On the field, without a playbook

Jonathan Dwyer in his Pittsburgh Steeler days. Photograph by Jeffrey Beall.

Jonathan Dwyer in his Pittsburgh Steeler days. Photograph by Jeffrey Beall.

It’s getting harder and harder to tell the proverbial players without a scorecard in the NFL as the rules keep changing daily, the scandal widens and the hits (to those off the field) keep coming.

First Adrian Peterson (running back, Minnesota Vikings, felony child abuse charge) was deactivated, then reactivated and now he’s on something called Commissioner Roger Goodell’s permission/exempt list, which sounds like a good thing but is a good/bad thing, because he can’t play (altogether now, awwww!) yet still gets paid, which, as we know, is the most important thing.

Joining Peterson in the lucrative timeout corner is Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers, defensive end, appealing a conviction of domestic abuse). Will Jonathan Dwyer (Arizona Cardinals, running back, charged with aggravated assault involving his wife and toddler) be far behind? For now he’s been deactivated, but, as we’ve seen, anything can happen.

Say this for the San Francisco 49ers: They may not be right but they are consistent in their Neanderthal-ness. They continue to play Ray McDonald (defensive end, arrested for, but not yet charged with, hitting his pregnant girlfriend), citing the need for “due process.” (Wow, I never knew there were so many constitutional lawyers and biblical scholars in the NFL, what with all the mileage folks are getting out of the Constitution and the Good Book these days.)

Meanwhile, the commish – under siege since his mishandling of the Ray Rice case (former Baltimore Raven, running back, seen on tape coldcocking the future Mrs. Rice, appealing his indefinite suspension ) – is on the down-low but busy behind the scenes making token appointments of female consultants and lobbyists left and right. Still, that group contains no African-American women, even though they are the ones affected in these instances. It’s like that scene in the movie “Chicken Run” in which the chickens run around crazy when they realize the evil farmer is on his way to the coop.

Here’s what a commissioner should do: a commissioner should hire a group of women that cuts across racial, ethnic and generational lines to consider domestic violence in the NFL and come up with a cohesive policy that would be implemented across the 32 teams. Such a group would explore the roles that performance-enhancing drugs, concussions and sub-concussive experiences and the violence of the game itself might play in domestic violence – though these factors would in no way excuse such behavior.

But as The New York Times’ columnist William C. Rhoden pointed out in an excellent piece:

“There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the way the N.F.L. reacts to each new wave of criticism and outrage.

“You wonder how much longer Goodell can keep diagramming plays in the dirt.”

Or, to mix our metaphors, how much longer the NFL can remain a runaway train with the engineer hiding in the caboose.