Trouble is Never Far Away in the NFL’s Offseason


The offseason is the rare time when football players and football writers run into the same problem: too little to do and too much time to do it in.

But thanks in part to sizeable differences in their respective bankrolls and general public stature, for many NFL players the offseason also means trouble can be found a little too easily. After all, what’s the point of keeping that cash around to jet-set around the world in 40 years when the game has left you broken and unable to do so?

Teams are fully aware their players take that attitude, so for them the offseason is a time to cringe and hope nothing bad happens. But with guys away from the structure of their weekly grind, not to mention the sacrificial team-first mentality that is pounded into them all season, the odds of running foul of the law go up.

Offseason arrests have practically become a league rite-of-passage.

Just ask Ray Rice. It’s doubtful that bankroll and free time had anything to do with him punching his fiancée last February – domestic abuse shows its ugly face whenever it pleases – but his offseason actions placed his career in jeopardy. It’s the same story for Ray McDonald, who threw away his second chance at football with the Bears by getting entangled in yet another domestic violence charge.

Ben Roethlisberger is another who previously couldn’t stay out of the headlines in the months without football. There was the motorcycle accident in July 2006 – not a nefarious action, but an activity that he would not have been engaged in during the season and was fortunate to escape from relatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, walking away from that incident may have contributed to a sense of invincibility that would find him real trouble. He was accused of offseason rapes both in 2008 and 2010. Neither had enough evidence for conviction, though he settled the civil case brought against him regarding the ’08 incident out of court and served a four-game suspension in ’10 for “conduct detrimental to the league.”

Not every offseason arrest involves violating women in some fashion, though violence is often a theme. This year Terrence Cody was cut by Baltimore after facing animal cruelty and misdemeanor drug charges. The Falcons immediately cut Prince Shembo after he punted his ex-girlfriend’s dog to death.

Drugs – the ultimate cocktail of too much money and too little time – are often involved in offseason arrests. Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was caught with 357 grams of marijuana – that’s a big doobie – as well as a handgun and $190,000 cash in February. He was able to get a plea deal as a first-time offender and has to pay a fine.

Many times player arrests are fairly benign offenses like public intoxication. This year’s most laughable arrest belongs to Saints cornerback Brian Dixon, who was popped for resisting an officer after violating traffic laws while riding a scooter in Miami.

No matter how big or small the offense, and no matter how much Roger Goodell tries to snuff it out, it seems like you can set your clock on the NFL dealing with a slew of arrests every offseason. And that’s probably always going to the case.

It’s summer. All of us are bored. And those of us with easier access to trouble are bound to find it.

About Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey

Alex Hickey can vividly recall most significant NFL events going back to Walter Payton's final game in 1987, including the ones that didn't make him cry. Since 2008, his full-time job has been covering college football, specifically McNeese State, for the Lake Charles (La.) American Press. Free time is spent informing, amusing or annoying you for Football Insiders.