RANT: NFL shouldn’t reward criminals for a job well done

The picture speaks for itself.  Courtesy of twitter.

The NFL Comeback Player of the Year award celebrates a single athlete’s triumph over adversity each year, due to one of a number of possibilities.  Most of us fans think season-ending injury or bad season with the wrong team.  Those are certainly qualifiers for this prestigious award, but you can apparently qualify if you miss a previous season for any reason at all, including being suspended for abusing your own 4-year-old child.

Today, the NFL.com decided to update and retweet its story from June 2015 about the leading candidates for this award, apparently due to lack of controversy for its original release.  This was most likely because it was clouded by the scandal of Roger Goodell’s finest work to date – deflategate.  And what a fine job that was, Goodell.  In a commissioner’s tenure that has seen instances of domestic violence, drunk driving, and abuse taken like a grain of salt (until the backlash of what the ever living what hit the media), the biggest case you take on involves deflated balls.

The ten picks, previously announced in June of this year, are as follows, from NFL.com:

1. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs safety: The only defensive players to win are Lyle Alzado (1982), Bryant Young (1999) and Joe Johnson (2000). After beating Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Berry will have a strong case to join that trio. He has not only returned to the field, but has also assumed his rightful place as one of the NFL’s best safeties.

2. Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals quarterback: Recently described as a “godsend” to the organization by general manager Steve Keim, Palmer should remain in the MVP hunt all season long. Against all odds, a 35-year-old quarterback written off as a washed-up journeyman two years ago is currently exhibiting more arm talent, better footwork and a higher understanding of the game than his career year of 2005. Bruce Arians believes Palmer is playing as well as any quarterback ever has under his watch, high praise coming from a coach who has worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.

3. Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals running back: Johnson merits legitimate consideration simply because he had fallen so far from his 2,000-yard heights of 2009. He was signed as an afterthought in mid-August, five months after taking a bullet to the shoulder. With Johnson leading the way as the NFL’s fifth-leading rusher, the Cardinals are averaging 4.7 yards per carry, a dramatic improvement from their league-low 3.3 yards per carry last season.

4. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver: Fitzgerald’s disappointing production from 2012 through 2014 was due to a confluence of injuries, poor quarterback play and an adjustment to the slot in Arians’ offense after playing the outside “X” position his entire career. That didn’t stop the football world from jumping to the conclusion that the eight-time Pro Bowler was not just past his prime, but also bordering on liability status.

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Palmer has a league-best 148.7 passer rating on throws to Fitzgerald, who leads all receivers in touchdowns, yards per route run and receptions of 20-plus yards. In his 12th season, he’s on pace for career highs in receptions (108), yards (1,458) and touchdowns (15).  And now for a not-so-random anecdote: “It’s a funny thing,” World Golf Hall of Famer Gary Player said last week. “I met Fitzgerald yesterday and he reminded me so much of [Nelson] Mandela. He had such love in his heart and warmth … I know he’s a real superstar, but he really made an imprint on me.”

5. Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals defensive back: “Honey Badger” is a litmus-test player, just as Jordy Nelson was early in 2013 and DeAndre Hopkins in 2014. Their week-to-week excellence is so obvious that the only skeptics remaining are those not watching the games. The best all-around defensive back in football this year, Mathieu was one of a handful of no-brainer picks for our quarter-season All-Pro team two weeks ago.

6. Brandon Marshall, New York Jets wide receiver: Acquired on the cheap after playing through a high-ankle sprain and fomenting dissent in the Bears locker room last season, Marshall is the first Jets wide receiver since Don Maynard in 1968 to generate four consecutive games of 100-plus yards. One of the NFL’s most effective red-zone threats, Marshall is averaging 102 yards and nearly a touchdown per game.

7. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back:This year’s version of the Mark Ingram career renaissance, Martin is a former first-round pick running with renewed purpose and elusiveness after the organization declined to pick up his fifth-year option in the offseason. His tackle-breaking three-touchdown performance versus the Jaguars in Week 5 was one of the most impressive by a running back this year.

8. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings running back: Peterson’s per-game average of 86.4 rushing yards ranks first among running backs who have started all of their team’s games. With flashes of 2012 MVP form, Peterson has bounced back in resounding fashion after missing the final 15 games last year.

9. Sean Lee, Dallas Cowboys linebacker: Entering this season, Lee had appeared in just 11 of 32 regular-season games since signing a seven-year, $42 million contract in August of 2013. After missing the entire 2014 campaign with a torn ACL, theCowboys shifted him from the middle to the weakside. The transition has been an unqualified success as Lee has been Dallas’ best defensive player, highlighted by Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 2.

10. NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco 49ers linebacker: Whereas Lee is playing as well as ever, Bowman is still working his way back to dominant pre-injury form. Although he racked up 15 tackles versus the Ravens in Week 6, he doesn’t move quite as well in coverage as he did when he was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2013.

Intersting picks, NFL.  We have a player who suffered from cancer included in a list of a player who beat his four year old bloody.  Triumph over adversity seems to have a different meaning for some, I guess.

The timing couldn’t be more right, either, coming on the heels of a new allegation and investigation of another NFL player allegation of another domestic violence issue.  I mean, what better time to re-release an article discussing the possibility of a child abuser getting a comeback award than right after another NFl player makes the news for a heated altercation that could or could not have included assault?  Maybe we should also include an opinion poll on whether or not it’s time to bring Ray Rice back into the fold?

I don’t feel it’s necessary to get into the discussion of what was so wrong with Peterson’s disciplinary actions of his child, nor do I wish to repost any damning images of the multiple cuts and bruises on his four year old son to nail down my point.  It’s not necessary because the coverage of this incident was immense when it occurred last year.  The suspension for the entire year was appropriate.  Does it really mean we should consider him for an award for coming back, though?

If that’s the case, why stop there?  Maybe we should start awarding NFL players who successfully finish their prison terms.  Michael Vick is still waiting for his recognition, guys.  Of course, maybe we should wait to unveil that one until 2018, when convicted murderer and former NFL player Rae Carruth is set to be released from prison.  We should call it the Comeback Felon of the Year Award (no offense, Vick).  I mean, what person would be more worthy than a man who conspired to murder his pregnant girlfriend, right?

In all seriousness, though, I think the NFL should examine some of the brutality and violence that some of its players have dished out over the past several years and give an honorary award every once in a while.  This year’s honorary Comeback Player of the Year Award should go to a 16 year old boy named Chancellor Lee Adams.  Chancellor Lee, if you do not know, is the son of Rae Carruth and survivor of the gunshot that killed his mother.  Chancellor Lee lay oxygen deprived in his mother’s womb because of this attack, and was born with cerebral palsy.

While the NFL had no hand in doling out punishment for Carruth (as he was almost immediately arrested and charged), it seems like they’ve made some real slip-ups in handling present day cases of nefarious behavior within the organization.  Wouldn’t it be nice, for once, for them to recognize real triumph over adversity within their organization, instead of making lame acknowledgments and commercials, with hope that it just all goes away?


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