- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2000

Three days after one of the most exciting Super Bowls in history and five days after NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue proclaimed, "We don't tolerate misconduct," a second player sits in jail facing murder charges.
Management and former players say they are shocked not by the number of crimes committed by NFL players but by the seriousness of them.
"I get former players calling me saying, 'Wow, what's going on with today's guys?' " said Larry Lee, the Detroit Lions' vice president of football operations and a player with three teams from 1981 to 1990.
"When we played, we looked at ourselves as the few, the proud. We considered ourselves the upper echelon, and we tried to act like it. I think now some of that has left the game. I think money has something to do with it, the changing of the business, free agency… . Today's athletes pretty much run the show, and they know it. They have the right to shop themselves, go with the highest bidder. The loyalty factor isn't there anymore. The community ties aren't there anymore."
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was arrested hours after Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta in the slayings of two men outside a nightclub, becoming the second NFL player charged with murder in the last 10 weeks. In late November, police arrested Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth, who faces the death penalty in connection with the drive-by shooting that eventually left his pregnant girlfriend dead.
Those are just the most serious of the NFL's entries on police blotters this season. Others include:
* Indianapolis Colts defensive back Steve Muhammad was charged with battery in the beating of his pregnant wife. He was cleared in her death, which was attributed to injuries suffered in an auto accident.
* Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins was arrested for breaking into a neighbor's apartment. The married woman living there told police Collins had been stalking her.
* Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcus Spriggs and wide receiver Jeremy McDaniel were charged in the sexual assault of two off-duty police officers in a nightclub.
* Denver Broncos safety Darrius Johnson was charged with punching a topless dancer.
* New York Jets offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott was charged with assault after being accused of punching a man and a woman in a bar. Matt O'Dwyer, a Jets teammate then and now with the Cincinnati Bengals, was arrested in the same incident and is being sued by three police officers who claim he kicked out a window in their car, sending shattered glass into their eyes.
* Lewis was charged with punching a woman in a Baltimore bar on Nov. 30.
* And Panthers running back Fred Lane was charged Thursday in Jackson, Tenn., with possession of a deadly weapon and possession of marijuana.
Though the Carruth and Lewis incidents are unrelated and Lewis' lawyer has said he is innocent, they have left some observers asking what is going on.
"I've struggled with that question myself," said former NFL star Stanley Morgan, now a player agent. "Why is this happening in this day and time? There's a lot more of it. When I was playing, you didn't hear about athletes shooting and killing people. Maybe guys would get into a bar fight, but it didn't escalate to weapons."
Said Lee, whose duties include overseeing player assistance programs for the Lions: "Today's athletes are their own guys. They don't have to conform to management the way we had to. But rightfully so to a point. They are the most important people in the organization. There's a different element of player coming today. It's really unfortunate that these kinds of things happen. It's almost a sign of the times. It seems like the world is getting worse."
According to a book entitled "Pros and Cons: The criminals who play in the NFL," 21 percent of active players from 1996 and 1997 had been arrested or convicted of serious crimes.
According to the league, player arrests have gone from 38 in 1997 to 35 in '98 to 26 last year. Convictions have gone from 23 to 14 to five (through September).
The league's violent crime policy calls for offending players to undergo clinical evaluations and counseling. It can include fines or suspensions. The policy can be applied whether or not a charged player is found guilty.
The first player punished was New Orleans Saints wide receiver Keith Poole, who was required to undergo counseling and pay a $4,500 fine after attacking a man with a golf club.
Some argue that the league policy should provide for a lifetime ban of players such as Rams linebacker Leonard Little, convicted a little more than a year ago of killing a woman in a drunk driving incident, who are convicted of serious crimes. But that is easier said than done.
"If you just kick guys out of the league immediately, you're going against a number of right-to-work laws and some state and federal laws," said Lem Burnham, NFL vice president for player development .
Most teams also have a position called Director of Player Programs that is designed to assist players in areas from financial advice to continuing their college education to careers outside football to family and personal issues.
Some see a certain amount of violence as inevitable.
"There are criminals in the NFL. We don't want them, but they're members of the general population first before they're in the NFL," Atlanta Falcons running back Jamal Anderson said. "When a day trader … blows away 10 people in Buckhead, they don't say he's a day trader they say he's crazy. But when he's a football player, that's what they talk about."
Said Tagliabue: "Can we separate ourselves from society? Of course not. We can't predict what NFL players will do any more than we can predict students shooting other students or workers shooting fellow workers.
"On the other hand, we don't tolerate misconduct. We don't condone it."

This article is based in part on Cox News Service reports.

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