The Athletic

After coach’s postgame DUI charge, NFL must send a strong message

The NFL should not have sent the memo reminding its 32 teams of its alcohol restriction on team properties and flights.

On November 1, former Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid, the son of Andy Reid, was sentenced to three years in prison for seriously injuring a young girl while driving drunk 21 years ago. month. Reid, 37, was driving home from work and was intoxicated when he rammed his car into a vehicle parked on the shoulder of a Kansas City-area freeway. So the dangers of drunk driving should have been fresh on the minds of most members of the NFL community, right?

Apparently not fresh enough, as two incidents in the same week prompted a league response.

First, a social media post has surfaced showing Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke drinking a beer on the team’s plane while celebrating his team’s Monday night victory over Philadelphia. .

Then, early Friday morning, Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and speeding just minutes after his team’s return flight landed from Green Bay after the Tennessee victory over the Packers.

Perhaps Heinicke’s social media post only reflected poor judgment and immaturity; a break from the “act as if you’ve been there before” code. But the league condemns such behavior because it itself can lead to Downing’s transgression, which is much more serious. The coach was lucky to have been arrested before he killed someone.

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Titans OC Todd Downing arrested, charged with DUI, speeding

So, why could occurred, the NFL reminded the teams of the policy.

The statement released by the league said:

“In light of recent events, clubs are reminded that league policy prohibits alcoholic beverages, including beer, in dressing rooms, training or office facilities, or when traveling on buses or team aircraft at any time during the pre-season, regular season or playoffs. This applies to all players, coaches, club staff and guests traveling with your team. This policy has been in place since many years. The provision of alcohol on club facilities or while traveling creates significant and unnecessary risks to the league, its players, coaches and others. Violations of this important policy will be taken seriously and will result in important discipline.

“Each club must ensure that its travel arrangements do not at any time include the provision of alcohol service and must also take appropriate steps to confirm that alcohol (whether beer or any other alcoholic beverage) is not available in his establishment. Please direct any further questions on this matter to the Football Operations Management Board.

Downing, 42, was driving a vehicle in a dangerous manner and could have experienced a repeat of the Britt Reid situation, or worse.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel spoke to reporters on Friday and declined to go into specifics due to ongoing legal proceedings, but said: “We all have a great responsibility as members of this community, as coaches and players in this organization, as fathers and husbands and teammates to make good decisions, and we understand that.

It’s unclear what kind of discipline Downing — one of Vrabel’s top assistants and someone previously seen by some in the league as a future head coaching candidate — might receive from the Titans and the NFL.

But it is important that league and Titans officials send a strong message because although Downing erred and has no known similar offences, he is in a position of authority and influence as a coach, who should set a good example for his players. and members of the Nashville community.

The league also needs to send a strong message because, for some reason, drunk driving remains a problem in the NFL, just like in America, where more than 10,000 people are killed each year by drunk drivers, according to the National. Highway Traffic. Administration of security.

A year ago, Raiders catcher Henry Ruggs, allegedly while driving under the influence and driving at 150 mph, struck and killed fellow motorist, 23-year-old Las Vegas resident Tina Tintor. Tintor and his dog were burned to death following the crash, which took place at 3.39am on November 2, 2021.

At least four NFL players over the past 25 years have been involved in drunk driving incidents that have killed others. Meanwhile, others, including figures in positions of power like Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim, have each pleaded guilty to driving under the influence over the course of of the past eight years. NFL punishments have varied in severity.

Ruggs, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was cut by the Raiders, but the league has yet to issue an additional sentence pending court proceedings.

In 2014, the NFL suspended Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent for 10 games after he lost control of his car while driving with a blood alcohol level over twice the Texas legal limit and killed his passenger. and teammate Jerry Brown.

Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth was suspended the entire 2009 season for pleading guilty to impaired manslaughter. Before him, former Rams defensive end Leonard Little in 1998 served an eight-game suspension after hitting and killing a woman.

Penalties also varied for those found guilty of impaired driving that did not result in death. There were repeat offenders like Aldon Smith and Michael Floyd, who also received several redemption shots. And we’ve seen non-gamers get leniency after DUIs. Irsay, expected to be held at the highest level, served a six-game suspension and paid a $500,000 fine. Keim, who should also have been held high, served a five-week suspension, paid a $200,000 fine and kept his job.

It’s still unclear what type of punishment Downing could receive, but under NFL substance abuse policy, the discipline for players guilty of a first DUI offense, absent aggravating circumstances, is a three-day suspension. games without pay. A second offense results in an eight-game ban. Those guidelines apply to players, but Downing might consider a punishment more like Keim’s. The when also remains unknown. The NFL generally awaits the completion of the legal process. But should the Titans act quickly or wait for a decision from the NFL?

Downing could very well have hurt his job prospects as a head coach in the near future, and with good reason. You can’t lead effectively with such poor judgment. But not only should Downing have known better, his decision was also totally unnecessary because all NFL teams offer free chauffeur service at all hours of the day for any player or coach who has been drinking.

Now the Titans, instead of being able to focus on building momentum after Thursday night’s win over Green Bay, will likely have to scramble for a temporary contingency plan at the offensive coordinator. This could threaten their chances of winning games. But because Downing chose to put himself in front of the team and anyone sharing the road with him on Friday morning, he and the Titans will rightly face the repercussions.

The coach should consider himself lucky that he did not seriously injure or kill someone else. And he will likely have to work hard to regain confidence while helping his players learn from their mistakes.

Hopefully Downing’s arrest serves as a wake-up call for all NFL players, coaches and fans, and the league’s memo helps save employees and fans from future alcohol-related transgressions. But history suggests he may soon fade into a distant memory.

The NFL must do what it can to prevent this, however. League officials like to see its organizations and teams as leaders in their communities. Now here’s another chance for the league to do the right thing by handling the Downing situation in a way that sends a clear message against drunk driving while hopefully helping save its employees. and its fans of similar life-threatening errors.

(Photo by Todd Downing: Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

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