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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Teams unable to head off problem players

I was talking to an NFL security official today and the conversation about Michael Vick came up.

First of all the security guy told me he is very interested in this mess Vick has gotten himself in because it will pose a classic legal match. You should know that federal authorities have brought this indictment against the Falcons QB and, facts are, federal prosecutors don't usually do this unless they're practically certain they're going to win in court.

The conviction rate, apparently, in federal courts is something like 85 percent or higher. That spells bad news for Vick.

Beyond that, there isn't much wiggle room in sentencing. Federal sentencing guidelines are strict and demand the convicted serve at least 85 percent of the sentence -- so forget about judicial leniency.

On Vick's side is the fact he does have a great amount of money to mount a vigorous, expert defense. That will help him. It will also be hard for prosecutors to rehabilitate witnesses testifying against Vick in exchange for amnesty or lessened jail time of their own.

So how does this affect YOUR Miami Dolphins?

Well, I asked the security chief why it is the Atlanta Falcons didn't have a good idea this was going on with their star QB. I asked him why a team like the Dolphins would do nearly 400 background checks in preparing for the draft, but wouldn't have some players investigated, indeed, even followed to protect their own best interest.

Here's the very simple answer: Most team hire one security investigator and that guy cannot follow 60 guys around every day. Most teams, including the Dolphins, seem woefully undermanned in their investigation department. They are living in another era when stuff like this either didn't happen as much or simply didn't come to the light of public scrutiny as much.

Most teams have one guy -- one -- manning their security investigation department. That guy is a resource after the fact of an arrest or indictment, but isn't really equipped to prevent anything.

Now the NFL does have a security department that apparently deals in pre-emptive investigations based on information from sources or law enforcement. But even that department can't keep tabs on nearly 2,000 players.

So in the future, if you think your team can head off something as embarrassing -- not to mention sickening -- as the allegations against Vick with a little gumshoe work, you are mistaken.

In the future, when you ask yourself, how is it the Dolphins could be fooled not once, but twice on Ricky Williams, well, now you know.

Your thoughts?

26 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

you mean "conviction" rate, not "prosecution" rate

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have any idea what you are talking about. The issue is how or why the NFL has made itself into a extralegal entity which prosecutes guys who havent broken the law, like Ricky Williams who has never been arrested, much less convicted of any crime. And then it finds itself confronted with the Michael Vick situation. This is a guy who has been caught in an airport with drugs and now tortures dogs but the NFL is wondering what to do.

I say let the law handle the legal issues and let the NFL govern football.

9:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless it involves cheating with performance enhancing drugs.

10:16 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

This whole thing about team's having a security investigator along with the recent Olsen incident got me wondering if teams also have a team psychologist. To help deal with things like anger management and depression. Just wondering.

10:44 PM  
Blogger Armando Salguero said...

I stand corrected. It should indeed read conviction rate and now does.

And yes, I have a very good idea what I'm talking about. The NFL doesn't prosecute or CONVICT anyone. But the collective bargaining agreement, which the players approved, gives the league and clubs the right to discipline its players and the commissioner has vast powers to deal with problematic players.

In that regard, the NFL is indeed governing football.

11:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tell the Dolphins to subscribe to Choicepoint Autotrack a service that for the right $$$ provides more personal information then most Americans realize including criminal past....Im a Fed and we use it often!

MiamiTrish

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pfft. You could have 700 security guys following Ricky. You still won't catch him taking a bong hit in his house. I think your comparison is completely silly.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Porthos said...

I guess one could encourage proactive security personnel with the idea of "protecting your investment", but that's still reactionary.

The bigger issue is why do people make bad choices, even when they have so much going right? Why can't some people stay out of trouble? Why do seem people seem to relish breaking the law, hurting themselves and those around them?

Suppose the Falcons had found out about Vick's hobby first. Then what? Do they have the ability to truly reform him (And make no mistake, his issue is deep-seated)?

Or would they just release him? I doubt it. In the money-talks NFL, I would imagine they'd just try and cover it up and hope it goes away.

But even if they didn't, these issues--Vick, Pacman, etc--are moral failings at the core. And how is the NFL or any team equipped to answer that? We're talking "nature of man" stuff here, not just bad choices (although that's part of it).

10:10 AM  
Blogger mike said...

If the law cannot head off troubled people, what on Earth makes you think the NFL can?

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Phil in Philly said...

It would be sound business for teams to keep close tabs (read follow) some of their biggest investments around for maybe a month before the season ends to make sure everything seems kosher.

Teams make million dollar decisions in the spring about their rosters and it would make sense that those be informed decisions.

That way teams won't trade away the star backup and then find out the starting quarterback is about to go away to prison for 10 years -- yeah, I'm talking about the Atlanta Falcons.

