Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent currently faces intoxication manslaughter charges in the wake of the death of teammate Jerry Brown. But Brent remains on bail and, technically, able to work.
The Cowboys have resolved a potentially delicate situation regarding Brent’s right to continue working by shifting him to the non-football injury/illness list, according to Ed Werder of ESPN. The move, as Werder explains, gives Brent access to the team facility and support from the organization.
The biggest threshold question is whether the Cowboys will pay Brent; under the CBA, the team has the discretion to determine whether or not a player with a non-football injury or illness will continue to receive his salary.
Either way, the move defers for now the question of whether Brent will be disciplined by the team or the league. Though the team technically has no ability to impose a suspension on its own, the Cowboys can — as long as Brent and the NFLPA choose not to fight. (That’s precisely what happened with the Steelers, who suspended defensive lineman Alameda Ta’amu two games after his DUI arrest.)
If (when) Brent pleads guilty to or is convicted of intoxication manslaughter, the league surely will step in. The precedent was set when the NFL suspended receiver Donte’ Stallworth a year, after he pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter.
For now, perhaps the fair outcome is to not pay Brent three games during his time on the NFI list, which makes is a non-suspension suspension. And it allows the NFL to later impose a real suspension, unless Brent avoids criminal responsibility for Brown’s death.