A year ago, Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent helped the NFL avoid a delicate decision. Charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with the death of teammate Jerry Brown but not yet tried or convicted, Brent could have shown up for training camp and forced the NFL to try to suspend him.
It could have sparked a fight between the NFL and the NFLPA under the substance-abuse policy, given that Brent was a first-time offender and that his legal case had not yet been resolved. Instead, Brent chose to retire.
Now with the case resolved and Brent’s debt to society paid, he wants to return. And the Cowboys want him.
“He’s had that [life-changing] experience,” owner Jerry Jones recently told 105.3 The Fan Dallas/Ft. Worth, via Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com. “He deserved that, and some people think he deserved more, but the point is he has been through some eye-opening days. We could really benefit from that as a football team.”
But the NFL is dragging its feet on this one, considering the possibility of imposing a suspension on Brent, who already has missed 20 regular-season games since the incident.
In contrast, former NFL receiver Donté Stallworth missed one season, 16 games, after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter several years ago. Stallworth’s penalty came via suspension, not retirement.
Brent was never suspended. He now wants to play. If the league imposes a suspension on him in the wake of his decision to unretire, future players in that situation will realize that choosing to retire could be worse than digging in their heels and forcing a suspension.