One of the smartest men in football, Dwight Freeney, has some advice for his fellow players: Don't bring guns to the club.
It's simple advice. It's the right advice. It's...obvious advice. But apparently it's something that needs to be repeated. Over and over and over again.
I wanted to check in with Freeney on the issue of guns and NFL players, because he's a leader in the sport, will one day enter the Hall of Fame and has the clout to make people listen. When he says something, every NFL player should listen.
While not talking specifically about the troubling Aqib Talib shooting—an NFL team official confirmed the league is investigating the incident—Freeney explained that one of the biggest mistakes a player can make is bringing a gun into a place like a club or a bar.
"As players, we have too much to lose," Freeney said. "People will pick fights with you because of who you are. Some guys target us. If that happens, and you're in public carrying a gun, what do you think will happen?
"Having a gun to protect your home is different from having one on you when you go out in public to a bar. I don't know what Aqib did or didn't do. I do know one thing. If you have a gun on you, chances of you being shot, or shooting someone, are higher. That I know."
Freeney said something else that makes sense.
"If you go to a club and feel you need to carry a gun there," Freeney said, "you shouldn't go to that club."
It's not that difficult of a concept.
(We interrupt this column to make sure everyone understands none of this is about gun rights. Everyone has a right to their guns. I was in the Army. I joined in part to protect everyone's rights to own their guns. So, please, own your guns and don't start floating the false premise that I'm saying no one should have them. Mmmkay, thanks, now back to the column.)
The details of what exactly happened to Talib are still being investigated by police. However, several high-ranking team officials say they expect the NFL will eventually take action against Talib.
All of these sources expect a multi-game suspension. One general manager believed it would be two games, while another said at least four. Again, no one knows for certain (for now) what Talib did, or what the league will do, but what's certain is that Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, despises the idea of players packing in public.
In fact, for decades, the NFL has discouraged its players from owning guns, period. Guns are banned from all NFL facilities.
There will be no lecture here about how players should be careful with firearms. Of course they should. Plus, Americans love their guns, so it's no shock that players do. And based on years of interviews I've done on this subject, a number of NFL players own them.
The issue is more what Freeney said: Why do players with so much to lose, including millions of dollars, their freedom and, you know, their lives, take such risks in public?
ESPN radio personalities Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell (the latter was an NFL quarterback) had an excellent discussion this week about the NFL's gun culture. Kanell said something interesting and pertinent.
"I think [guns are] used as sort of a status symbol," he said. "Like, 'Hey, I got my ride outside. My jewelry. My watch.' And then you've got your piece. It's part of being cool."
This notion cuts across all of the league's social and racial strata. It applies to players who grew up in urban neighborhoods or the countryside. Young NFL players, like many young Americans, see guns as an extension of their manhood.
Yes, there are players who own guns for protection, but if you are taking guns into clubs, that's not about protection. That's about ego and poor decision-making.
Thus the NFL faces the same battle that society does. If society can't solve the gun problem, then there's no chance the NFL will.
So what the league constantly preaches to its players is be smart. Unfortunately, some don't listen, Talib apparently among them.
The reason someone like Freeney lasts so long in football—he came into the league in 2002—and continues to play at a high level, in a highly public sport, without ever getting into any kind of trouble, is because he's smart. Not just IQ-smart but always looking at the big picture.
That picture includes not bringing guns into a club.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.