Sunday, August 28, 2011

Britt & Talib Avoid Suspensions; Will Any NFL Players Be Suspended For Lockout Incidents?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib and Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt will not be suspended by the league for their offseason arrests.

The NFL has reserved the right to revisit the Talib matter depending on how his trial goes.

Talib has twice been involved in fights with players and assaulted a cab driver in Florida in 2009. He was suspended for 1 game for that under the Policy.

Talib, a fourth-year pro, is now facing a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that happened during the lockout. Police in the Dallas suburb of Garland say they believe Talib and his mother shot at a man. Talib has been indicted and faces trial in 2012.

Britt was also busy during the lockout. He was arrested and charged with eluding an officer and hindering apprehension when police accused him of driving his Porsche 71 mph in a 50-mph zone before leaving the officer. Britt later was found walking on a side street away from his car. Charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and a fine.

A day after those charges were reduced, two plainclothes officers in a Hoboken car wash smelled marijuana and accused Britt of holding a rolled cigar they believed was the source. Britt was wrestled to the floor and handcuffed. The police believed a man who was with the receiver might have disposed of the cigar.

In all, Britt has been involved in 7 "incidents" involving police over his career.

So the issue is whether the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy should apply to transgressions that occurred during the lockout. The NFL has said all along it would indeed apply, while the Union has resisted that position.

Bottom Legal Line: the NFL would argue that even though the players were locked out, they remained employees and the Policy covers the conduct of employees. On top of that, the Policy is not part of the CBA, which had expired. On the flip side, the players would argue that the lockout deprived them of the benefits of their employment. That being said, how could they still be accountable to discharge their employment obligations?

There is no clear answer to whether the NFL can discipline players for stuff that happened during the lockout. Grey area.

(It's been reported in a few spots that the Policy can't apply because it was in the CBA, which had expired. That's not the case - the Policy actually sites outside the Policy).

There are whispers that the NFL and Union agreed during CBA negotiations that the NFL could discipline up to 8 players.

Now we have learned that Britt and Talib got off without any discipline. Still, though, they were summoned to meet with Goodell. That may suggest that the NFL believes it can discipline players for lockout incidents.

The fact that they were not suspended is interesting since there was plenty in the way of precedent for suspensions. Players that have been charged with similar or lesser crimes have been suspended. Here's a list of suspensions courtesy of ESPN:

• Rocky Bernard (assault, 1 game)
• Michael Boley (domestic abuse, 1 game)  
• Fred Evans (fight with police, 2 games)
• Chris Henry (various arrests, 8 games)
• Larry Johnson (simple assault, 1 game)
• Tank Johnson (2-month jail term, 8 games)
• Pacman Jones (various arrests, 16 games, 6 games)
• Marshawn Lynch (weapons violation, 3 games)
• Ricky Manning (felony assault, 1 game)
• Brandon Marshall (various, including assaulting girlfriend, 1 game)
• Bryant McKinnie (street fight, 4 games)
• Rob Reynolds (domestic disturbance, 16 games)
• Ben Roethlisberger (misconduct-no charges/arrests, 6 games)
• Donte' Stallworth (DUI-vehicular homicide, 16 games)
• Fabian Washington (domestic violence, 1 game)
• Michael Vick (dogfighting, 2 games)

Roethlisberger is the only player suspended by Goodell under the Policy who hasn't been arrested or charged with a crime.

So how did Britt and Talib get off if other players with similar incidents got suspended? As well, both were arrested and both are repeat offenders. Talib has already been suspended under the Policy.

Frankly, it's not clear. Maybe the NFL reached a deal with the Union on how it would go about disciplining players for lockout incidents.

Had it not been a lockout year, it's safe to conclude that these 2 players would have been suspended.

There are still a number of players that could face discipline, include Pacman Jones (disorderly conduct while intoxicated and resisting arrest), Cedric Benson (assault) and Perrish Cox (sexual assault). It will be interesting to see how things unfold. Further rulings could give us some clues as to the NFL's application of the Policy for lockout incidents.

And don't forget another thing - it's possible the Union could seek to legally challenge any suspensions. This assumes, though, that the sides haven't hammered out an agreement on the application of the Policy.

Yes - this is all a bit confusing.

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