The Green Bay Packers have announced that the NFL has suspended linebacker Erik Walden for their Week 1 home-opener against the San Francisco 49ers on September 9, 2012. Walden was suspended because he violated the NFL's personal-conduct policy. He can participate in all preseason practices and games. He's eligible to return on September 10.
Walden was arrested after a Thanksgiving Day game against the Detroit Lions in 2011. He spent the weekend in jail after he was charged with suspicion of felony domestic violence-substantial battery toward his live-in girlfriend. The charges were eventually resolved in February when Walden agreed to complete 50 hours of community service with counseling. The girlfriend had also reportedly changed her claim to say that she had provoked Walden.
The Packers were already going to begin this season without Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove. Neal must serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Hargrove was suspended for eight games because of his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty system. Hargrove continues to fight that suspension.
The Packers re-signed Walden to a one-year contract this offseason. However, his roster spot is not guaranteed. The Packers have Clay Matthews and first-round pick Nick Perry as their starting outside linebackers. Walden is expected to compete for bench positions with Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore, Vic So'oto, Frank Zombo and Dezman Moses, to name a few.
I felt like Walden needed a great preseason to make this team out of August. That's even truer now that he won't be available for Week 1. The Packers have shown that experience won't be a decisive factor with roster spots. That's evidenced with the release of Charlie Peprah. That created an opportunity for inexperienced defensive backs such as M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Sean Richardson, Anthony Levine, Davon House and Casey Hayward. The Packers are expected to use Charles Woodson as a safety in their base 3-4 defenses.
I'm somewhat surprised by this suspension. Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt wasn't punished after he had his seventh arrest in a two-year span from 2009 through 2011. The NFL might be fed up with the player-misconduct stories that have seemed to occur every other day this offseason.
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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