Lockout isn’t cause for player arrests

One has added two separate run-ins with New Jersey police to his rap sheet.

Another could have his burgeoning career cut short by a felony weapons charge.

And there’s the suspended defensive end who squandered his chance to rejoin the defending Super Bowl champions with yet another drug offense.

But these three knuckleheads — Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt, Tampa Bay cornerback Aqib Talib and Green Bay’s Johnny Jolly — aren’t the biggest offseason stories when it comes to players running afoul of the law.

What is? The fact so many others have avoided trouble despite having ample free time on their hands.

Cynics believed the NFL player lockout would generate the kind of lawlessness reserved for America’s Most Wanted. The lack of team-sponsored workout programs and NFL-mandated drug testing would provide irresistible temptations to young men who already face plenty when the league is operating normally.

Instead, it’s business as usual even though the NFL labor situation is anything but.

Since the lockout began March 11, 16 players have gotten involved in legal scrapes. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s NFL arrests database, that is one less player than during the same period in 2010.

To further put these numbers in perspective, only one of every 160 players on NFL rosters at the time of the lockout has had a subsequent arrest or citation. That translates to less than one percent in a league with 2,560 active players.

Such a figure is lower than what the general populace averaged in the most recent set of complete crime data compiled by the FBI. With the exception of 35-year-old Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel — who is charged with stealing eight bottles of beer from an Indiana casino — the ages of NFL players cited this offseason ranges from 22 to 29. The overall number of US males arrested in that same bracket stood at 3.2 percent for 2009.

There also isn’t a major spike in NFL drug arrests even though the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s expiration led to cessation of offseason testing for recreational and performance-enhancing substances. There were two marijuana-related arrests: Indianapolis running back Javarris James (possession) and Britt, who faces two charges of resisting arrest after allegedly trying to conceal the drug when confronted by police. Jolly also was arrested again on codeine-related charges, which is likely to indefinitely extend the NFL suspension he received in June 2010.

This isn’t to say that every NFL player is clean, but anyone using an illegal substance runs the risk of testing positive once the lockout ends and testing program quickly resumes.

Beyond legal ramifications for cited players, other punishment may be meted by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Some players were outraged when FOXSports.com first reported that Goodell plans to enforce the league’s personal conduct policy and possibly levy suspensions and fines for offseason infractions even though the NFL instituted the lockout.

But what should Goodell have said? That there would be no accountability until the work stoppage ends? He’s too smart to head down that road.

Whether the threat of reprimand actually made some players think twice and avoid making a bad decision is debatable. But this isn’t: The overwhelming majority has nothing to worry about. They’re already doing the right thing.

Some are going above and beyond getting ready for the 2011 season. Miami Dolphins wide receiver Davone Bess used his free time during the lockout for a mission to Costa Rica. He chopped trees and dug ditches for villagers as part of a Global Volunteers campaign. Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander focused on growing his non-profit foundation (ACES) through charity events like a bike ride and bowling. A slew of others players also continued to participate in functions established well before the lockout began.

There will always be those who only see the stains on the NFL shield left behind by deviants. This is especially true when the transgressions committed by those like Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick are so heinous. But as reinforced this offseason, the logo shines brightly when comparing the overall good deeds of players to the transgressions of a foolish few.

That reminder also might be the only good thing to come from this lockout.