Is the lockout leading NFL players to a life of crime?

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The good news is that the knife that Mishi Nogami-Marshall jammed into the abdomen of her husband, Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall, over the weekend didn’t take the life of a player in whom the Dolphins invested $47.5 million — $24 million of it guaranteed. Marshall, according to doctors, suffered no damage to any vital organs, and the doctors that treated him in a Miami-area hospital say he will fully recover. So, thankfully, we won’t be adding Marshall to the list of players (Darrent Williams and Sean Taylor in 2007) who were senselessly murdered in the prime of their NFL career.

The bad news is that 45 days into the NFL lockout, a disturbing trend is emerging in that many members of the National Football League Players Association simply have not been able to avoid trouble with the law.

While Marshall’s wife appears to be the perpetrator here — she faces a domestic-violence charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and was released Saturday morning on $7,500 bail — one has to wonder what precipitated an incident that led Marshall’s wife of less than a year to contemplate taking her husband’s life?
The Marshall incident notwithstanding, the early indications are that a number of players whom we shower with adulation for their prowess on the field are tainting the image of the majority of players who abide by the law.

Since the lockout began, at least 10 players have been arrested, which is inexcusable. These lockups are going to be ignored over the next few days because fans are wrapped up in their final NFL fix — this week’s draft will give us a three-day football fix beginning on Thursday — but shortly after that the league will go silent and the reality that the 2011 season very well might not happen will settle in.

Then the focus will change, and forgiving fans who so desperately want to watch football when September arrives will start to notice the warts — and yes, the stupidity — of some of these guys and start to lose sympathy for them in the labor dispute with owners.

Admittedly, some of the crimes register only because we are talking about NFL players as opposed to your basic, 9-5 guy. For instance, Oakland Raiders wide receiver Louis Murphy was arrested for possession of a drug — Viagra — without a valid prescription. Trust me, you’re most likely going to encounter a few people in the coming week that break that law all the time — especially if you are on a college campus.

The same applies to Dallas cornerback Bryant McCann, arrested for public intoxication earlier this month. Ditto for free-agent running back Lawrence Maroney, booked and charged with possession of marijuana in March in connection with a January arrest.

Again, these are the same things that transpire on Ivy League campuses every day, it’s just that nobody really cares as much about a kid who will likely go off to a high-paying profession and live in relative anonymity for the rest of his life.

But this does not excuse the behavior of some of these players, because some of their arrests are not your every day garden-variety bookings.
Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib is looking at something a lot uglier after having been arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, following an incident where he allegedly fired shots at his sister’s boyfriend.

Suspended Green Bay defensive tackle Johnny Jolly appears to be working as hard as he can to make sure that he never plays in the NFL again. Last week, after being arrested with liquid codeine while tooling around Houston in his Escalade last month — he was stopped because the tinted windows were too dark — he pleaded guilty to narcotics charges from a 2008 arrest for the same crime. The charges were dropped for the March incident, but Jolly is looking at five years probation, beginning with a 90-day stint in a drug treatment center.

And the Tennessee Titans must be deeply concerned that marvelously gifted, second-year wide out Kenny Britt was arrested earlier this month – his third run-in with the law in the last 16 months — and is facing third-degree felony charges for eluding an officer in his hometown of Bayonne, N.J. Britt tried to elude officers who set out in pursuit after they clocked his Porsche at 71 mph in a 50-mph zone. Another passenger in the car, Jerel Lord, was also charged with possession of marijuana.

The recurring theme here is that all of the aforementioned athletes are African-Americans. Of the 10 athletes arrested, just one, Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel — who happens to be a member of the players union’s executive leadership — was charged with stealing beer in an Indiana casino.

Punishment will be handed out when the lockout is eventually settled. But right now there is no drug-testing of players, and organized team activity — which would probably help curtail these acts of stupidity — is not permitted.

Not that this should matter. These players have elected to play the role of the buffoon, clowns tragically comparable to the people in those hilarious Dave Chappelle skits about when keeping it real goes wrong.

But they are making big-boy money. And as the lockout drags on and the money is not there, desperation will for some start to motivate their actions. And this is a recipe for disaster.