Never one to give the media any credit, or a break, Ravens coach Brian Billick asked the media to “get all of the facts” before passing judgment, “although I know you won’t,” he added. Billick started his career in the NFL in the PR department so he thinks he knows how to manage the news he wants out on his team. The problem is, Billick hasn’t dealt with that many criminals in purple and black. He did have his Ray Lewis experience, but somehow, Lewis’ culpability in the Atlanta murder hasn’t taken the shine off his star in the league. Maybe he’s reformed, maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the general lingering impression is that he got off.
It’s been widely reported that running back Jamal Lewis will accept a plea bargain this week that will carry 4-6 months in jail for possession of drugs with intent to distribute. Lewis allegedly committed this crime in the time after he was at Tennessee and before he joined the Ravens. The original charge carried with it a potential of a ten year prison sentence. With that hanging over his head, and the publicity a trial would bring, Lewis decided to accept the jail time and get it over with.
Somehow, in a twisted way, some people think that makes his crime OK.
But it doesn’t.
If in fact Lewis does plead guilty to the crime, he should face serious punishment from the NFL. He’s supposed to serve his time in the NFL’s off season. How does that make it any better? IF he had a regular job, would it be waiting for him when he returned? I don’t know the answer to that question, but the league’s punishment should send a strong message throughout the NFL. There’s talk of a four or six game suspension, but that’s just not enough.
I couldn’t help but think about that while watching the Kansas City/Baltimore game on Monday night. Here’s a guy who’s a major star in the league. One of only five players to gain more than 2,000 yards in a season. He’s celebrated as one of the examples of what a good football player should be: big, tough and fast. But how can the league allow him to continue to play this year as a convicted felon and hold him up as an example of who fans should pay to come see? Paul Tagliabue needs to sit him down until after he serves his time. I’m a believer in bringing guys back into society after they’ve served. Once that happens, let him be judged on his merits. But to allow him to play the season while waiting to go to jail would be ridiculous. Even Ravens fans couldn’t cheer with a straight face.