There's never a good time to get into trouble, especially if you're an NFL player - who are under more scrutiny simply because they are NFL players. But if there ever were a time to get into trouble, it most certainly wouldn't be this week. Far from it.
The NFL has been in the center of the media recently, and not because of Tim Tebow or anything we're used to. No, in the dead period of the NFL year, the league has managed to capture the attention of every news outlet and most people, NFL fans or not. And it's all because of a guy who is perhaps the first serial killer the league has ever seen.
You all know the Aaron Hernandez story by now and how he was charged with first-degree murder and is now being investigated for seemingly every unsolved murder in recent years. The former Patriots star tight end has brought an increased scrutiny to a league whose players are constantly under it anyways. The fact that Hernandez was charged with several gun-related offenses and allegedly was seen on security footage holding a gun, and the fact that Odin Lloyd was tragically murdered with a gun, reportedly, has brought the issue of guns to the forefront of the NFL.
Many NFL players have guns, and it is certainly well within their rights to do so. I'm not against that at all, but they must be smart about it due to the added recognizability they have and the increased scrutiny that they are under. They have to be smart about their actions, and perhaps it has never been more important for an NFL player to be cautious about this issue than right now.
Anyways, by now you must be wondering how this relates to the Colts. Well, one such player who is realizing that right now is Colts safety Joe Lefeged. He was arrested in Washington D.C. over the weekend on several gun-related charges and was held without bond until Tuesday, when he was released on public recognizance.
Now, let me add before we go any further that Lefeged's gun was licensed in Maryland, but Lefeged happened to have it in Washington D.C., a nearby city with perhaps the strictest gun laws in the country. If that's the major charge against Lefeged, is it really all that bad?
Now, there were plenty of stupid decisions and I'm certainly not endorsing Lefeged's actions. To me the more concerning offenses are not the gun-related ones: he tried to flee from police, who then found an open alcohol container and smelled marijuana in the car, along with finding the loaded firearm. But even then, was Lefeged the one drinking the alcohol, or the one smoking marijuana? The fleeing police part was extremely dumb, but is it a reason to cut a guy? No, it's not.
And that's really the issue here that Colts fans want answered: what will the Colts do with Joe Lefeged? And even extending further, what will they do with LaVon Brazill?
If you recall, the Colts' second-year receiver was suspended by the NFL for the season's first four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. In order for it to result in a suspension, it means that this was his second failed test, which many people are saying was due to marijuana. Talk about dumb.
If I was Grigson, I’d look long and hard at the prospect of cutting Brazill, who has a chance to be another Pierre Garcon or another never-was who smoked his way out of the league. If I was Grigson, I’d make a statement here, even knowing that Brazill is in zero-tolerance mode and will be suspended a full year the next time he tests positive. I just don’t think you win with guys like that, as was the case with Rush.
That's the position that Kravitz, myself, and several fans I have talked to are taking (and I was going to write this article even before Kravitz wrote his, he just beat me to it...). Keep Lefeged and cut Brazill. Why?
Well, for starters let's take a reason many fans have for cutting both: to set a precedent. Let me ask you this - what would you rather a player do: make a dumb decision that may not even have had much to do with him but rather his friends, or fail a drug test twice even though you knew it would hurt the team. Yeah, there's just something about that second one that would seem worse to me if I was a GM. If I was going to set a precedent, it would be by cutting the guy who could't put the team first instead of the guy who may not be guilty of anything but some dumb decisions.
Again, we don't know all the details yet on Lefeged's arrest, but from the details that we do have, I don't really consider it an offense worth cutting him over. Of course, there are two variables to consider, the first being what happens when it goes to trial and the second being what action the NFL will take. I don't have any insider information on this, but I have to imagine that Roger Goodell is pretty pissed right now about all of this stuff going on and is not going to be very lenient on stuff right now. As I said at the beginning, there's never a good time to get in trouble, but especially not right now. Will Lefeged be suspended? I don't know, but there's a greater possibility right now than there would have been at another time, in my opinion. Those two things will come into consideration for the Colts in their decision, but right now I don't see a real reason why this should result in Joe Lefeged being a former Colt.
LaVon Brazill, however... well, that's a different story. Maybe it's just me (it's not) but I wouldn't want that type of player on my team. The goal of being a team is working together to achieve something, and if you still can't stop doing drugs for a while when given a second chance and knowing that a second offense would result in a suspension that would hurt the team - well, I'm not sure you belong on that team. Kravitz said it nicely:
I am in favor of legalizing marijuana, but I wonder, how can you win with guys who not only fail one drug test, but manage to fail two of them? How do you win with guys who don’t care enough about themselves, their profession and their teammates to stay off weed for an extended period of time?
I wrote precisely the same thing about the Pacers’ Brandon Rush a couple of years back.
People, especially young people, make mistakes.
When you know so much is on the line for you personally and professionally?
How do you look your teammates in the eye after that? How can they, how do they, look at you?
I'm not arguing which player did something more dangerous. Anytime weapons are involved it's a dangerous situation and I'm not trying to downplay what Lefeged did (or allegedly did) at all. But for a lot of things, I'm a believer in second chances. Look at what Pat McAfee has done with his, albeit with different circumstances. He was also guilty of making real dumb decisions (swimming drunk in a canal in the middle of the night) but the Colts gave him a second chance and since then he has become a great player, a team leader (he was a captain last year), and a model Colt. There aren't many players on the whole team more beloved by Indianapolis than "the Boomstick," and that's a far cry from what people were saying when he had his swimming incident. He got a second chance with the team and he has taken advantage of it.
All I'm saying is that I think Joe Lefeged deserves a second chance with this team. I mean, we don't even know all the details of what he did, but it doesn't seem like an offense worth cutting him for - a special teams captain who hasn't really gotten in trouble before.
LaVon Brazill, however? He's already failed two drug tests. He got a second chance, and he didn't take advantage of it. You want to talk about precedence? That seems like a simple decision for me.
What Joe Lefeged did was stupid. What LaVon Brazill did was stupid. But if you want to talk about what the Colts should do about it, the best answer that I can give you right now is to keep Lefeged, cut Brazill, and listen to teammate Dwayne Allen (who recently said the following in response to the Aaron Hernandez situation):
"A lot of people are afraid of the words, ‘Oh man, you different,’" Allen said. "You damn right I’m different. You damn right I’m different. I got a lot more money in my pocket, and a lot more sense. That’s the way you got to go about it.
"If you just turn on your TV to ESPN, this is a brotherhood. This is a brotherhood. One of our brothers in trouble right now. It really hurts me, man. But one of our brothers is in trouble right now because he didn’t want to be different. You got to make a choice right now. ...You’re not the same dude you was when you grew up. You different now. That doesn’t mean you can’t hang out with your boys, do things you used to do with your boys. You still do those, but you got to be smart about it, smart about your decisions, man."