Daily mailbag: The value of a 'message'

July, 5, 2012
7/05/12
9:55
AM ET
I usually don't post and/or react to anonymous comments, but someone out there sent a strong counterargument to Monday's post on whether the Detroit Lions should release cornerback Aaron Berry as discipline for his arrest last month.

As you recall, I suggested it would be a hollow gesture unless the Lions made clear they would release all players who were arrested moving forward. And we all know there are some Lions players, as with any team, who are untouchable.

The response:
"The Lions would absolutely NOT have to handle a Matthew Stafford arrest the same way. The NFL is not a democracy. Life is not fair. Some players are treated differently. If [former Minnesota Vikings cornerback] Cedric Griffin would have demanded a pay raise and wanted to skip OTA's/minicamp in 2009, would he have been able to? Absolutely not. But Brett Favre could. If (insert lesser Pittsburgh Steelers player) had gotten in the same trouble as Ben Roethlisberger, would they still be on the team? Maybe not.

"Players absolutely do not have to be treated the same way.

"But here's what you missed: Releasing Berry is NOT just about 'scaring' other players. It's about sending a message that 'We won't tolerate this'. It doesn't mean, 'We will release anyone that does this,' only that they will take SOME action. If Matt Stafford gets a DUI, he knows he won't be released. But releasing Berry may make him think twice because the Lions could do SOMETHING to him. And regardless, he'd have to worry about discipline from the NFL."

To me, this response boils down to this: something must be done, because doing nothing hasn't worked. And to be honest, I have argued in the past that NFL teams are justified in treating some players differently than others. Favre is a prime example. His rules should have been different than, say, Cedric Griffin's. That's how the world turns.

Further, I've seen this before. In his first summer as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, Brad Childress followed through on promises to be tough on the team's notorious off-field behavior. He quickly released receiver Koren Robinson, his presumptive No. 1 receiver, after a drunken driving arrest -- long before the judicial system or NFL made any kind of ruling. Whether it was by chance or a legitimate consequence, what followed was a long stretch of relatively good off-field behavior.

Would releasing Berry shake up the Lions' roster sufficiently to cool its proverbial jets? My gut tells me it looks better on paper than in practice, but our responder has made one unquestionably accurate assertion: What the Lions have done so far hasn't worked. The debate is not whether it's time to go to Plan B, but what Plan B should entail.

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