A Former NFL Player's Take on Roger Goodell and Offseason Arrests

Stephen WhiteFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the podium during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With Aaron Berry's second arrest this offseason, the tally for NFL player arrests since the beginning of the year stands at 30. That number has led many fans, bloggers and traditional sports media figures to ponder if NFL players are "out of control."

Some have even wondered why Roger Goodell has been so quiet in the face of all these arrests. As a former player who has never been arrested, it definitely disappoints me whenever one of the active guys is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The question remains, however: Are those arrest numbers spiking upward? Does Goodell need to bring the hammer down even harder to nip this problem in the bud?

The simple answer is no.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has been compiling arrests of NFL players since 2003, and the list itself is pretty revealing.

The fact is, compared to the first two offseasons that Goodell presided over—2007-2008, where we saw 93 arrests (15 of which were for DUIs)—30 arrests from the beginning of this year until the end of July is actually a marked improvement.

Social media has the effect of magnifying these arrests. Even two or three years ago, you may not have heard about a backup arrested during the offseason, unless they played for a team you follow. Nowadays, that information is recycled and regurgitated on various social media platforms.

In truth, the 30 arrests this offseason are tied with 2009 for the lowest number of arrests during an offseason under Roger Goodell's tenure. This year, three players—all from the same team—were arrested twice, which gives even more context to those arrest numbers.

So arrest numbers are actually down, not up, no matter what the outsized traditional media and social-media coverage leads you to believe. What this reminds us all is that looking at an ant through a microscope does not make the ant any bigger.

Although I am not a fan of many of the disciplinary actions Roger Goodell has instituted when it comes to on-field play, I have to admit that he has overseen a pretty impressive and consistent downward trend in offseason arrests the last four years.

To be sure, the NFLPA has also had a hand in lowering those numbers, especially in putting on the rookie symposium last year, even during the lockout.

I have to give credit where it's due, however, and the harsh penalties Goodell has handed down in years past seems to have put the overwhelming majority of NFL players on notice. They have responded accordingly.

Having said that, I still have to acknowledge that there is much more work to be done. What we have seen this year is a spike in DUI and drug possession arrests during traffic stops. There were 20 arrests for those two categories of crimes, and they accounted for two-thirds of all arrests this year.

That is the highest number of DUI and possession arrests since Goodell was named commissioner. I wrote a post two weeks ago detailing some ideas for helping to lower the DUI numbers. Clearly, something has to change.

Not just NFL players or professional athletes, but anyone driving while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs is a danger to themselves and everyone around them. We can't be happy until that number is down to zero.

On the flip side, more than 98 percent of the players this year have been law-abiding citizens, and many of them have also made positive contributions in their communities. It is those players—the guys who do and say the right things without receiving much recognition—that make me want to pull my hair out when other knuckleheads go out and get arrested.

Yes, I know that not everyone who is arrested is guilty, but those guys who get locked up give all the other guys on their team and around the league a bad name. While I applaud Goodell and the NFLPA for their efforts to deter players from getting in trouble, it's high time the rank-and-file players started being more active in policing each other as well.

If you can yell at a guy for missing a tackle on the field or jumping offside, you should not hesitate to yell at him if he is trying to drive home from the club drunk.

We all see teammates doing things we know are wrong and could potentially get them in trouble, but how many times do you step up, go to them as a man and tell them to knock it off?

Until we start putting pressure on guys to be as accountable off the field as we pressure them to be on the field, it won't matter what kind of harsh penalties Roger Goodell hands down.

We will still have 30 or more arrests an offseason, which, while better, is definitely still much too high.