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NFL Unfiltered Week 4: Does Aldon Smith's actions make us hypocrites?

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Every time a player is involved in an off-the-field incident, the morality police spew vitriol about the appropriate way to handle the transgression.  

Almost immediately, they rush to judgment and demand the player involved is benched.  

Recently, San Francisco 49ers’ linebacker Aldon Smith crashed his vehicle into a tree under suspicion of driving while intoxicated.  That, along with his willingness to check himself into a rehabilitation center, means Smith likely has a drinking problem.  

However, this isn’t about Smith’s latest brush with the law or the depth of his alcohol issues.  This is about our collective hypocrisy, our love affair with the NFL, despite the crimes of its participants.  In a sport where players willingly ingest painkillers just to practice, why shouldn’t an otherwise healthy Smith play two days after a single-car accident?  Especially, when you’re as valuable as Smith is to the 49ers.   Photo: blog.sfgate.com

Why isn’t there an outcry when a team allows a player to participate in multiple games with a catheter?  Why isn’t there more concern because players are offered—and willingly consume —heavy narcotics to alleviate pain?  Addiction to prescription drugs is a part of the NFL’s fabric, but nobody is suggesting players miss games because of too many injections.  

This is not meant to make light of Smith’s penchant for alcohol or the idiocy of driving under the influence.  It is a problem … for Smith and the 49ers.  Still, it has no bearing on my enjoyment of pro football.

Perhaps my perspective is jaded, but what is the alternative, stop watching?  In truth, this is not a new phenomenon. There are always a small minority of lawbreakers in the NFL. Though it isn’t necessary to recount every specific incident, it’s clear murder, rape, wife beating, racketeering and animal cruelty are part of the league’s culture, just as it is a part of the rest of society.

As for Smith, you could argue the 49ers handled his situation poorly by letting him play against the Colts.  It’s possible analysts like ESPN’s Mike Ditka and Herm Edwards are right in saying the 49ers’ made a mistake.  

Maybe the 49ers did send the wrong message like many suggested, but the question is, to whom?  It isn’t his teammates because they know he gave them their best chance to win.  It isn’t the fans because despite activity on the police blotter, the game is supremely popular.  

Ask yourself, do you know anyone who is less interested in pro football than they were before former Rams’ defensive end Leonard Little killed Susan Gutweiler in a drunk-driving accident in 1998? In actuality, television ratings and league revenues are way up since then because of our increased interest in the game.

There is no question the 49ers’ took a bit of a public relations hit by playing Smith. However, they won’t relate to the public if they finish 6-10, either.  They are in the business of winning football games, so we should applaud their honesty.  

Maybe a day will arrive when the country turns away from the NFL because of too much unruly and dangerous behavior by players.  Nevertheless, that is not today.

So let’s stop pretending we really care about these men as they literally take years off their lives for our enjoyment.  Let’s at least acknowledge that Aldon Smith playing football two days after crashing into a tree satisfies everyone’s needs, including Smith’s.

There’s nothing wrong with that.    

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 4

-RGIII is quite possibly damaged goods but he’s still better than Sam Bradford.  The experts lauded the Rams for their ability to manipulate the 2011 draft by parlaying the 2nd pick overall into three 1st round picks and a 2nd round pick.  Now, they desperately need a quarterback and have to hope they find one this off-season.  Still, no matter whom they acquire, he won’t be as good as RGIII was in 2011.  That one trade, considered smart by NFL insiders, could take the Rams five years to fix.  

-When you consider Steve McNair quarterbacked Jeff Fisher’s most successful teams, it makes his settling for Bradford that much more baffling.  

-I don’t need to know Colin Kaepernick’s schedule to know he has better things to do than worry about Twitter criticism.  It’s time to toughen up youngster, because this is your life for the next decade … if you’re lucky.Kaepernick photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times

-While calling the Bengals/Browns game, longtime broadcaster Marv Albert called Joe Haden one of the best “cover corners” in the NFL.  Haden is a nice player, but aren’t all corners required to cover nowadays?  

-Chip Kelly finds himself in a place he has never been in his coaching career.  He fashions himself a smart offensive mind, yet he is making dumb decisions and his team isn’t scoring.  As I said when the Eagles hired him, Kelly is going to have choices. He belongs in college, and I suspect he didn’t know that for sure until right now.  

-Like running backs who fumble, history indicates coaches who manage games poorly do so throughout their careers.  After three blatant errors in the last three games, Kelly looks like Herm Edwards without the division titles and playoff wins.  

-For those who like Matt Schaub but dislike Jay Cutler, they’re essentially the same guy.  The difference is, Schaub seems likable.

-Sometimes the personnel and philosophy don’t match, but sometimes the philosophy has to change regardless of personnel.  The Falcons are where they are because they think Matt Ryan is Dan Marino.  He isn’t. In reality, they should coach him like the Cowboys coached Troy Aikman.  

-Because he looks the part, NFL experts want Ryan Tannehill to succeed so they are slow to criticize him.  His poor decisions aren’t as magnified as Cam Newton’s, but both are underachieving. 

 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention. His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

 

Contact Earl at emyersiii@gmail.com  and follow him on Twitter @EMyersIII

 

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Photo: blog.sfgate.com

Kaepernick photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times