The Jets have found themselves in the middle of another storm consisting of something other than a four-letter word that starts with “s” and isn’t “sand” based on the DUI arrest of receiver Braylon Edwards and the decision not to deactivate him for Sunday night’s game.
But the reality is that no team deactivates a key player in his first game after a DUI arrest. As Peter King pointed out during our Stanford-Notre Dame halftime stint on Saturday (the video is pasted below), the Dolphins didn’t do it to running back Ronnie Brown, who was arrested in the offseason. Two years ago, the Giants didn’t do it to tackle Kareem McKenzie.
So why should the Jets have done it to Edwards, the first Jets player arrested on coach Rex Ryan’s watch? It’s a fair question as to whether the Jets are being treated fairly.
That said, the Steelers had no qualms about shutting down receiver Santonio Holmes two years ago after he was cited for marijuana possession, even though doing so technically violated the labor deal. (Some in the league believe a grievance was filed by the union; a source with knowledge of the situation has no knowledge of any grievance being filed.) The Colts also didn’t hesitate to cut defensive tackle Ed Johnson after a marijuana arrest in 2008. (A grievance later was filed.) Though neither case involved DUI charges, it’s fair to conclude that if the teams that have won three of the last five Super Bowls were willing to take such action after the largely victimless crime of marijuana possession would have shut down these players if they had been charged with the inherently serious and dangerous crime of drunk driving.
In our view, the Jets invited the criticism they’ve faced, in various ways. First, they traded for Edwards two days after he was arrested for assault. Maybe they didn’t put him on a short leash when they gave Edwards his second chance; if they didn’t they should have. Second, the Jets have welcomed the scrutiny that comes with the attention they craved. Third, the Jets created an expectation that Edwards would be disciplined more severely than a benching of vague duration (King thinks it’ll last for a quarter) by publicly wagging a finger at Edwards after the arrest and promising “appropriate disciplinary measures.” In hindsight, they should have done what other teams do in these situations — issue a perfunctory statement acknowledging the situation and deferring any further comment until the legal process runs its course.
By all appearances, the Jets wanted to have it both ways. They wanted to express anger about the situation publicly without imposing meaningful discipline. Why? Not because they want to respect the labor deal, but because they want to see on the field the guy who scored two touchdowns in two games last year against the Dolphins.
Indeed, the Jets easily could have navigated the terms of the CBA by explaining on Tuesday that a decision about whether Edwards should be one of the 45 of 53 players to dress on Sunday night will be made after observing him in practice and assessing whether he is sufficiently focused on football — and whether his presence with the team on the trip to Miami will in any way diminish their focus on football. G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, a lawyer, is smart enough to craft a way around the labor deal.
He’s also smart enough to publicly promise discipline and then explain that the labor deal prevents a disciplinary deactivation.