I probably should make sure I don’t have a fever.
With training camps due to open in the next couple of weeks, and with Jones (somehow) managing not to take a ride in the back of a sedan with windows that don’t go down for the entire NFL offseason, ESPN has released for the first time two-plus-year-old video from inside a Las Vegas strip club on the night that resulted in the shooting of Tom Urbanski — which in turn triggered a one-year suspension of Jones.
We’ve asked Bill Hofheimer of ESPN to identify for us the date on which the video was obtained, because frankly we’re a little suspicious that the video might have been held until now in the hopes of hurting Jones’ chances of landing with another team. (We have no proof that ESPN did this, and frankly ESPN has every right to decide when and how to publish its stories. Of course, we have every right to offer opinions as to whether ESPN might have opted to hold a story in order to advance some separate agenda.)
On the surface, the notion that ESPN would hold a story for collateral purposes sounds ridiculous. But two key facts have fueled our suspicions.
First, ESPN has on at least two occasions in the past published potentially controversial investigative journalism studies at strategically critical times. In early 2008, the Matt Walsh story from Mike Fish of ESPN.com arrived just two days before Super Bowl XLII, and Fish’s story possibly prompted the Boston Herald to push to print the next day its own story regarding alleged videotaping of the Rams’ walk-through practice prior to Super Bowl XXXVI by the Patriots. (The Herald later retracted that allegation.)
More recently, Fish and ESPN unveiled a piece regarding the connection between Dr. Richard Rydze, the Steelers, and HGH in the days preceding the AFC title game, which was played in Pittsburgh. But the ESPN story arose nearly two years after reports first surfaced of Dr. Rydze’s purchases of HGH. (Curiously, Fish and ESPN opted not to answer our questions regarding Fish’s reporting — and regarding the selection of the date on which the story was first published.)
Second, Pacman Jones vowed to sue ESPN earlier this year, based on its report linking Jones to a separate strip-club shooting in Georgia. That story possibly triggered the Cowboys’ decision to part ways with Jones.
“It will be a lawsuit within a week against ESPN,” Jones said in January.
Although Jones to date has not pursued legal action against ESPN, it’s hard not to have a bias against people who threaten to sue.
Regardless of whether the timing was intentional or coincidental, the renewed focus on one of Pacman’s prior misdeeds will do nothing to convince an NFL team to invite him to camp, especially since the owners, coaches, and General Managers of every NFL franchise will now have a chance to watch unsavory images of Pacman “making it rain” on Vegas strippers.
Look, we think that Pacman has done some bad things, and that he generally has been a bad guy. We wish he’d never attended West Virginia University, and we agree with the league insider who has expressed amazement to us that no one was killed in Morgantown during the overlapping tenures of Jones and receiver Chris Henry.
But whether Jones gets another shot in the NFL should be based on his current on-field abilities — and his recent off-field activities.
Recently, he has stayed out of trouble. Thus, if a team thinks he still has the skills required of an NFL player, he should receive a chance to prove that he has changed.
And if he blows it this time around, he should never get another chance.
Still, the ultimate decision should be based not on never-before-seen video of stuff from early 2007 about which we already knew.