The recent arrest of Vikings cornerback Chris Cook sparked some questions about the effect of the NFL lockout on the player code of conduct and just how the league will handle situations involving players who get into trouble this offseason. According to ESPN's Adam Shefter, they won't handle them at all, or rather they can't.
The end of the last CBA (collective bargaining agreement) also marked the end of the NFL's personal conduct code, so in the case of Chris Cook, there is nothing that the league can do. Also, once a new CBA is agreed upon, the league cannot retroactively enforce any new personal conduct code for things that happened during this state of league limbo.
Cook was arrested in Lynchburg, VA, for allegedly brandishing a weapon during a fight/altercation with a neighbor over a supposed misunderstanding. Cook refutes the charge, and he was not jailed for the altercation.
Still, under the old guard the team or league could and most likely would take some sort of action in a case like this. Now the Vikings can't even contact Cook about the incident because of the lockout.
What's worse than that, though, is that every offseason there are always a few players involved in "brushes" with the law. This one is relatively mild compared to some of the things that we've seen in the past, but no matter what the severity of the indiscretion may be, there's nothing that the league can do to police their players.
This, the latest case of a player being detained, is similar to the incident that landed Tank Johnson in a tank of hot water with the league a few years ago, but Cook is immune from any recourse from the NFL or his team due to the suspension of league activity.
If the CBA was canceled last season, Ben Roethlisberger would have been allowed to play a full 16 games. A few years ago, a handful of Cincinnati Bengals would have avoided all sorts of trouble with the league and their team.
Crimes aren't all that this conduct code encompasses either. There is now no substance abuse policy either. Performance-enhancing drugs and all other drugs are fair game now as well. With no offseason testing or punishment for the abuse of illegal drugs, a whole other can of worms has been opened.
So for now, the Matt Joneses, Brian Cushings and Pacman Joneses of the world are free to do as they please. I'm in no way insinuating that these athletes will begin running amok again now that they "can" or that there is an overabundance of miscreants in the NFL, but these rules were in place because more often than not, someone breaks them and needs to be held accountable.
As of right now, there is no accountability for any of the players from their employer, so if a situation arises where the threat of consequence may have deterred a player's action in the past, that threat is no longer there making it easier to make the wrong choice.
We're all flawed human beings. Obviously, professional athletes are no different. Everyone makes mistakes, and every bushel has a bad apple or two in it. I just hope that we don't see an influx of poor judgment and mistakes due to the lack of "policing" by the league.
This is just one more downside to this lockout, and it seems that there is a new problem that comes to light daily. We're all just sitting back waiting to see what will pop up next.