Of all 32 NFL franchises, one currently has even more reason than the others to think twice about acquiring players with a history of DUI incidents.
As explained by Brandon George of the Dallas Morning News, that didn’t stop the Cowboys from signing linebacker Justin Durant. The former Lion and Jaguar has twice been arrested for alcohol-related incidents.
In February 2006, Durant faced charges of DUI and reckless driving. Durant eventually was found guilty of DUI. In November 2007, as a rookie in Jacksonville, Durant was arrested for possession of an open container of alcohol and resisting an officer without violence.
While Durant wasn’t charged with DUI, police found him passed out in his vehicle with the car in drive. A Taser blast got him to release the steering wheel, and he passed a field sobriety test.
More than five years have passed since the most recent incident, and Durant has had no other problems. But with the Cowboys still reeling from the death of linebacker Jerry Brown in a vehicle driven by nose tackle Josh Brent, the Cowboys are taking a risk.
“Obviously we do checks, and people do make mistakes, and we feel like in this case it is in his past,” Cowboys executive V.P. Stephen Jones said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a drafted player or a guy who has been in the league, we check on everyone. He’s obviously had to pay a price for it, and we feel like that’s in his past and he will be a productive Cowboy for us.”
The reality is that every player drafted or signed by the Cowboys or any team carries with him the risk of a potential drunk-driving incident. Players are young, they have money, and they want to have a good time when on their own time. The challenge for every franchise, and for the league and the NFLPA, remains getting through to the players regarding the importance of making arrangements for a ride before drinking and/or of using the car services available to NFL players if/when they have too much to drink.
While drunk driving remains a significant societal problem, sports teams have a unique obligation to ensure that the men they bring to town don’t put the lives of the fan base at risk. As Cliff Christl of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel once asked Packers G.M. Ted Thompson regarding the acquisition of receiver Koren Robinson, “Ted, what if he kills somebody in this state?”
That’s a question every team needs to ask itself regarding every player who is hired, regardless of whether he has a history of drunk driving or not. And every team needs to ensure that its players have the resources and education to avoid the kind of mistakes that can claim lives.