Alas, we're aware of NFL teams' awareness

July, 23, 2012
7/23/12
10:35
AM ET
These weren't the statements NFC West teams hoped to make recently:
  • From St. Louis: "The Rams and the NFL office are aware of the situation regarding Robert Quinn. We take such matters very seriously, and we will act accordingly once the legal process plays out."
  • From San Francisco: "The 49ers are aware that Aldon Smith incurred minor injuries during an incident last night. We are in contact with Aldon, and thankful that his injuries were not more serious and that he is recovering comfortably. The 49ers are also in communication with local authorities as they gather information regarding the incident, and will reserve further comment at this time."
  • From Seattle: "We are aware of the situation with Marshawn [Lynch] and still gathering information."

Quinn and Lynch face DUI-related charges. Smith suffered injuries during a party that got out of hand. Their teams responded the way teams tend to respond, by acknowleding the situations without saying much, if anything, about them.

Teams walk a fine line. They usually share the public's frustration over such incidents, but they also hope to minimize the fallout. There's no sense in rushing to judgment, either. Two years ago, the Arizona Cardinals issued a similar statement regarding a player who had been arrested in California. Their restraint was warranted; authorities dropped the charges amid suggestions the player had done nothing wrong.

The situation with Lynch appears most serious among those listed above. Three years ago, while with the Buffalo Bills, Lynch served a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy for personal conduct. Alcohol-related arrests fall under the NFL's policy for substance abuse. The distinction could be helpful in projecting likely punishment for Lynch, arguably Seattle's most important player on offense.

The NFL ultimately did not punish Lynch in 2008 for traffic violations related to a hit-and-run investigation. The league levied a three-game suspension against Lynch for gun-related violations a year later. Those violations fell under the personal conduct policy. The hit-and-run case also would have fallen under personal conduct had Lynch faced charges more serious than traffic violations.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell retains sweeping powers when it comes to player discipline. Lynch's' history of off-field incidents will likely come into play. To what degree remains less clear. On that front, you could say I'm aware of the situation and gathering information.

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