After Colts owner Jim Irsay was arrested for driving while impaired, some thought the NFL would hold him to a higher standard by suspending him before his case was finalized. Irsay’s plea deal, which apparently will be finalized on Tuesday, means that any discipline will be imposed after the case has ended.
The question now becomes whether the NFL will hold Irsay to a higher standard by suspending him for a first-offense DUI. Players typically are fined two game checks for a first offense, absent serious injury or other discipline under the substance-abuse policy.
Adam Schefter of ESPN previously has reported that league insiders expect a six-to-eight game suspension for Irsay. Don’t be surprised if the suspension comes this week, before the Colts travel to Denver for the first Sunday night of the season.
The financial component of the penalty remains unknown. In Irsay’s case, he could be fined an amount that raises eyebrows, in isolation. But he likely won’t face an apples-to-apples penalty, with 1/17th of his total income taken away for each week of the suspension. That’s what happens when a player is suspended. To simulate the penalty, the league would have to take a drastic step, such as blocking the Colts’ share of league revenue for each week of the suspension.
Perhaps the biggest question is whether Irsay will be subjected to the same frequency and type of drug testing routinely imposed on a player in the program — and whether Irsay would ever face the ultimate consequence of a one-year banishment.
This much is clear and undeniable. Irsay’s alleged operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of prescription medication posed a much greater threat than Josh Gordon smoking marijuana ever did. Whatever the penalty imposed on Irsay, it’ll be difficult if not impossible to reconcile the punishment meted out to player and to owner.