05/23/15 by Matthew S. Vandriak
Over the past few years, the NFL has worked to improve player safety on the field by enacting rules to protect players on the field. Rules to eliminate head contact and hitting defenseless players have been put in place to reduce head trauma and concussions. Research into the long term effects of concussions have led to new protocol to keep players who may have sustained a concussion in a game from returning to the playing field. But maybe the NFL needs to look more into protecting it's players off the field.
On the heels of the news that Adrian Robinson's death has been ruled a suicide, the NFL needs to find a way to prevent this from happening again. Robinson's death marks the third time in the past 3 years that a current NFL player in his 20's killed himself. In 2012 Jovan Belcher, at the age of 25, killed his girlfriend and then himself at the Kansas Chiefs training facility. 29 year old Paul Oliver, who played 5 NFL seasons with San Diego, shot and killed himself in front of his family in 2013. And now the news has come out that Robinson hung himself at the age of 25.
While head trauma and CTE tends to be the main culprit in the suicide deaths of former NFL players (and it may have played a role in Belcher & Oliver's deaths), there is a deeper problem here. Determining that head trauma was the cause of death is a reactionary approach. It's time for the NFL to take a proactive approach to this. And that is addressing the issues players currently playing are having.
One of those players is Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013 despite missing the first two games of the season after being suspended for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games of the 2014 season for violating the policy again. Gordon will also sit out the entire 2015 season for again violating the policy, this time due to alcohol consumption. Gordon will have sat out due to suspension nearly as many games (29) as he has played in (35) in his four year NFL career. His teammate, Johnny Manziel, also has a history of off field issues involving alcohol. The issues started prior to his first season at Texas A&M and followed him through his first season last year with Cleveland. Manziel took the initiative to check himself into a rehab program for alcohol abuse.
That wasn't written to make Gordon or Manziel look bad by making light of their off the field problems. It's being mentioned because it's obvious, especially in the case of Gordon, that there's something wrong here. This is where instead of being reactive, the NFL needs to become proactive and help Gordon get his life together. Gordon is one of the best wide receivers in the league, but is pretty much throwing his career away. Gordon is as well known for his disciplinary issues and off the field problems as he is for his performances on the field. Gordon's story is following a pattern of another former NFL wide receiver who had several off the field issues associated with drugs and alcohol. Chris Henry had lots of talent and tons of potential, but he threw it away because of his off the field issues. The pattern was there with repeated issues and suspensions, but that's all that was done. Henry died in 2009 at the age 0f 26 when he fell from the back of a moving vehicle during an argument with his girlfriend.
The NFL took the concussion issue by the reigns when the severity of the problem was determined. It's time for the NFL to come up with a way to help players get their acts together before it's too late. I want to see Josh Gordon play football. But more importantly, I want to see Josh Gordon get his life together. I don't want to see him end up as the next Chris Henry. Take the reigns again NFL and get players who
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