Ravens players must take responsibility for their off-field actions

May 29, 2014|Mike Preston

During a 21-minute news conference Thursday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh appeared angry, frustrated and disappointed. As he enters his seventh season, the Ravens have never had more off-field incidents than this offseason.

Four of the 13 NFL players who have been arrested or charged with a crime since the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 have been Ravens, according to records kept by ProFootballTalk.com. That's an embarrassment to one of the NFL's top organizations.

"There have been a lot more phone calls this year than other years in the offseason to find out what the heck some guys are thinking at times," Harbaugh said. "I'm concerned, very concerned. We talk to those guys all the time, and I'm disappointed in some of the silliness that's going on."

Unfortunately, there isn't much the Ravens or Harbaugh can do. Everyone wants to point fingers and say the Ravens lack discipline, but these aren't on-the-field violations and it's hard to police (pun intended) players out of season and off the field.

The Ravens have seminars and meetings every year in which they bring in experts as speakers to talk about such issues as alcohol, drugs, finances and possession of firearms. They hire lawyers and counselors to advise the players.

Short of following players around, there is little else they can do. Some years are better than others. This offseason has been ugly.

It comes down to individual decisions. It's the same lesson most of us teach our children, and unfortunately a lot of players are as irresponsible as young kids. Millions of dollars changes their financial situation but not their IQ.

A lot of these 22-, 23- or 24-year-olds can't handle the money and the success that goes with it.

"Football, discipline, life discipline — it's all the same thing," Harbaugh said. "It's pretty hard to be successful in any walk of life without great self-discipline. So, we talk to these guys; we tried to get out in front if it with those guys.

"A couple of things we told them [Wednesday]. ... You've got to understand that while you may be 22, 23, 25, 26, it's not your 22- and 23-year-old buddies. You're not in the same position they are in. You have to grow up faster than your pals, so you can't go home and run with your pals and think you're in the same place that they're in. It's a privilege to have a job like this."

We're not making excuses here. Some will say the Ravens need to sign players with more character, but let's be honest. This is the NFL, not the Boy Scouts or Harvard Law School.

General managers are paid to win. They regularly do background checks but are willing to gamble on players who could make the difference between being .500 and winning the Super Bowl.

As for the Ravens, they aren't out of control, just on a bad run.

On May 24, rookie running back Lorenzo Taliaferro was charged with destruction of property and public intoxication in Williamsburg, Va. Offensive lineman Jah Reid was arrested on two counts of battery in early March in Key West, 16 days after receiver Deonte Thompson was arrested in Gainesville, Fla., on suspicion of possession of marijuana. The charges for Thompson were later dropped.

Maybe the arrests wouldn't seem so bad except that Ravens star running back Ray Rice, was charged with felony aggravated assault on his then-fiance, now wife in February after an altercation in an Atlantic City casino.

Hardly anyone will ever forget the video of Rice dragging her out of that elevator.

Rice has been accepted into a pretrial intervention program for first-time offenders. Meanwhile, Reid and Taliaferro continue to wait for their cases to play out in court.

"At some point in time your mistakes begin to impact us in a negative way," Harbaugh said. "And when the negativity over balances your ability to help our football team, you're not going to be here anymore."

After the Ravens won the Super Bowl XLVII, the Ravens parted with some of the team's high profile players like safety Ed Reed, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Bernard Pollard.

They had disruptive attitudes in the locker room, but not off the field. They were leaders who might have helped fellow players before these recent arrests.

Harbaugh has limited options. If he wants to make a big statement, he can cut players.

Or instead of just forcing a rookie like Taliaferro to run 18 gassers, make Rice run the same amount in addition to any penalties he receives from the league.

Harbaugh can take away certain perks like forcing all the players to stay at the team hotel during training camp or handing out big fines. Some of these things might work or not, but it can't hurt.

Regardless, something has to be done. Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti can't be happy and Harbaugh went through the full gamut of emotions while talking about it Thursday.

"I never felt like we've really had a problem around here," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "I probably couldn't even tell you a couple of the incidents. But I can tell you — the ones I know — the guys are good guys. They've probably been in the wrong situation. Drinking is probably never a great thing or a great idea. It's something that teams have to deal with. But hopefully, it will stop."



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