When mandatory minicamp broke back in June, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano left his players with a simple, direct request as they headed into the offseason and away from team supervision: Don't become a distraction.
Since then, second-year wide receiver LaVon Brazill got suspended four games for his second violation the league's substance abuse policy, special teams captain Joe Lefeged was arrested in Washington DC on a gun charge and for fleeing the scene, and tight end Weslye Saunders was suspended on Thursday for eight games for his second violation of the league performance enhancement abuse policy.
Yeah, that plea of Pagano's... these three guys ignored it.
Just so all of you know how Pagano stressed this at the close of minicamp, here's what he told the media back in mid-June:
"The big thing was, number one, make great choices," Pagano said. "Spend time with family, do what you have to do mentally and physically, but make great choices. Don't put yourself in bad situations.
"Really, the only thing that would derail us from having a successful training camp and start of a great season is a distraction. Having something bad happen and we see it all the time and we read about it all the time."
Well, three bad things have happened, and in the cases of both Brazill and Saunders, it's the second time these two have been busted. Brazill's situation is made all the more moronic in that he was drafted in 2012 and already he's got two strikes against him!
In all three cases, we have seen nothing from the Colts in terms of discipline.
No fines disclosed.
No one has lost their job.
The league has handed out discipline, and in all three cases the punishment is consistent with the rules. It's also possible that the Colts imposed a fine to one or more of these players behind closed doors.
However, discipline like that doesn't send a strong enough message.
It should concern team owner Jim Irsay that the head coach explicitly told the team not to f*ck up and get in trouble during a measly six week offseason only to find three players - one of them a team captain from last year - failing to comply with the coach's order.
That doesn't reflect well on player discipline, which, in turn, does not reflect well on Pagano as a head coach.
It makes you wonder if players truly respect Pagano's authority, or if they have any fear of him or general manager Ryan Grigson. I'm sure players respect both men on a certain level as people. How could one not? Pagano's fight against cancer last year was arguably the greatest sports story of 2012. Chuck is well-liked and well-respected as a person by pretty much anyone and everyone who knows him.
However, could you imagine if something like this happened during the Polian years? Lefeged, Brazill, and Saunders likely would have been released days - or maybe even minutes - after the news broke of their transgressions.
Remember back in 2008 when Polian cut his team's starting defensive tackle Ed Johnson the day after Johnson was stopped for speeding and busted for marijuana possession? This was his team's best interior line defender and it was during the regular season, not prior to training camp.
Respecting someone as a person and respecting their authority are two completely different things.
As Mike Chappell recently pointed out, it seems unlikely that all three of these players will still be on the roster when training camp opens on July 27th.
But, really, what's cutting a player now gonna do?
If that sort of discipline were going to be measured out, Brazill and Lefeged would have been cut already, and cutting Saunders now hardly puts the fear of god into anyone. He's a back-up tight end on a team with two tight ends drafted high in 2012 and a third one drafted in the 7th round this year.
If a message was going to be sent, then Brazill's behind should have been sent to the waiver wire the second Ryan Grigson found out the young wideout was busted yet again for a positive pot test. Brazill is seen as a player with upside, but the Colts know he isn't someone who - how shall we say - is fully invested in keeping his nose clean. Dumping him would have sent a message, and then who knows: Maybe Lefeged and Saunders don't screw up in their own ways.
If Brazill can be cut, so can I!
But, that's not what happened. In truth, nothing has happened, and it's concerning.
It will be interesting to see if discipline continues to be an issue for this Pagano coached Colts team in 2013. When three players fail to heed a very unsubtle request to stay out of trouble, and none of them lose their jobs as a result, that tells me that the players don't fear the authority of the coach.
Forget respecting his authority, it suggests that his message of "don't become a distraction" simply isn't resonating. Not good either way.
It also suggests that the people who are paid to be "in charge" really aren't, and in a market like Indianapolis, that's not gonna fly with fans. This same fanbase turned on the Indiana Pacers quickly in the late-2000s when arrests and suspensions started becoming the norm rather than the exception.
The same thing will happen to the Colts if Pagano and Grigson don't get things under control within their locker room.
NOTE: Brazill's suspension was announced prior to the breaking of June minicamp, but the point is still the same.