In the case of Oakland Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain, who was sentenced to 180 days in jail Thursday after being found guilty on a number of charges (according to The Decatur Daily), the NFL shouldn't allow any tip-toeing around when McClain eventually does the time.
But if the sentence does not require McClain to serve time during the NFL season—which, through appeals and other processes, is very common for athletes in trouble with the law—commissioner Roger Goodell should suspend McClain for the better part of the 2012 season.
First, let's backtrack to the events that landed McClain in court in the first place.
According to witness reports obtained by CSNBayArea, McClain allegedly made physical threats toward the defendant, Rishard Tapscott, and later fired a gun near the head of the victim during an altercation in December of last year near Decatur, Alabama. After Tapscott filed his report to the Decatur Police Department, McClain was arrested and sent to jail the next morning. McClain was charged with "third degree assault, menacing, reckless endangerment and discharging a firearm in city limits," according to the Decatur Police Department.
Fast forward to Thursday, the date of McClain's trail, where a judge in Alabama found McClain guilty on all four counts. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail and fined $2,000, but McClain is currently free on bond. A date on which McClain must report to jail has not been identified.
However, Thursday's ruling was just one step in what proves to be a long process.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, McClain's attorney is prepared to ask for a jury trail, a request that could reset the entire legal process for McClain's case.
Raiders LB Rolando McClain was sentenced today to 180 days in jail. But his attorney Harvey Steinberg said he has filed a request for a jury trial and now, under Alabama law. "the process starts all over again." Steinberg said he and McClain will be notified at a later dare as to when the jury trial will begin.
Resetting the process with a jury trail could eventually take months, and even in the case of a somewhat quick trail and decision, McClain would have plenty of appealing options at his disposal against another verdict that doesn't go his way.
Simply put, McClain has the legal power to dictate when any possible jail time could take place. Examples from across the sporting world show that defending attorneys are shrewd in getting their clients time outside their actual season.
But given the almighty hand of Goodell, the NFL could ensure that McClain's availability for the 2012 season is put in doubt. The language in the league's personal conduct policy states that Goodell can impose a suspension on McClain with or without any legal action taking place.
From the policy, via Michael Casagrande:
The use or threat of violence; domestic violence and other forms of partner abuse; theft and other property crimes; sex offenses; obstruction or resisting arrest; disorderly conduct; fraud; racketeering; and money laundering.
Persons who fail to live up to this standard of conduct are guilty of conduct detrimental and subject to discipline, even where the conduct itself does not result in conviction of a crime.
Given what we already know, McClain's actions last December appear to fit under the policy, which gives Goodell the power to put a ban on McClain for 2012.
The best case scenario for the NFL would be if McClain's sentence overlapped with the NFL season, which would serve as a de facto suspension while also reducing Goodell's need to impose a substantial ban in terms of games.
Should Roger Goodell impose a harsher suspension on Rolando McClain if his jail time doesn't overlap with the 2012 season?
Depending on when McClain would serve the time, 180 days could cut into most of next season.
Of course, McClain's situation is sure to be fast-moving and fluid over the next several months. Much can change and likely will. Attempting to put a timeline on when McClain could request appeals or serve any time is pure speculation at this point.
But Goodell and the NFL have proven time and time again that they don't take this kind of off-field behavior lightly. McClain's case should be no different.
A judge has already found McClain guilty on four charges that strike directly against the league's personal conduct policy. The NFL should now ensure that McClain is either serving his sentence during the season, or he's watching the majority of Raiders games in 2012 on television.