GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 07: Josh Brent of the Dallas Cowboys sits on the bench during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 7, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
In the wake of the second tragedy in as many weeks for the NFL, players past and present are being quite candid in their reactions to Jerry Brown‘s death.
After Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent was arrested for driving drunk and crashing his car — killing Brown in the process — a surprising number of NFLers have come forward to admit that DUIs are all too common.
“We’ve all done it,” veteran Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes told the USA Today. “But it’s to a point now where maybe you were ignorant and didn’t know any better or felt you were invincible. We’ve had enough of death to show us this is what you do not do. It’s bigger than you. Somebody else is always affected.”
Steelers linebacker Larry Foote agreed with Spikes’ take, admitting that he too has driven under the influence in the past.
“Alcohol is nobody’s friend,” Foote declared. “The last two weeks there’s been two deaths in this league because of alcohol. Guys have to grow up, mature and understand that these are examples. … There isn’t anything good that comes from alcohol — period.”
On NBC’s Sunday Night Football, former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison discussed a culture of invincibility that exists around the players, causing many to ignore the dangers of alcohol.
“At 25 years old, I’ll have to admit, I was a guy who went out,” Harrison said. “I partied on Friday. I had three or four drinks, and I got behind the wheel and drove home. Why? Because I thought I felt invincible. ‘Oh, nothing would happen to me.’ But the older I got I started gaining perspective. I started realizing what was important. Suddenly, I became that guy who would preach to the younger players about family, about career and about the dangers of DUI.”
It’s not just up to the players to police themselves, though. Each NFL team holds a mandatory education program every year, stressing the dangers of drugs and alcohol as part of the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Longtime NFL coach Tony Dungy summed up a coach’s fear that the education is not enough, though. After all, his players’ decision-making away from the team is out of his control.
“You just constantly preach to them all year — make good decisions,” he explained. “Every Friday I used to tell our team after practice, ‘Be smart, get home early, don’t drink and drive.’ But you come in Saturday morning, and every coach says this, not just me, but you come in Saturday morning and you just hope everyone gets there.”