After the Super Bowl champions are crowned in early February comes the NFL scouting combine, which is followed by the yearly NFL draft and a lot of downtime for the players. This year has proven no different than years past, what with weekly stories of arrests for drugs and guns, not to mention player suspensions.
While the league celebrates its future Super Bowl host cities and takes steps to improve the in-game experience as a whole (partnering with Microsoft, for instance), the landscape of the NFL remains tarnished by numerous off-field issues. The specter of teams dealing with player concerns, though nothing new, has become a disturbing trend. This gives the league, its organizations, players’ families and friends a black eye.
Yet, the embarrassment continues each and every year. There is an old saying, reflective of society: “You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” It stands true for individuals in the NFL and those who work in all walks of life. The difference is that lawyers, doctors, milkmen or others in the community are not under the intense microscope that professional athletes face.
The latest suspension was levied yesterday afternoon against Rams offensive lineman Rokevious Watkins, who will miss the first game of the 2013 regular season for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. While suspended players remain eligible for offseason workouts, OTAs (organized team activities) and all preseason games, the question is already out there: Can clubs trust these players with off-field issues?
Watkins started the first game of his rookie campaign before injuring his foot and being placed on IR for the year. The Rams were planning on Watkins competing for the left guard position, which is up for grabs, With this bump in the road, however, the Rams’ brass must wonder if they can actually trust this second-year player and if he can handle his business when away from the facility.
St. Louis started its OTA sessions this week. While the organization remains extremely focused on building a championship foundation, the Watkins news has created a ripple effect in the plans to establish a protective wall for quarterback Sam Bradford. It’s disturbing news for one of the Rams’ young hopefuls, but not an unusual development in today’s NFL.