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OWINGS MILLS — Cautionary tales of crime and punishment abound nowadays in the NFL, and the Baltimore Ravens are determined to not add to the growing police blotter of professional football.
As the reigning AFC North champions concluded their minicamp schedule last week and began a six-week vacation prior to training camp in Westminster, Ravens coach Brian Billick reminded his players about the consequences of poor judgment. And that topic of conversation was reinforced with special emphasis for the younger players during breakout sessions with team officials.
However, it would be nearly impossible for any player on an NFL roster to claim to be unaware of a growing trend in the league: the law-and-order mandate advocated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Prior to the Ravensâ€™ final minicamp last week, veteran defensive end Trevor Pryce sounded wary about getting on Goodellâ€™s bad side when asked about the impact of the commissionerâ€™s hard-line stance.
â€œYou want me to say what I really want to say?,â€ Pryce said with a laugh. â€œNo thank you.â€
Between Tennessee Titans cornerback Adam â€œPacmanâ€ Jonesâ€™ one-year banishment for his alleged one-man crime wave from Las Vegas to Georgia along with eight-game suspensions for Chicago Bears defensive tackle Tank Johnson (gun charges and probation violations for a two-month jail sentence) and Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry (four arrests in three different states), itâ€™s clear that the commissioner absolutely means business and wonâ€™t tolerate future transgressions.
Turning serious during an interview, Pryce said he welcomes the accountability that Goodell is demanding from the players amidst heavy public criticism and scrutiny from the NFL’s financial partners that could be concerned with the perception of a so-called outlaw league even though the majority of the players arenâ€™t actually embroiled in any legal difficulties.
â€œI think weâ€™re getting to the point now with sponsors and kids where you have to conduct yourself a certain way to put on an NFL uniform,â€ Pryce said. â€œIf youâ€™re going to hold people accountable for that, then Iâ€™m all for it. You have guys that are making a lot of money and you canâ€™t just go out there and pretend youâ€™re invincible.
â€œOr else theyâ€™re going to take that money away from you. I think heâ€™s trying to help you more than heâ€™s trying to hurt you. Itâ€™s like, â€˜Here you go, this is happening. Take care of yourself or weâ€™re going to take care of it.â€™â€
The Ravensâ€™ locker room hasnâ€™t been trouble-free this offseason, but their situation is dwarfed by more serious matters involving Detroit Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers being investigated for sexual assault after a stripper accused him of forcibly groping her in a dressing room or the ongoing, high-profile federal investigation into Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vickâ€™s alleged role in dogfighting in rural Virginia.
Ravens quarterback Steve McNair faces a pretrial hearing on a misdemeanor driving under the influence by consent charge on July 10, in Nashville, Tenn., but he was nearly dismissed from the case last month until a prosecutor decided to withdraw a plea bargain offer. McNair’s attorney, Roger May, has expressed confidence that McNair will eventually prevail in court.
Meanwhile, Ravens return specialist B.J. Sams was acquitted of DUI charges last month in Towson district court and was only convicted of a lane violation.
For several years, Billick has made it a point to use PowerPoint presentations to show his players headlines and articles when NFL players get into trouble and the distraction it creates.
In particular, the Bengals under former Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis’ leadership have been unable to avoid trouble with nine players arrested during a nine-month span over the last year.
Goodell has followed suit by suspending players left and right, and more punishment could be in the offing depending on the outcome of the Vick and Rogers investigations.
â€œHeâ€™s gotten our attention, but he has to look at both sides of the story,â€ Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said regarding Goodell, the new sheriff in the NFL as the ultimate authority under the league’s personal-conduct policy. â€œIn some cases, itâ€™s different. As you all know, I had a little incident where there was not alcohol involved.
â€œI wasnâ€™t at a night club. Trouble found me. I did everything in my power to prevent it and it didnâ€™t get prevented.â€
Suggs was referring to his 2005 trial in Arizona on aggravated assault charges following a basketball court incident that occurred prior to him being drafted by the Ravens. The Pro Bowl pass rusher was acquitted of the felony charges and was never punished by the league.
In some cases, most notably Jones, Goodell has taken serious action before the court system has had a chance to rule on allegations or even formally file charges.
â€œIn every case, you have to analyze and look at both sides of the story before making hard decisions and giving an eight-game suspension and a one-year suspension,â€ Suggs said. â€œI donâ€™t know the other guysâ€™ situations. I wasnâ€™t there, so I canâ€™t comment on it.
â€œBut I know in my particular case, it wasnâ€™t my fault and I was acquitted. Like I said, he definitely got all of our attention. Weâ€™re being more careful than weâ€™ve been.â€
NOTE: The Ravens are scheduled to attend University of Nebraska offensive tackle Chris Patrickâ€™s campus workout today. A 6-foot-4, 300-pounder who reportedly has 5.1 speed in the 40-yard dash and projects to guard, Patrickâ€™s application for the supplemental draft was recently approved by the league office.
Aaron Wilson covers the Baltimore Ravens for the Carroll County Times and the Annapolis Capital.