NFL should take broader look at binge drinking issue

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Many were surprised by the news that Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell and Broncos pro personnel director Tom Heckert were both arrested in the past month for DUI.  Plenty of people who understand the industry weren’t.

Binge drinking is, for some non-players who work for NFL teams, a very real issue.  The job entails plenty of stress, plenty of travel, and plenty of opportunities to hang out with the guys and drink excessive amounts of alcohol.

Over the years, we’ve heard plenty of rumors about specific head coaches, assistant coaches, scouts, and other executives who follow the work hard/play hard lifestyle by playing with too much hard liquor and other intoxicating beverages after a long day at the Scouting Combine or the Senior Bowl or on the road scouting players at different universities or otherwise enjoying some rare down time.

So while it’s understandable that Russell and Heckert will be punished for drinking too much and then driving a car (allegedly), the league and its teams should use this occasion as an opportunity to assess and address a culture that can entail a lot of social drinking that can lead to a lot of social overdrinking that can lead to drinking and driving.

It’s a problem that’s hardly unique to the NFL or to sports.  But it would be foolish to think that Denver is the only place where multiple front-office employees were close to and/or on the wrong side of the line.

And it would be unfortunate for the NFL to simply punish Russell and Heckert and move on.  At a minimum, the league needs to look at the situation more closely and determine whether the league and the teams should do something more than discipline those who get caught driving drunk.If the league and the teams expect players to avoid drinking and driving, the league and the teams need to ensure that the right example is at all times being set by all coaches, executives, and scouts.

17 responses to “NFL should take broader look at binge drinking issue

  1. It wouldn’t be an easy message for the League to sell what with companies like Diageo, a proud sponsor of FedEx field (WAS), reminding us to drink responsibly … and more. [For a long time, I thought Diageo was an automobile concession or something.]

    Booze and football … its hard to think about them as separate things. I remember work travel (in Denver of all places) coming down the escalator on a Tuesday morning after a Monday night game there and John Madden was heading the other direction the up escalator and his face looked very puffy and very pink. All I could think about was the “traditional Irish breakfast” … a tall glass of cold water.

  2. Can’t people just live how they want? Why does the responsibility of individuals always have fall into the laps of their employers?

    Drinking and driving is wrong and both men should be prosecuted by the law accordingly, but I’m getting tired of the soap box morale outrage and how any affluent company or person is supposed to fix everything (i.e. spend money, start a program, make a public statement, etc.)

  3. How much money do these guys make? I heard they may be looking at a $100,000 fine, could that be true?

  4. If you read about the article saying that Heckert was caught one month before Russell got his DUI, and the Broncos notified the NFL immediately about Heckert’s arrest, I’m pretty sure it’s safe to assume that the NFL kept executive’s and their DUI’s or whatever else under wraps due to the lack of their notoriety. There’s obviously something going through the grapevine of the entire league. Even though there is the example of the punishment to the exec from the other team there’s no way no other exec in the league didn’t get a DUI. I mean come on.

  5. Five things I think are true:

    1) They say that for every time you get busted for DUI you have probably driven drunk over 200 times.

    2) It seems like most people need a wake up call of actually getting busted for DUI before ever taking it seriously. If you get busted more than once you have a drinking problem.

    3) Cab rides are usually $20 – $200. That is a lot of money for some people I guess but not a big deal to anybody making over $100k much less any pro athlete.

    4) It is safest to just go ahead and take a cab to your destination(s) if you plan on drinking. Once you are drunk you are not making good decisions about whether you are too drunk to drive or not.

    5) That 49er who beat up his teammate with a beer bottle for trying to stop him from driving drunk should definitely be prosecuted. The DA is a hypocritical coward if he does not.

  6. Many players,and management people have already volunteered to take part in any upcoming binge drinking trials.

  7. @deljzc

    Until you lose a limb because and NFL team (with a history of not addressing the problem) has an employee that was drinking & driving hit you….surely you would suppress the need to sue the team he working for….right? I call BS.

  8. I’ve heard that the Broncos and their team doctors are partnering with prominent pharmaceutical companies to promote a new plan that encourages pills as an alternative to drinking.

  9. You can’t watch an NFL game without sitting through countless beer commercials. I don’t look for the NFL to bite the hand that feeds them.

    Some token punishment will be applied but don’t expect much more. It’s a business and there is the real story.

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