappointing 3-year Bears’ career finishes with 1593 rushing yards, 3.8 ypc, 10 TDs, and 4 fumbles lost.  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)