In what may turn out to be bad news for Marshawn Lynch, as recently as June Roger Goodell sent a warning letter to NFL players and staff that the issue of impaired driving is looming large on the NFL’s radar. In the letter, which reminded teams and players of the tragic consequences of driving drunk, Goodell added; “Every negative incident undermines the respect we have earned from our fans, erodes the confidence of our business partners and threatens the continued success of the league”. Also, in the aftermath of eight player arrests since January, Goodell instructed teams to finish up spring mini-camps with an emphasis on DUIs and the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy.
There seems to be a pretty wide range of actions the NFL has taken regarding DUIs. In 2007 Chief’s DE Jared Allen received a 2 game suspension and lost an additional game check resulting from two DUI arrests. In 2010 Jets receiver Braylon Edwards got off relatively easy with just a $50K fine from the NFL. However, Browns receiver Donte Stallworth sat out the entire 2009 season after his conviction for DUI manslaughter for which he also served 24 days in jail.
The NFL Players Association contends the maximum for a first-time DUI offense is no suspension and two game checks totaling no more than $50K, but the NFL has been pushing for harsher punishments for drug and alcohol related infractions. So, first offense, no suspension – Got it! Just one little problem…or two. Even though this is Lynch’s first DUI arrest, it’s not his first brush with the law. He had two prior arrests as a Buffalo Bills player; one involving illegal firearms and the other a hit and run in which he contended he didn’t know he had hit someone. These two incidents are thought to be the main reason the Bills decided to send Lynch packing, much to the Seahawks benefit. How will these other two arrests figure in Goodell’s decision? That’s the big unknown in this.
Are there any mitigating circumstances? Lynch has enjoyed a career resurgence and a fat new contract in Seattle, largely on the strength of his good behavior and…(drum roll please!) “The Run” v.s. New Orleans in the 2010 playoffs also known in Seattle football lore as the “Beast Quake” due to the earth quake registered at the UW seismology lab by wildly jumping fans. Working in Lynch’s favor is the fact he’s 1. Had relatively good behavior the last three years, 2. This is his first DUI, 3. He was in town supporting a charity at the time of his arrest, 4. He’s become a fan favorite.
Then again, we are talking about Roger Goodell, who surprised everyone with the unexpectedly harsh suspensions he handed out to members of the New Orleans Saints staff and players in the bounty scandal. My guess is Lynch will be fined $50K and given no suspension. The key unknown is how much weight Goodell will put on those previous infractions…and how he feels about a player disregarding his warning. If Goodell wants to send his own “Beast Quake” through the league “Beast Mode” could start the season in “Sit Mode”.
(What a Lynch suspension could mean to the Seahawks, and Lynch’s backup Robert Turbin is explored elsewhere on 12th Man Rising).