- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2011


You know the thing about common sense? It’s not that common.

The NFL proves as much time and again in deciding what’s a fineable offense and what isn’t. The league often hits when it should stay, and stays when it should hit.

Under that formula of reverse psychology, New England tight end Rob Gronkowski will be a little lighter in the pocket shortly.

In case you missed it, Gronkowski was all over the news this week for being pictured with porn star Bibi Jones, who wore his jersey while he went shirtless in one of the photos that surfaced on Twitter. He spent part of Wednesday apologizing for the act. “I didn’t intend anything to hurt the reputation of anyone on the New England Patriots or on behalf of [team owner] Robert Kraft,” he told reporters. “It was just a simple picture, and that’s all.”

Hardly. It was a boon to Ms. Jones‘ career, as scores of men who never heard of her undoubtedly turned to Google for, um, more information. And it likely cost Gronkowski some cool points in the locker room, because Ms. Jones said she wanted much more than a photo op with him but nothing happened.

I’m not exactly sure of Gronkowski’s offense here. Is it the jersey, which Ms. Jones could very well purchase herself? Is it the photos, which — by the way — came out very nice? Is it Ms. Jones‘ occupation, which happens to be legal?

(That raises a question I never pondered before: What’s the difference between a porn star and a prostitute?)

In any case, I won’t be surprised if the NFL’s comical justice system hits Gronkowski with, say, a $10,000 fine. Not because he deserves to be fined $10,000, but because the Patriots play Pittsburgh on Sunday and he can commiserate with Steelers safety Troy Polamalu.

The NFL slapped Polamalu with a $10,000 fine last week for making a phone call on the sideline during a game against Jacksonville. Polamalu, forced out of action earlier that afternoon with concussionlike symptoms, called his wife for a brief chat to assure her that everything was OK.

Granted, the NFL prohibits cellphones in the bench area before and during games, a reasonable restriction. But given the circumstances — a player with a history of concussions who perhaps wasn’t thinking clearly and wanted to ease his wife’s concern — the league could have cut him some slack.

Surely commissioner Roger Goodell or someone close to him was pulled over for a traffic offense at some point in life, yet drove away without getting a ticket. Maybe this is a foreign concept to Goodell, but issuing “a warning” is another option when dealing with guilty parties. Polamalu’s case was the perfect situation to send everyone a reminder of the no-calls policy, but the commissioner blew it.

Unfortunately, curious decisions on discipline are par for the course at 280 Park Ave.

Wearing yellow shoes with their throwback uniforms cost Green Bay teammates Clay Matthews and Tramon Williams $5,000 each; giving his bench the finger cost the Packers’ Matthews $10,000; kicking an opponent in the groin cost Minnesota defensive end Brian Robison $20,000.

But jostling, screaming and igniting a postgame melee? That cost San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz nothing. Goodell follows the league’s standards for game-related discipline as he see fits, not as it reads:

“It is important to note that the unsportsmanlike conduct rules apply to all personnel in the team area, including players, coaches, team employees, and officials. Lack of respect or other unsportsmanlike conduct will not be tolerated during games or at other times, including postgame interviews. This includes abusive, threatening, insulting, or profane language or gestures, and physical acts by coaches, players, and other club personnel directed at opponents, officials, game personnel, or fans.”

An NFL spokesman said “there was no fighting and thus no basis for a fine.” As if unsportsmanlike conduct (kicking, spitting, etc.) hasn’t been reason enough in the past (when it involved players). It’s harder to understand the league’s policy on policing than its obsession with uniform violations.

“Even if we’re only talking about $5,000 or $10,000, there should’ve been some fine,” Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren told Yahoo Sports this week. “That’s not good for our league and if my guy [Pat Shurmur] had done it, I’d say the same thing. You have tough, intense games, but afterward, you conduct yourself a certain way.”

The NFL is big on players and coaches conducting themselves the proper way, except when it looks the other way.

The league doesn’t make a point of coming down on offenders, except when the offense itself is questionable.

No, it doesn’t make sense.

So Gronkowski better get his wallet ready — just in case.



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