Time isn’t right for Brent to be near Cowboys

In light of what happened Friday morning in Newtown, Conn., I had a tough time mustering too much indignation over Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent showing up on the sideline of a nationally-televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It was certainly inappropriate that a player accused of intoxication manslaughter related to the death of his teammate and close friend Jerry Brown Jr. would be anywhere near a sideline only eight days after the tragic incident.

And we’ve since found out that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett were just as surprised as everyone else to see Brent arrive at the game.

In retrospect, a representative from the Cowboys should have quickly ushered Brent away from the sideline. They could’ve taken him to a suite or some other location where he wouldn’t have been on such public display.

Brent didn’t want to be at the game, but he was persuaded by his teammates to show up. Cowboys players had been asked by Brown’s mother, Stacey Jackson, not to turn their backs on Brent. Her message of forgiveness and grace in the face of tragedy was remarkable, and players thought they were simply honoring her wishes to invite Brent to the game.

“It becomes a real sensitive topic to a lot of people when you’re in a public place like the game,” Garrett said Monday. “There were no bad intentions other than to support Josh as part of our football team. This is a game and you need to be here. That’s what our players wanted to convey to him and they really encouraged him to come to the game.

“I thought Josh handled it beautifully the way that he came and then when he felt like there were some issues, he felt the right thing to do was to leave. But we’re going to support him in every way that we can. We also will be sensitive to this kind of issue.”

On Tuesday, it was reported that Brent has been barred from the sideline for the remainder of the season. And quite honestly, there’s no reason for him to even be in the building.

His teammates and coaches can continue to be a presence in his life, but that needs to happen privately. Garrett actually called Brent on Saturday to see how he was doing, but apparently Brent never mentioned that he might be attending the next day’s game.

A player on injured reserve convinced Brent that his teammates wanted him there, so he reluctantly accepted a ride to Cowboys Stadium.

It’s pretty easy to understand what’s going on here. Several of Brent’s teammates were out with him and Brown in the hours leading up to the accident. They probably realize that it could have been them at the wheel instead of Brent.

It’s impossible to ask players to stop caring about a teammate based on him making an incredibly poor decision. But there’s only so much they can do for Brent at this point.

We can only hope and pray this will eventually be a tale of redemption for Brent. But that’s something that will have to unfold over the next several years. In their desire to help Brent, his teammates put him — and the Cowboys organization — in a tricky spot Sunday.

Maybe there will come a time when it’s appropriate for Brent to be on the sideline with his teammates. But we’re a long way from that at this point.