This September we will celebrate the kickoff of the journey towards Super Bowl LII, as well as Roger Goodell’s 11-year anniversary as Commissioner of the National Football League. I have a feeling you’re more likely to commemorate the latter with a dartboard and a Goodell headshot rather than a cold one.
Though he may not have reached Gary Bettman’s level yet, it’s safe to say Goodell isn’t the most popular Commissioner of a major sports league. Among the many complaints, Goodell’s handling of disciplinary matters has been rather suspect. Just one year ago, the Commissioner gave Tom Brady a one-year suspension (eventually reduced to four games) for deflating a football; this is the same man who responded to Ray Rice punching out his fiancee in an elevator with a two-game suspension.
If there are two things we are certain of regarding player discipline in Goodell’s NFL, it’s that (a) an indefinite suspension can remain indefinite, and (b) there is no formula for deciding who gets second (and third) chances. Case in point, Adrian Peterson beat his son with a tree branch and served a 15-game suspension for it, but remains in the NFL; meanwhile, Josh Gordon was just denied reinstatement because he enjoys smoking a plant that has now been legalized in nearly half of the United States of America. Oh right, and Joe Mixon, who broke four bones in a woman’s face, was just selected in the second-round of the 2017 NFL Draft. What a hypocrisy! (Rant over.)
Though it may be difficult to do, since there are suspicions of Goodell blackballing specific players, let’s dive into the odds some of the NFL’s troubled players have of receiving their second (or third … or fourth) chance in the league.
A second-round pick by Arizona in the 2010 NFL Draft, Washington has not played a snap of professional football since 2013. That season, Washington missed the first four games of the year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He was then suspended indefinitely before the 2014 season after more violations of the substance abuse policy, believed to stem from marijuana use. (We won’t bring up the aggravated assault charges that resulted in a broken collarbone for his then-girlfriend, since the NFL didn’t.)
That indefinite suspension just came to an end after three years. Upon reinstatement, Washington was released by the Cardinals, and he’s now an unrestricted free agent.
There’s no doubt Washington was a budding player in the NFL, evident from his nine-sack Pro Bowl campaign in 2012. But that was nearly five years ago; how much will the 30-year-old have to offer after sitting out three seasons? The answer will be: enough for a team to bring him into camp. Expect Washington to don an NFL uniform this September.
Odds Darryl Washington plays in an NFL game in 2017: 3/7
While one player gets reinstated after being caught with marijuana in his system on multiple occasions, Gordon has to continue to wait. The former second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Supplementary Draft has not played in a regular season game since December 21, 2014. Gordon was conditionally reinstated last season, with a four-game suspension to serve, and played in the preseason, totaling five receptions for 116 yards and one TD. But before the season started, he checked himself into a rehab center stating that he wanted to “gain full control of his life.”
That rather responsible move kept Gordon on the suspended list, however, where he continues to suffer Goodell’s wrath. Still only 26 years old and having provided teams with another glimpse of his potential, Gordon has a career in the NFL ahead of him. Any receiver-hungry team would be willing to take a swing on burner, who caught 87 balls for 1,646 yards and nine TDs in 2013. They all just have to wait until Goodell’s dice turn-up “reinstate.” The next roll will come in the fall, when Gordon is eligible to reapply.
Odds Josh Gordon plays in an NFL game in 2017: 1/1
Odds Josh Gordon is eventually reinstated by the NFL: 2/3
Odds Josh Gordon plays another game for the Browns: 4/5
Unlike the two players above, Greg Hardy isn’t out of the league for disciplinary reasons. The troubled defensive end just isn’t good enough anymore to justify the headache. Hardy only appeared in one game in 2014 before being placed on the commissioner’s exempt list as a result of, apparently, throwing his then-girlfriend on a bed of guns and strangling her while threatening to kill her. The former sixth-round pick was then suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season, but the Dallas Cowboys still chose to sign him.
From 2012 to 2014, Hardy tallied 27 sacks in just 32 games. This is why Jerry Jones was willing to overlook the strong possibility that Hardy may be a psychopath. But in 12 games with the Cowboys in 2015, the once vaunted pass-rusher only recorded six sacks, and continued to pile-up evidence that he is, indeed, a psychopath.
It appeared Hardy had given up on getting back into the NFL when he started MMA training. But his participation in the new Spring League, dedicated to showcasing players looking for a job in the pros, suggests otherwise.
Odds Greg Hardy plays in an NFL game in 2017: 5/3
Odds Greg Hardy every plays in the NFL again: 8/7
Photo Credit: Erik Daniel Drost (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.