There are a few NFL players out there, as you might have heard, who struggled to keep themselves out of trouble in their leisure time. Some of them have had this trouble despite employing their own bodyguards.
The Washington Post's Amy Shipley wrote an interesting piece Tuesday about a relatively new practice around the league: Teams hiring their own private security for players. The biggest difference between this and players having their own bodyguards, is that the ones hired by the team aren't yes-men who will always do what the player asks.
The Giants use an agency called Player Protect. When Justin Tuck(notes) goes out, they pick him up at his house, drive him to his spot, check it out to make sure there's no trouble inside, and then he goes in -- with a security guard. When it's time to go home, they drive him home.
Here's a little more about how it works:
Player Protect bills itself as a full-service security and protection agency. The off-duty or former police officers that it provides to the Jets and Giants are on call around the clock. The agents are willing to pick up athletes, transport them anywhere and monitor their surroundings until they are ready to leave.
The officials wear tuxedos to formal events, jeans to autograph signings and hip clothing to night clubs. They strive to be invisible. They will not allow players to carry guns, use illegal drugs or engage in any illegal activity, but they consider the players' activities and conversations strictly confidential.
The idea, [co-founder of Player Protect John] Scutellaro said, is to gain the players' trust, keep things as low-key as possible and discreetly ward off trouble whenever it threatens to surface.
Seems pretty smart to me. But, just like with the "get a ride home when you're drunk" programs offered by most teams, a player has to decide to use the service for it to be effective. Not everyone is comfortable doing that.
Perhaps with good reason. The fear is that if they use this service, word of their partying gets back to the team, and the team holds it against them. I can understand that. Do you want your employer to know every time you go out, where you go, how much you drink, and if you need someone to drive you home?
Of course, these services all claim to be highly confidential, but you know ... who can you trust?
I can see this becoming a trend in the NFL, perhaps even getting to the point where the commissioner himself is urging or mandating teams to hire companies like this. It's business. For the NFL, its players keeping a clean reputation (as clean as they can, anyway) is a big-money game. It's got to sell its players to middle America and to corporate sponsors, and the more Ben Roethlisbergers or Braylon Edwardses out there, the harder that is. It's about protecting an asset. A very, very lucrative asset.
I recommend checking out the article if you've got a few minutes.