The incident that ultimately led to Jerome Felton's three-game suspension -- a drunken-driving arrest in the parking lot of a McDonald's in Eden Prairie, Minn. -- came more than 14 months before he was finally disciplined by the league. The NFL notified Felton it had rejected his appeal at roughly the same time it announced the suspension to the public yesterday, and the decision will cost the Pro Bowl fullback $150,000 of the $850,000 he was scheduled to make this season.
But suppose the NFL had moved quicker, levying punishment to Felton months after his arrest last summer. Maybe he doesn't catch on with the Vikings -- his fourth team in three seasons -- and sticks with the team through camp after signing with them in March. Maybe he gets a late start paving the way for Adrian Peterson to chase Eric Dickerson, and maybe his work doesn't garner enough attention to send Felton to the Pro Bowl in February. And maybe the Vikings aren't as interested in keeping Felton as they turned out to be this spring, when they made him one of the league's highest-paid fullbacks with a three-year, $7.5 million deal.
"If something had happened sooner, maybe we would have not had the chance to get the returns we had a season ago," coach Leslie Frazier said. "So hypothetically, and potentially, yes (the delay helped him)."
By all accounts, Felton has fit in splendidly with the Vikings, one of the few teams that would place so much value in a full-time blocking back. He has talked about finally feeling wanted in Minnesota, and his gratitude to the Vikings for sticking with him has helped Felton stay out of trouble since then. He'll serve his time now, and the Vikings will have to survive a difficult stretch to open the season without him.
But when he gets back, Felton will have a defined role and a team excited to have him on the field. In some ways, that might have been a gift from the slow pace of the league's deliberations.