For the first time since his arrest two months ago, Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed the media. He is in Atlanta this week for the owner's meetings and was there to pitch Indianapolis as the host city for the 2018 Super Bowl, though the bid eventually went to Minnesota. The 54-year old owner looked much better in his appearance before the media compared to the months leading up to his arrest, which publicly revealed that Irsay was dealing with an addiction once again.
Some fans and even media questioned where Irsay stood with the league and with the other owners, though honestly, there was never any doubt that Irsay was still respected and still had the support of his fellow owners. Irsay is very involved in the league and was greatly respected before his arrest, and that hasn't changed much - though the league and it's owners certainly aren't downplaying the situation, where Irsay was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated.
Even still, they recognize that the situation is about more than football and pledged their support for Irsay this week. The USA Today's Jarrett Bell received a few quotes from a few owners, and they all stand behind their colleague. Wrote Bell:
"He's looking good," said New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. "I'm happy to have him back. It's always good to see somebody come out the other end of the tunnel."
On the surface, it doesn't appear that Irsay has lost much respect from other owners, despite his troubles.
"He's been such an important figure in the league," said Houston Texans owner Bob McNair. "I'm sorry that he's had this issue."
Added Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan: "Personal demons. May God give him the strength to deal with it."
It's great for the Colts and the league that Jim Irsay is back, but with his return comes other questions - mainly the one about what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to do about disciplining him. The issue has come to much more attention recently with Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis' four game suspension. Mathis, one of Irsay's longtime players, was suspended for violating the league's prohibited substances policy for what was reportedly the use of the drug clomid, which Mathis was using to address a fertility issue. He used it for only a week or so, reportedly, until his wife got pregnant and then he stopped. The league wouldn't budge on their policy, however (which, honestly, is probably good that they don't start making exceptions) but the public outcry has been that Mathis got suspended for four games while trying to have a kid and Irsay hasn't been punished at all despite being arrested for possession. It brings up the question of whether the Commissioner will punish owners - who employ him - the same way he does players, which is typically pretty severely.
Goodell said today that he is taking a patient approach, as Irsay has not yet been charged with anything, and so the NFL Commissioner's position is to be patient. That's probably the smart move, but it doesn't make the league look great when a player gets suspended for trying to have a kid and an owner doesn't get punished still two months after an arrest (I know I've simplified both of those scenarios way too much, but you get the point).
Anyway, all of this to say that it's great to have Jim Irsay back. It's even better that he's looking much healthier and better and that now it's about getting his back and his hip right instead of an addiction. But with Irsay's return comes questions about when he'll be disciplined - which will likely include both a fine and a suspension. That's a legitimate question, and Jarrett Bell got a quote from Texans' owner Bob McNair about it as well:
"I'm sure the Commissioner will treat him the same way he treats everybody else."
All eyes will be on him to see that Goodell does, and I'm sure that some form of discipline is coming. But for now, I think the best news is that Jim Irsay is back and that Jim Irsay is looking much better. As someone who knows about Irsay's past struggles with addiction and as someone who saw how bad he looked in the months leading up to his arrest, I'm thrilled that he's back and that he seems to be doing better, and I sincerely hope he stays that way. Chuck Pagano said it best on draft night, saying of Irsay that "he brings so much to the table and to the organization. He is the organization, he is the shoe. So to have Jim back in the building and back in the room with us today was pretty darn special."