June 19, 2009
ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha wrote earlier this week about Donte' Stallworth(notes), his terribly unfortunate DUI case, and the role that Roger Goodell's punishment might have. It's a fine column, but I wanted to focus on one interesting little snippet that fell in towards the end.
The league has a program in place that allows players to a call a car service in any major city that will pick them up if they've been drinking. It's a great idea, except for the fact that some players don't trust it. They believe too many phone calls to that service will lead to more hassles from franchises when contract negotiations begin.
Wow. It's quite a trusting and supportive relationship the league and the players have developed, isn't it? The NFL attempts to offer a service for the players, something that keeps them safe and out of trouble, and in return, the players say, "No thanks, you're probably just going to use it to ramrod me at contract time." And they're probably right.
I doubt that the distrust of this program would exist if some team hadn't actually used it against a player at some point. I have no trouble believing that happened, either. I can easily picture a GM at the negotiating table, looking at some piece of paper and saying, "So, I see you called the car service 23 times last year. I think that drops your value by about $500,000 a year, boozy."
The league has got to fix that. If the program isn't 100% anonymous (like steroid testing in baseball), then it's pointless, because players won't use it. If the league's keeping tabs of who uses it when, or drivers are snitching players out, the league's got to remedy that. Otherwise, the whole thing is as useful as Jeff Garcia(notes) when you need a 70-yard hail mary.
Teams themselves need to take a different attitude, too. If a guy calls the service 23 times a year, or even 80 times a year, that's a good thing. Maybe he's going out and getting hammered more than you'd like, but he's at least smart and responsible enough to keep himself from driving plastered. That puts him ahead of the curve. Don't underestimate the value of a high-functioning alcoholic.
As for the players, the league's flawed program doesn't exactly let them off the hook, either. There are still these things called "cabs." They pick you up, drive you wherever you want to go, and you give them money in return. The drivers won't snitch on you, either.
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