Jim Irsay: Latest Details and Comments on Owner's Return to Colts

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

AP Images

Updates from Tuesday, June 10

Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star spoke with Jim Irsay about his recovery and rehab after his arrest:

Irsay wouldn't get into specifics, but suffice to say, he believes that because of his significant pain issues he began to lose his way with pain medication. This is not very different from what's happened in the past, what happens with millions of people in this country who deal with chronic pain. One day, a single Vicodin does the trick. Down the road, it takes several Vicodin. And Oxycodone. And more. And next thing you know, you're in the throes of addiction once again.

After attending rehab in several spots around the country in recent months, Irsay acknowledges he is still on some pain medication for his hip and back, but he's having it closely monitored by his doctors, who will eventually wean him off those meds if the pain abates. (Which might require surgery, but that's a different story). He also has agreed to random drug testing with the prosecutor's office, with those results being shared with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's office.

Kevin Seifert of ESPN provides details on how the Colts were being run during Irsay's absence:

Updates from Tuesday, May 20

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com briefly spoke with commissioner Roger Goodell on how they are approaching the punishment for Jim Irsay:

The NFL on ESPN Twitter Feed provided NFLPA Chairman DeMaurice Smith's take on Irsay's lack of punishment:

Updates from Monday, May 19

Jim Irsay spoke to the media today at the NFL owner's meetings (via the Indianapolis Business Journal, Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com):

Original Text

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay is ready to get back to work. Now it seems the question is whether the NFL is ready to have him back.    

Irsay’s daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, told ESPN's Sal Paolantonio that her father is planning to be a part of the pitch when Indianapolis makes its case to league owners when they decide on the host city for Super Bowl LII. 

“He’s really looking forward to it,” Irsay-Gordon said, via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. “He’s ready to come back and get plugged back in. He’s feeling great. We’re really excited to have him back.”

Irsay-Gordon added that her father is "really focused and committed to get his health back in order," via ESPN.com's Mike Wells.

NFL owners meet Tuesday for the vote. Indianapolis is competing against New Orleans and Minneapolis for the hosting duties. Naptown's only previous time hosting was in 2012, and it was largely deemed a success. 

Irsay being a part of the pitch jibes with expectation. Although he has been absent from the public eye in recent months, Colts COO Pete Ward told reporters on May 7 that Irsay plans on lobbying in favor of Lucas Oil Stadium.

"Every owner of the franchises whose city is bidding has a chance to talk for five minutes, so (Irsay) plans on talking to the ownership," Ward said. "He's very excited about the bid. He has become increasingly more active in terms of lobbying and just keeping tabs on how things are going."

Irsay, 54, was arrested in March on charges of four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance and a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence following a traffic stop. Police records allege Irsay had multiple bottles filled with prescription drugs, none of which were prescribed. He was allegedly driving with more than $29,000 in cash. 

Uncredited/Associated Press

Irsay also failed field sobriety tests to earn the misdemeanor DUI charge. If punished to the full extent of the law, Irsay may face up to 12 years in prison.

Sources close to the Colts told Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star that Irsay has dealt with a drug dependency for years. He entered a rehabilitation center to deal with those issues in March, but has recently checked out. Earlier this month, Irsay reached out to his Twitter followers to thank them for their support:

His public comments otherwise have been minimal. Some have looked at Irsay's case as a blatant litmus test for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Since taking office, Goodell has carried a heavy hand policing off-field incidents for players, levying lengthy suspensions and fines under his player conduct policy.

Many have wondered whether Goodell would be as willingly harsh on Irsay, who, along with the 31 other owners, serve as his boss. Owners and league executives are subject to the league's personal conduct policy. 

"We obviously will want to understand the facts before we take any steps as it relates to any potential discipline," Goodell told reporters in March. "Obviously any policies or any laws that are broken, whether you're commissioner or owner or player or coach, those are subject to discipline."

For now, part of the reason Irsay has not been suspended is that he has not formally been arraigned on charges. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello highlighted the lack of charges and necessary wait for due process as the reason Irsay has not yet been punished, per Ryan Glasspiegel of The Big Lead

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

“We are monitoring the legal proceedings, as we would in any matter of this nature,” Aiello wrote in an e-mail. “Once it is clarified by the court, we would take additional steps as necessary.”

The NFL will assuredly not suspend Irsay before Tuesday's presentation. He will be allowed to serve in his official capacity as owner until the league says otherwise. Irsay was shown as being present in the Colts' war room during this month's NFL draft.

That he's ready and healthy enough to be back to work again is a good thing. No matter a person's mistakes, getting over drug dependency is something that should be applauded. But there is little doubt players are monitoring this situation. Goodell's heavy-handed management style has cost players millions of dollars and in many cases put their livelihood in jeopardy.

If Goodell doesn't come down as hard on Irsay for an obviously dangerous situation, it's going to make the already-contentious relationship between him and the NFLPA even worse.