Gene Collier: Throw flag on criminal activity in football

Legend holds that on an August day seven years ago, it was Steelers chairman Dan Rooney who got to knock on the door of Roger Goodell's hotel room and tell him he had been selected the NFL's new commissioner.

How many times since, would you imagine, has Goodell actually, fervently wished he had hit the lights, muted ESPN and hung out his little "Catchin'-some-ZZZZZ's" sign?

Space does not permit a list of the troubles Paul Tagliabue's successor was about to wade into, and I don't mean column space -- I mean, like, space space. The lowlights have included Spygate and Bountygate, but if this league put the "gate" suffix on all of its public relations nightmares, it would have more gates than O'Hare.

Two-Minute Warning: Hernandez just the latest stain on NFL

PG columnist Gene Collier offers his take on the latest sports news. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 6/27/2013)

More than two dozen NFL players have been arrested since the Super Bowl, more than one per week, and Wednesday's docket included, in ascending order of bad-assery: unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of a large capacity firearm, third-degree endangerment of an injured victim, second-degree aggravated assault, first-degree attempted murder and plain old murder.

That was just as of 3 p.m.

So now the transactions column includes the release of Aaron Hernandez by the New England Patriots and the release of linebacker Ausar Walcott by the Cleveland Browns. They were not cap casualties.

Hernandez was arrested at his Massachusetts home in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd, whose devastated family isn't being helped at all by the way the national football media is readily discussing how in the world the Patriots can replace Hernandez's 18 touchdowns. Walcott, who hadn't yet played for the Browns but signed a free-agent contract with them this spring, was arrested on charges of attempted murder in a case that includes a victim in critical condition after Walcott allegedly punched him in the head, all together now, outside a strip club at approximately 3 a.m.

I'm really starting to doubt the effectiveness of that NFL rookie symposium, frankly. The league has tried mightily to improve player behavior and its image, and the symposium is a cornerstone of the well-intentioned effort whereby the league attempts to educate all its drafted players in, according to the literature, "NFL History, Total Wellness, Experience, and Professionalism through videos and workshops on those topics as well as player health and safety, decision making, mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence prevention, non-discrimination and maintaining positive relationships."

The league might want to take a harder look at the faculty here.

This year's speakers included semi-reformed menace Adam "Pac-Man" Jones of the Cincinnati Bengals and former Bears defensive lineman Tank Johnson. In preparing his remarks for the just-completed session -- you'd imagine the working title being something like, "Don't be like me" -- Jones managed to get himself arrested again last month for punching a female bar patron. The NFL still allowed him to speak to the rookies. Johnson spoke at the symposium on the topic of guns, which is not unlike having Keith Richards address the rookies on the topic of drugs. Police once found 550 rounds of ammo in Johnson's house and five guns including a semi-automatic rifle.

Obviously, O.J. Simpson was unavailable to do the domestic violence talk.

Steelers No. 1 draft pick Jarvis Jones gave his reaction to the symposium to The Associated Press in Ohio.

"Growing up, those were the role models in their era," he said. "Great players, tremendous players. Just to see where they're at in life now and the things they've been through, it opened our eyes because we're no different from anybody else."

With role models like that, you have to learn to think for yourself in a hurry.

"For me, I always try to surround myself with positive people," Jones told the AP. "I can make the best decisions for me and my family and my team as well. What stuck out to me was just some of the decisions that they made, clearly it was caused by them just not thinking about it before they made it."

Jones, from all informed accounts, is a good kid with a good head, not the kind of draft pick the league necessarily needs to reform.

But the task at hand here is plainly larger than the NFL anticipated.

There's a segment of the culture that longs to be bad-ass. Michael Vick's business was called Bad Newz Kennels, not Good News Kennels.

There's a segment of the economy that stands ready to accommodate that instinct. On Tuesday, Smith & Wesson reported record sales despite an inability to "meet ongoing demand," which held profits to a mere $25.2 million in the last quarter.

There's a large segment of the greater society that has come to settle for mayhem. Six months after Newtown and what have we done?

Nothing except to make the culture crazier and crazier, and with it the NFL.

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Gene Collier: First Published June 27, 2013 4:00 AM


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