Are NFL safeguards enough?
Fatal crash puts spotlight on the need to emphasize accident prevention.
IRVING — San Francisco 49ers defensive end Demarcus Dobbs walked away from a one-vehicle accident on his 25th birthday last month and was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Less than two weeks later, with the NFL rocked by the car crash that killed Dallas Cowboys player Jerry Brown and left his teammate, Josh Brent, facing a manslaughter charge, Dobbs swears he’ll find another way home whenever he does too much partying.
“I’m never going to put myself in that situation ever again,” he said.
This is, of course, exactly what the NFL, its teams and the players’ union wants to hear amid fresh questions about whether all the warnings and safety nets — because players in most of the major sports leagues arguably have more than the general public — will ever be enough to prevent accidents and deaths.
“There’s a lot of pressure being in the NFL ... but it’s no excuse for bad decisions,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said. “Players have a lot of options, tools at their disposal, that they need to take advantage of, but it comes down to individuals making good decisions.”
Brown’s death on Saturday and the arrest of defensive tackle Josh Brent after police say he caused the fatal wreck by speeding and driving drunk put the NFL Players Association’s safe ride program back in the spotlight. It was revamped three years ago after concerns that enough players weren’t using it.
Union spokesman Carl Francis said the program is a strong point of emphasis, and every player’s membership card includes the contact information. And CEO John Glavin of Florida-based Corporate Security Solutions Inc., which runs the program, said he is happy with how the union gets the word out on the program.
He also stressed the confidentiality of the program, saying the company doesn’t even tell the union when players call for rides.
Jacksonville cornerback CB Rashean Mathis, the team’s union representative, said players rarely, if ever, use the program.
“Confidentiality is the problem,” Mathis said. “Guys are going to go out and have fun. We’re just like the regular guy that works a 9-to-5 job. On a Friday night, he goes out and has some beer. It’s not the best-case scenario, but it happens in life.”
To use the program, players can either work in advance to set up a full night with a driver or make a call for a ride home. The brochure says most response times are less than an hour. The program is available all year, and Glavin said his company also serves the NBA and NHL.
In Major League Baseball, designated drivers are available to players and fans through the teams, and the players have access to a confidential program that will take them wherever they need to go.
In the NFL, some teams rely solely on the NFLPA’s program, while others have an additional system. In Cincinnati, the Bengals pay a company to make two drivers available when an employee calls. One drives the caller home, and the other follows in the employee’s vehicle.
Last summer, the NFL held its 15th annual rookie orientation, which includes a number of life skills sessions.
For the first time, separate sessions were held for the AFC and NFC to make the groups smaller, and current and former players were brought in as speakers, including Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick and Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones. Both have had high-profile legal problems, with Vick spending time in prison in a dogfighting case.
Tire skid marks remain after a wreck Saturday in which Dallas Cowboys practice squad member Jerry Brown was killed. The Cowboys’ Josh Brent was charged