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armando,

I understand that some of this is covered by the league's personal conduct policy. But, it bypasses due process. There are corrupt cops and mistakes made all of the time when people are accused of commiting a crime.

It just seems to me that NFL players should be afforded the same legal protections as the rest of us. No more, no less.

The legal case for testing employees for illegal drugs in most cases is a safety issue. Cops, pilots, soldiers, bus drivers, etc. I do understand that players voluntarily submit to such tests by agreeing to play in the NFL. Still, my vote, for what it is worth, is that the NFL limit its restrictions to things which directly effect the game, like steroids. I suppose they could put speed and alcohol monitors on all players cars. Cameras in their homes to make sure they don't beat the dog or the wife. Taps on their phones and computers to make sure players don't gamble. I'm sure we could think of all kinds of big brother stuff to make the players into perfect, law abiding, robots.

Thanks for your response but you and I will disagree on this issue.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Armando I will agree that NFL players should be subject to random drug tests on one condition. That our government officials are also subject to the same tests. The President and Vice President, all Governers and Mayors at least once a year. All Judges before they go into court. All Senators and Congressmen before they pass a law.

If drug test are a prerequisite for slamming your body into a 300 pound lineman I don't think it is unreasonable for it to be required for those who declare war and pass and enforce law.

11:22 AM  
Anonymous j dizzle said...

I think the NFL is overstepping thier boundries!! What happened to innocent UNTIL PROVEN guilty!!! These folks protesting and demanding he be released and drop from his endorsement deals!!! Look at what happened to Tank Johnson everyone so rawled up to see Goodell bring down the hammer no one cares about DUE PROCESS anymore?!?!?!

And to top it off who really has a pitbull for a pet?? They are vicious animals that are constantly attacking folks causing severe damage!!! If I was his teammate I'd show up to camp with a gator skin suit, snake skin shoes and replace the emblem on the front of the car with a stuffed deer head!!! just to piss the folks from P.E.T.A off!!!

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armando,

Your blog post says that "Federal laws demand the convicted serve at least 85 percent of the sentence -- so forget about judicial leniency." I don't see the connection ... just because the guideline requires that 85 perecent of a sentence be served doesn't prevent a judge from meting out a light sentence.

As to your major point, you provided good insight about the relatively light security staffs of NFL teams. (And imagine a college coach trying to police 80 scholarship football players to keep them out of legal and NCAA trouble...) This makes me wonder whether anyone can really prevent point-shaving and game fixes.

But like many posters here and civil libertarians everywhere, I don't approve of the NFL (or any employer) acting as an agent of law enforcement. I'm constantly disappointed with fans who want to see players sanctioned for off-the-field behavior. I thank God that my employer doesn't attempt to define, judge or sanction my morality.

1:21 PM  
Anonymous mike h said...

First of all Vick is as dumb as they come! I can sort of understand the 'thrill' of dogfighting. Now I don't by any means condone it, but we've all done stupid things for the rush of it.

That being said, this guy is set to make well over 100 million dollars between his football contract and various endorsements. Why would you risk it all to bet 20,000.00 on dogs?! AND have it done in your own house?!

As for the NFL governing football...if you let it go on what's next? A gun battle on the field?! Laugh and say it's ridiculous, but it's true. Look at where of some of the players come from. The 'hood'. You can take the boy out of the hood, but you can't take the hood out of the boy.

They still hang out with the same people they did when they were back there, and their habits do not change. In fact they can get worse with money.

The NFL is the biggest money maker out of all sports, and if you don't police it, it would go to trash.

p.s. Ricky has some mental issues. Leave the poor guy alone. The NFL has a strict drug policy, and it was NEVER said what he got busted taking. Even NFL doctors sympathized with him.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous NYScott said...

Who cares about this. We have 14 hours until Ginn is supposed to report to camp or be benched. My problem isn't so much with the Huzienga ultimatum as it is with Cameron telling us they drafted the Ginn family because they are good people and the "good people" are holding out! Man, Cam has got to be pissed. Ginn is going to make that pick look even worse if he doesn't report on time. GET YOUR ASS ON THE PHONE TED! Tell your moron agent to get it done! Wayne, it's too late now, you should've made a statement today saying that your words were off the cuff and there is a slide rule depending on the players value. Now you have to stick to your word or you will lose credibility. UGGHHHHH!!

