Rams welcome Dunbar back after PED suspension with open arms -- but why?
In true NFL fashion, Rams' Dunbar received a warm post-suspension welcome. But is it right?
By BEN FREDERICKSONFS Midwest
ST. LOUIS -- Looking back now at the handwringing that took place on August 14 when the NFL suspended
Rams starting outside linebacker
Jo-Lonn Dunbar for cheating, the hearty welcome the defensive sledgehammer received upon his return on Tuesday seemed sort of odd.
It probably shouldn't have.
This is how the NFL rolls. A guy can pump himself with more steroids than a factory chicken, get caught, do his time and return to hugs and handshakes while a Major League Baseball player in the same situation would still be getting spanked for sullying The Integrity Of The Game. You could write a thesis about why that difference exists, or you could just accept the fact we make it easy on football players. Just look at Dunbar.
"First and foremost, we are very, very disappointed in his choices and his decisions," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said way back when the suspension came down. "It's selfish."
The coach seemed peeved enough to cut Dunbar from his roster on September 3. At the same time he hinted veteran linebacker Will Witherspoon could potentially be a starter longterm. That tune has since changed. The Rams re-signed Dunbar on Tuesday, releasing offensive tackle Max Starks to make room.
"We're excited," Fisher said. "We're glad to have him. Good timing."
Good timing, indeed. Witherspoon was injured in the limping Rams' most recent loss and was limited in practices this week. Sometimes a desperate team can learn to look at a situation in a different light.
"It helps a lot," Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton said of Dunbar's return. "He brings great energy. He understands the defense. He brings great toughness. We welcome him back. It's going to be great to have him back out there flying around."
The Rams (1-3) surely feel they can't stick up their nose at available assistance. This is a business when it comes down to it, and business has not been good so far this season. They rank 24th in yards surrendered per game (387.2) and 28th in points allowed (30.2). Last Thursday, San Francisco running back
Frank Gore thrashed St. Louis for 153 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Dunbar, who started 16 games last year and finished second on the team in tackles, will tell you he plans to help change those numbers now that he's back.
"I was thinking we should be doing something about that," he said. "I don't know exactly what was going on. Obviously I wasn't here to be able to give you a better answer, but I was just thinking our defense is better than that. I've seen them shut Gore down, contain Gore for lack of a better word. I know that this defense can play better in run support and in the passing game. Like I said, it's just something we have to prove."
But one thing Dunbar has failed to prove is why we should believe his story. He has asked us to buy into his innocence without a clear explanation. He told reporters he had not taken performance enhancing drugs, yet declined to discuss how he failed a test.
That's thinking too much, though, probably. This is the NFL and that stuff mentioned above is old news. Let's just forget about it, OK?
The Rams sure seemed to.
Follow Ben Frederickson on Twitter (@Ben_Fred), or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org