The last few months have been bumpy ones for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, but he's finally coming clean about his battle with addiction that led to a DUI arrest in March.
Irsay, 54, gave an exclusive interview with Bob Kravitz of The Indianapolis Star and touched upon everything from his arrest to his battle with addiction. He opened up about his thoughts on the disease with which he's inflicted:
These diseases, both alcoholism and addiction, much like bipolar or depression and different illnesses, are still not seen as real diseases. People shy away from seeking help because it's viewed as being somewhat morally off the path, that they've lost their way. I really think the disease aspect gets lost when you're talking about alcoholism and addiction; it's not like you're battling leukemia or a heart problem; it is that. But even in 2014, there's still this stigma.
He went on to discuss having to do a self-diagnosis of the disease, something that can be difficult for any individual. Much of the addiction stems from pain he feels in his hip and lower back due to prior injuries and surgeries.
Irsay also spoke about the rehab process following the arrest:
It's been a long path. I still have chronic pain. But it was the good thing…In some ways, (going through rehab) is my greatest moment. It takes courage to try and overcome the difficulties you have. For some reason, it's seen as unheroic. When someone beats cancer, it's like, 'Wow, that's so heroic,' but when someone has this illness, it's treated like you're a leper because that person is morally corrupt, and that's not the case.
Following his arrest, Tim Evans of The Indianapolis Star reported that police found over $29,000 in cash that Irsay was carrying when he was apprehended. This caused further debate over why Irsay would need to keep this much money on hand, which he addressed in his interview with Kravitz.
He noted that he regularly carries around large sums of cash because he is "extremely generous," and he stated that any reports or speculation regarding the money as it relates to legal matters have "been a sensationalizing about things that have nothing to do with the law. It shouldn't be an issue."
One major revelation uncovered by the interview was that Irsay will be subject to random drug tests that will be shared with Roger Goodell. Will Brinson of CBS Sports confirmed as much:
As for any sort of suspension that Goodell might impose in the future, there could be a six-to eight-game ban coming down from the league. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk), Irsay can expect punishment from Goodell:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has not yet handed down discipline to Colts owner Jim Irsay, who was arrested and currently faces charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. But there’s an expectation around the league that when Goodell does act, he’ll suspend Irsay for about half a season.
That’s the word from Adam Schefter of ESPN, who reported that people around the league believe Goodell will give Irsay a suspension of six to eight games and a fine of about $1 million.
As for the players' thoughts on the potential suspension, NFL Players Association president Eric Winston hasn't pulled any punches on the issue. Winston referenced the punishment with Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
Owners own for decades. Players, if we're lucky, might play for a decade. If protecting the shield is the most important thing, and owners are the ones most responsible for the league's future, the owners have to be held to a higher standard...And I can tell you, players are watching. A lot of players are watching. This has been on players' minds for quite a while.
Any penalty Irsay may face has been a hot topic considering Goodell's history of quick disciplinary action where players are concerned. With Irsay being an owner, many are curious how and when Goodell will address Irsay's situation.
Jeffri Chadiha of ESPN.com offers his solution for penalizing the Colts owner:
If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell really wants to send a message to Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, he shouldn't be thinking solely about a steep fine or a suspension. Goodell also should be eyeing taking away draft picks, which are the only currency that has real value when it comes to disciplining wealthy men in team sports.
Goodell has met plenty of criticism for not acting swiftly in this matter, but the fact that Irsay still has a pending case has played a big part in the delay.
Moving forward, Irsay will have no choice but to remain clean to avoid any sanctions from the league. While he's never been suspended, Irsay testing positive for substances in the future could bring a harsh penalty from Goodell.
As for the Colts, they are hoping to reach the postseason for the third straight season behind Andrew Luck and a blossoming offense. Whether the issues surrounding Irsay will serve as a distraction remains to be seen, but the fact that Irsay has decided to speak candidly about the situation is a positive step.
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