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Scott Alderson said...

a person doesn't have to be accused, indicted, convicted or serve a criminal sentance to be fired, suspended or disciplined from a job. the nfl and it's teams are private corporations and have there own guidlines for continued employment and thier employees agree to this when they take jobs as players in the nfl. they are not replacing or superceding the civil/criminal statutes of local, state or federal law, they are just simply running thier business as they see fit. that is point number one and it has nothing to do with what they claim to be good citizen rules or morality judgements. they are clearly and simply acting in a way that preserves thier gross revenues which in large part comes from tv contracts. if the leagues loses value to the sponsors because all the players are embarrasing themselves as humans, then the sponsors will be embarrased too and will in turn stop giving the nfl money for the rights to broadcast the games. period. fact. end of story. undeniable.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The insanity is that otherwise sane people like Scott and Armando demand better behavior from football players than they do from ourselves or US Senators or Congressmen.

The further danger is that if the NFL can be an extralegal entity demanding legal standards without due process then what is to prevent the Miami Herald or GE or IBM from setting up their own justice system. Hopefully the Miami Herald will institute random speeding checks, phone and computer taps, and drug tests on their employees. With any luck they will catch Armando doing something illegal and we will be able to talk about how long he should be suspended.

I do not like Michael Vick but I hope he apeals this abusive policy and wins.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Again with the Ricky shots...sheesh. The guy has psychiatric issues and self medicates. Big whoop. Just because Dolphin's management, a bunch of journalists and many fans may not have the forethought or attention span to read up a little on depression, anxiety, bi-polar and personality disorders doesn't mean his behavior isn't predictable. He's a veritable poster-child for these disorders. But, of course, many of you continue to bash him for his ILLNESS. Rather than blame him for these behaviors, why not ask yourselves - and the Dolphins organization - why unrealistic expectations of Ricky never altered. And then accept that his behaviors will likely continue throughout all facets of his life. And then get over it. Unless, of course, you're just a bunch of Republicans who don't believe mental health diagnosis (or evolution) are real and assume he merely chooses to repeatedly screw up his life. Now the Vick brothers...they may fall into that catagory.

12:59 AM  
Anonymous Scott Alderson said...

in response to my insanity. i am a very low paid, blue collar cook in a pretentious little seaside resort town - and i have to pass a urine test for the right to make $9 an hour. i 100% wish that our elected officials were held to the same standards as i am held to. and if i was to be picked up from work each night by a crew of my partying friends and went strip clubbing and then returned the next day smelling like weed and had a black eye from a fight i was in, i would surely be questioned by my bosses as would anyone else in this scenario at any other job including general electric. you can't flaunt yourself in your private time to the degree that you are poorly representing your employment and causing severe disruption to your fellow employees and the reputation of your employer. i am sure that i would get a few chances and maybe the offer to get some professional help for my disprutive behavior but if it continued my job would be terminated. to think that it is insane that michael vick not be allowed to participate in his job on his company's property under his circumstances is insane. he is also still being paid to not come to work. his presence would be so hugely detrimental to the success of the falcons and his employers (the nfl also) are smart to not allow it and i can only think that the falcon fans are appreciative.

6:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems some people don't understand the point of testing for drugs (other than steroids). It doesn't have to be an issue of the legality of the drug or anything to do with due process, it's the fact that you don't want a drug addict working for you. If I run a mom and pop store and want to have drug-free employees, shouldn't I be allowed to require tests so long as the employees agreed to it when they first took the job? That's exactly what the NFL does, trying to say it's not fair or government employees should have to do it too then is overreactionary. We shouldn't want government officials to be tested because it's "not fair" to NFL players, but because we shouldn't want drug addicts making decisions that affect the whole country.

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Scott Alderson said...

i agree and wish for some sort of legislation that requires our congress to be drug addict free. but does anyone think that those humps are going to vote on that against themselves - it will never happen. the only thing they vote for themselves on is pay raises.

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its 11:42 on Friday, no update on Ginn's status, Is he a Dolphin yet?

11:41 AM  
Anonymous lacesoutdan said...

Ted Ginn has been signed.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Kurt In Tampa said...

More than just being pro football players they are American citizens. I didn't spend a significant portion of my life serving in the military defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign or domestic to see these people loose their right to privacy or due process. If the Government convicts a football player of a crime they will set a penalty that will pay their debt to society in full. By the NFL having their own investigative service (cops) and conduct policies (laws) and the comissioner (judge) setting down more penalties (sentencing) even with a grievance protocol (appeals court) it is paramount to something called Double Jepardy (being punished twice for the same crime) which is illegal.

Lay off the players, let them live their lives, only penalize them if their private life impedes them from perfoming on the field.

My 2 cents

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you are an owner spending millions in guaranteed money, then you should have enough information on a person through your staff (including background checks) to assure your investment generates a return. Pacman Jones is a classic example of a failed return. Vick has been in the league a good amount of time, but if you had the proper background check, you would build in the clauses to default the contract and get a portion of the guaranteed money back. Having one person handling your background information for a billion dollar team is ridiculous.

10:53 AM  

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