It served as cruel irony when on Friday night, just days before the Giants were to meet the Redskins in Washington, that Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accidentally shot himself in the leg in a New York night club. The irony of course was that such an incident would occur just days before the Redskins would honor Sean Taylor, a teammate shot and killed in his home by burglars a year prior, with an induction into the Redskins year of honor.
The incident also served as a cool reminder of just how little NFL players have learned from recent history, including the September 2, 2008, shooting of Jaguars tackle Richard Collier, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and his left leg amputated. There was also the shooting death of Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams on January 1, 2007.
So the question comes down to whether or not the NFL is doing enough to educate its players, both rookies and veterans, about the dangers of firearms and about trying to keep themselves out of violent situations. The NFL currently holds rookie symposiums to help drafted players make the transition from college to the NFL, including lectures on handling the lifestyle that comes with the money and fame they gain from playing in the league. However, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for them to continually offer these educational experiences to players throughout their tenure in the league, much as any other employer would offer ongoing safety training to its employees?
Certainly, the NFL has stepped up its disciplinary measures to help combat the rising legal and safety issues for its players off the field, but those measures are strictly reactive, instead of proactive. Maybe it comes down to each team designating a mentor to players as they come into the league, not only to preach how to live the NFL life the right way, but to show them how to stay out of certain situations and how to handle them should they arise. It is asking a lot of young players to come from living in tougher situations to step into a new lifestyle and giving them only a list of punishments for failure rather than the tools in which to succeed in it.
Yes, players need to be held accountable for the actions they commit, as any adult should be, but by giving them a mentor, preferably someone coming from similar backgrounds, would make a huge difference in helping these players grow from products of their environments into positive contributors to society. The most important thing for the NFL to do is to try and help the player prevent the fall, rather than have to pick up the pieces afterward.
Giants Burress accidentally shoots self in leg, FoxSports.com
Taylor dies after being shot in home, ESPN.com
Richard Collier, Wikipedia.com
Darrent Williams, Wikipedia.com