There are many signs that the NFL offseason is upon us: The over-analyzation of how a player runs on the outside of his foot while weaving through cones in his underwear, the rumors about free agency and where players might end up and of course, what Brett Favre is up to. Unfortunately, another is the many incidents of player arrests and trouble with law enforcement.
The Green Bay Packers are often among the NFL headlines and more often than not, it’s because of the team’s success or perhaps a player getting recognition for a positive impact he is having on the community. The culture in Green Bay and under the guidance of team president Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy is one that preaches being good citizens and setting the highest example an NFL player can. And for the most part, that culture has held strong.
Before soon to be free agents Jarrett Bush and Letroy Guion were arrested over the past few weeks, the Packers had stayed out of the negative light that has been cast on players acting out of turn. Prior to those incidents (Guion was arrested for possession of marijuana and a firearm while Bush was detained on suspicion of public intoxication with no charges filed), the last time a Packers player had an off-field issue was back in 2011 when Erik Walden was arrested for domestic violence. That’s over three full years with no issues that came to light. With NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s strict policies on how player conduct is handled, teams have to try and minimize the risk that their players face while away from the field. Some teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys, have even hired personal chaperones or “adult babysitters”, if you will, to keep their players in line. In that case, star receiver Dez Bryant. Ironically, as I write this story, it stands to reason that even having an escort can fail, as Bryant could soon be facing battery charges.
Former Packers director of finance/football operations Andrew Brandt has recounted the many times he received a call in the middle of the night regarding a player’s indiscretions throughout the years. From Najeh Davenport to Ahman Green to Johnny Jolly to Brandon Underwood, the Packers seemed to have learned their lesson and tightened the reins in Green Bay. They also have built a reputation for placing a heavy emphasis on player character when evaluating whether to draft or sign them. This has undoubtedly helped the Packers avoid many a headache and bad investments.
While Bush and Guion’s incidents have the Packers in the news for all the wrong reasons, they still stand as one of the highest-character teams, in terms of problems off the field. Prior to 2014, the Packers had so many issues with player injuries that they couldn’t afford to have players unavailable for other reasons as well. Maybe that’s why the Packers have done such a good job of ingraining the value of doing the right thing on their roster year after year. But much like the Packers seeing their injury fortunes turn around in 2014, they were bound to eventually see a player step out of line as well. As much time as these players have on their hands during and after the season, that good fortune wasn’t bound to last forever. The saying “idle hands to the devil’s work” seems to ring true.
Still and in the case of Guion and Bush, Green Bay can decide to let both hit free agency and walk away without a penny lost. While both proved to be solid veterans for the Packers last season, neither are irreplaceable. The Packers have indicated that they’re looking into the situation with Guion’s arrest and may still want to bring him back if he’s eligible to play, pending the outcome of the charges he faces. That situation certainly has many questions surrounding it and the eventual outcome is a big unknown at this point. It’s a good example of how these men are seen in their everyday lives and off the gridiron. Sadly, it appears that there is a good possibility of targeting and taking advantage that goes on.
While it might seem like the Packers wouldn’t be as well-equipped to handle these types of problems because of a lack of experience with them, they seem to navigate through them well. If it seems odd that the Packers are even bothering to hang around and see how Guion’s situation turns out instead of just trying to move on and replace him, consider Thompson’s past with some of his troubled players. Two years ago, Johnny Jolly was cleared to return to the NFL and was given a chance to make the Packers roster. There aren’t too many players I can remember who had more repeat violations than Jolly. Still, the Packers saw value in his potential contribution and it turned out to be a good return on investment in 2013. If not for a neck injury, who knows what Jolly could have done for the Packers in the playoffs or this past season. Guion the football player would certainly have something to offer the Packers in 2015 if he were able to play.
As I realize that this has turned into a bit of a ramble, what I’m getting at is that these things happen to all teams. Don’t believe me? Look here. If nothing else, it’s an entertaining trip down memory lane of NFL player incidents dating back to the year 2000, by team. And you’ll see, no team is exempt. Yes, the Packers have hit a few bumps in the road and while many fans of other teams may snicker at the unfortunate news, the Packers are still well in the driver’s seat and poised to move past it all with ease. Can the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers say the same? It’s just another example of why we Packers fans can be proud of and continue to love this team.
Jason Perone is an independent sports blogger writing about the Packers on AllGreenBayPackers.comFollow Jason Perone: