Earlier this week, in the aftermath of the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy explained on The Dan Patrick Show that Dungy typically would ask his players at the outset of training camp whether they own guns.
Roughly 65 of the 80 players would raise their hands. That’s more than 80 percent.
A story in Friday’s USA Today cites similar estimates from players, putting the number in the range of 70-to-80 percent.
Redskins receiver Brandon Banks, who doesn’t own a gun and arguably could have used one when he was being stabbed last year, puts the number at 70 percent. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger pegs the number at 75-to-80 percent. Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen guesses it’s in the range of 70-to-80 percent.
The league seems to be in denial.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello characterizes the numbers from folks like Dungy, Banks, Roethlisberger, and Paulsen as a “wild guess.” NFL V.P. of player engagement Troy Vincent similarly downplayed the estimates.
“You’ll hear people say, 80 [percent]-90 [percent], 20 [percent]. How do you know that?” Vincent said. “We don’t ask that question. That’s personal information. . . . [But] we’re not naive by any stretch of the imagination.”
Aiello said the league urges players not to own guns. But many believe that their fame and their money makes having a gun necessary for protection. In 2008, ESPN the Magazine took a thorough look at the dynamic in the wake of the murder of Redskins safety Sean Taylor, who was shot in his own home. Taylor didn’t have a gun.
Several months before Taylor was killed, former Texans cornerback Dunta Robinson endured a home invasion by armed criminals.
“I’m young. I have money. I have what they want,” Robinson said at the time. “I definitely felt targeted, just like everyone in my position is a target.
“The hardest part was that it involved my family. My son was 2, my daughter 4 or 5 months. I wanted to run, then I wanted to fight. But you can’t react like Scarface in the movies, go nuts and still get out of the situation alive — this is real life. As tough as I think I am, I had to give it up, get down on the floor and do everything they asked. You can defend yourself by fighting or by thinking. I chose thinking.
“What let me know I wasn’t going to die was they kept calling me by my first name. I saw them looking at my face, then back to the football pictures on the wall, then one of the guys was like, ‘You’re a good player, so I’m not going to kill you.’”
Many of us weigh the pros and cons of owning a gun, and few of us are confronted with the same issues that NFL players face when trying to strike that delicate balance between the sense of security that comes from packing heat and the risks associated with the presence of a firearm. If we were, a high percentage of us would likely choose having deadly force available for the protection of ourselves and our families.