NFL Can't Escape Unusually Chaotic Offseason

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJuly 13, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 05:  Marcell Dareus #99 of the Jacksonville Jaguars waits in the bench area prior to the start of their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at EverBank Field on November 5, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)
Logan Bowles/Getty Images

Let's start with a statement of fact: Most NFL executives and players are good men who live exemplary lives. The good dudes far outnumber the bad ones.

But, wow, have the bad ones been dominating this offseason.

This week, it was reported that the Jaguars' Marcell Dareus was accused in a lawsuit of sexual assault and exposing a woman to a sexually transmitted disease. On Thursday, Greg Auman of TampaBay.com reported that Dareus is the subject of a second lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault.

Dareus is far from alone when it comes to ugly NFL news. Bills running back LeSean McCoy was accused earlier this week in an Instagram post of beating his girlfriend, his son and his dog. McCoy has hired the same defense attorney who once represented Ray Lewis, accused of murder in 2000, and Ben Roethlisberger, accused of rape twice.

In December, the now-former owner of the Carolina Panthers, Jerry Richardson, was accused of sexual harassment against female employees and using a racial slur when addressing a black scout. The NFL released results of its own investigation in late June, and the league fined Richardson $2.75 million.

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim was cited on suspicion of DUI on July 4. Keim was previously convicted of DUI in 1996.

It's been such a strange NFL offseason that even former sponsors are getting caught in it. John Schnatter resigned from Papa John's executive board after using the N-word on a conference call.

Schnatter stepped down from his role as CEO of the company last year after saying NFL players should stand for the national anthem and protests had hurt the company's sales. Pizza Hut is now the official pizza of the NFL, and it's likely a number of team and league executives are eating lots of pizza late at night and drinking lots of coffee early in the morning thanks to this depressing offseason.

Once ubiquitous at NFL events, John Schnatter has been forced to step away from his Papa John's franchise after a series of embarrassing statements became public.
Once ubiquitous at NFL events, John Schnatter has been forced to step away from his Papa John's franchise after a series of embarrassing statements became public.Rob Kim/Getty Images

Again, these are relatively isolated incidents in comparison to the numerous acts of kindness and charity by players throughout the league. Texans star J.J. Watt donated $10,000 to a GoFundMe for the family of a firefighter killed in a gas explosion. Washington cornerback Quinton Dunbar provided $12,000 to buy cleats for kids in his hometown. The examples go on and on.

Those good works, however, fade into the background of another spring and summer marked by regrettable decisions at best, and reprehensible behavior at worst.

The league preaches to its players that this time of year is always potentially problematic. One NFC assistant coach told B/R that he, like probably every coach on every team, gave his players a customary warning to be careful during the offseason downtime.

"Most players listen," he said. "Some don't."

What is striking about this offseason isn't necessarily the number of issues, but the level of viciousness in the accusations.

Kellen Winslow II, the son of the legendary tight end, has been attempting an NFL comeback and played in the Spring League in 2017. 

But in June, he was arrested and accused of multiple terrible crimes, including, according to Teri Figueroa of the San Diego Union-Tribune: kidnap and rape of a 54-year-old woman in March; kidnap and rape of a 59-year-old woman in May; indecent exposure in May (the victim was a 58-year-old woman); burglary with the intent to rape a 71-year-old woman in June; and burglary with the intent to rape an 86-year-old woman in June.

Kellen Winslow II's comeback attempt has been derailed by a series of disturbing assault charges over the last few months.
Kellen Winslow II's comeback attempt has been derailed by a series of disturbing assault charges over the last few months.Hayne Palmour/Associated Press

As news emerged that several victims could not identify Winslow at a preliminary hearing this week, so, too, did a report that Winslow was arraigned on Thursday on yet another rape charge, this of a 17-year-old girl in 2003, according to Jason Owens of Yahoo Sports.

This is all disturbing stuff. And none of it includes some of the other accusations levied toward NFL players, such as public intoxication or vandalism.

Or, how President Donald Trump has continued his attacks against the NFL.

And for a league that can use any good news it can generate, the stream of negative headlines won't help it fight for its image among fans, parents, players, you name it.

The problem is there is no surefire solution. 

Teams will continue to do what they already do—they will keep warning players that the offseason is one of the most dangerous times of the year. Boredom and arrogance can be your enemies, they will continue to be told.

The assistant coach joked that he tells his players to go to a lot of movies. Except he's not really joking.

But besides stern warnings, there isn't a lot teams, or the league, can do to prevent some of this offseason chaos.

Except cross their fingers and hope.

       

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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