After a protracted legal battle regarding an arrest made days before a division-round playoff game against the Steelers, Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson has pleaded guilty to DUI charges, according to 10news.com.
Because it’s not his first DUI, Jackson will be required to spend four days in jail. He also will be on probation for five years.
But that’s only the beginning. Jackson will undoubtedly face potentially serious penalties from the league office. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tells us that, indeed, DUI charges fall under the substance abuse policy.
Though a first offense for alcohol-related conduct triggers a fine in the amount of two game checks, the consequences become enhanced for repeat offenders. Says the policy: “If the Commissioner finds that there were aggravating circumstances, including but not limited to felonious conduct or serious injury or death of third parties, and/or if the player has had prior drug or alcohol-related misconduct, increased discipline up to and including suspension may be imposed. Discipline for a second or subsequent offense is likely to be a suspension, the duration of which may escalate for repeat offenses.”
We suggested last year in the wake of the Donte’ Stallworth incident that every player who pleads guilty to DUI should be suspended for a full year, just like Stallworth. To truly put an end to this reckless conduct, the NFL needs to base the sanction not on whether someone was killed — but on the reality that someone could have been.
Meanwhile, Jackson is due to become a restricted free agent on March 5. With Jackson likely to be suspended for one or more games to start the 2010 season, the Chargers might not have to use the highest possible RFA tender to ensure that teams like the Dolphins don’t come sniffing around.
Then again, given that the Dolphins seem to be on track to become the new poster boys of NFL bad behavior, maybe the Chargers will have to use the franchise tag on Jackson to keep the Fins from signing him to an offer sheet.