Steve McNair Shooting Puts Gun Violence Back in Focus for the NFL

Tim McClellanCorrespondent IJuly 6, 2009

MIAMI, FL - AUGUST 11: Tackle Richard Collier #76 of the Jacksonville Jaguars sets to block against the Miami Dolphins  at Dolphin Stadium on August 11, 2007 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

As the tragic events in Nashville unfold, former Titans quarterback Steve McNair has become the latest victim in a disturbing trend of current and former NFL players being victims of violence, especially with guns.

Since 2000, there have been a dozen incidents involving NFL players and gun violence.

The Jacksonville Jaguars felt the impact of this with the Richard Collier shooting last year. Collier did survive the encounter, but he lost a leg and was paralyzed in the incident. The shooting ended a promising NFL career.

Sadly, the most common outcome in violent incidents involving NFL players is death.

Sean Taylor, the talented safety for the Washington Redskins, was cut down during a robbery at his home in Florida.

Denver Bronco cornerback Darrent Williams was cut down in the back of a limousine in a drive-by shooting.

Plaxico Burress accidentally discharged a firearm in a nightclub in New York City, shooting himself in the leg and landing in hot water with the league and the city. He currently awaits his trial on two felony counts. The league has suspended him indefinitely.

Adam "Pacman" Jones was allegedly involved in an incident in Las Vegas that ended with a bouncer paralyzed when someone in Jones' entourage discharged a firearm in a night club.

The NFL is a violent game. It is also a sport where players become targets because of the amount of money they earn. For those who are unable to rid themselves of the thug element, the legitimate threat of being shot is just a fact of life.

For McNair it appears to have been a domestic issue. However, in 2003 while still with the Titans, McNair was arrested and charged with driving under the influence, and carrying an illegal firearm. The charges were later dropped because of a lack of evidence. But, it showed that even a former league MVP felt compelled to carry a gun.

Because NFL players are targets, many of them own guns for personal protection. They are within their rights to own a firearm.  As long as they acquire them in a legal manner, receive proper training, and go through the obligatory background check, there is nothing to prevent them from owning guns.

While the league cannot prevent players from owning guns, it can offer additional training for players to give them a better understanding of how to avoid confrontations where guns may become a factor.

To a certain extent the NFL does do this during the rookie symposium as they attempt to teach their players how to deal with the business aspect of the NFL, and in how to contend with situations which may arise with difficult people.

Beyond the initial training, the NFL does not have a more comprehensive program to better prepare players for gun-related issues. Constant follow-up should become part of an all-encompassing effort to educate players on how to deal with any situation where the potential for violence may exist.

One tragic situation is too much. The league has been hit by at least one of these incidents on average per year over the past decade. In a culture growing ever increasingly violent, protecting the most important asset that the league has needs to become a top priority.

In turn, players need to be more aware of their surroundings and do what they must to avoid situations where they could be at risk of becoming a victim of violence.

As details continue to come out about the McNair shooting, there is a lesson to be learned about how dangerous things can become and how quickly they can turn tragic when guns are involved.