Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell offered a harrowing view of how much NFL teams will tolerate if a player is productive. Campbell said he coached a player with the Miami Dolphins who "came in every day just reeking of alcohol," according to Dave Birkett of the Michigan Free Press.
That was just fine, according to Campbell, because that player produced and loved football. Campbell may not have intended his story to read this way, but it paints a distressing picture.
Dan Campbell talked NFL draft yesterday, dropped a few hints on the Lions’ plans (maybe) while leaving the door open on just about everything, and shared this fascinating story https://t.co/E98E1tP3hD via @freep pic.twitter.com/gwULUoVdB4
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) April 8, 2022
Campbell described the player, who is not named, as "probably on a bender." But since that player didn't have any missed assignments, the team was fine with that. Campbell went so far as to say, "You'll find a way to make that guy work." He quickly tried to couch that statement, saying the Lions aren't necessarily looking for guys like that.
Dan Campbell highlights major issue in NFL
It should not come as a major surprise NFL teams are willing to tolerate certain off-the-field issues if a player puts up numbers on Sunday. Antonio Brown received multiple chances despite a rape allegation, an arrest and a history of burning bridges with multiple NFL teams. He wouldn't get those opportunities in another line of work, but NFL teams keep bringing him in because he can catch touchdowns.
Brown is far from the first player to stay in the league despite off-the-field troubles. Ben Roethlisberger will likely be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame despite being accused of sexual assault early in his career. Tyreek Hill signed one of the richest contracts ever by a wide receiver after being arrested for domestic abuse and child abuse. Deshaun Watson just inked a $230 million deal after facing 22 counts of sexual misconduct.
There is a difference between struggling with an alcohol issue and being accused of sexual assault, it should be noted. Neither issue seems to matter when it comes to the NFL if a player can produce. Campbell did not give any indication the Dolphins tried to help the player.
None of this comes as a surprise, but it's still a depressing reminder of the nature of the league. Meaningful change will only come when those in power decide this attitude is no longer acceptable in the NFL.
Campbell's story illustrates the league has a long way to go before that happens.