Redemption for pros this season

Dogfighting, drugs, sexual assault. How about just losing your edge? This is what is associated with some of the NFL’s biggest and most tarnished stars. But these players aren’t fading away like a post-supernova red dwarf. They are back on the field, out to earn all the love and fame they lost.

Michael Vick jerseys used to be the biggest seller among NFL merchandise. In 2007, he  left Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for a prison cell in Leavenworth, Kan., charged with dogfighting. But in 2009 he came back to football, as the second string quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. This year, after an injury to Kevin Kolb, he was starting again. He was sensational in his first start, throwing for 284 yards and two touchdowns. Kolb is healthy again, but Vick is staying under center.

The New York Jets are a team filled with second-chancers. Their story is so intriguing, HBO is producing a reality series called Hard Knocks about them. Coach Rex Ryan has assembled a team ready to make a playoff run after a strong showing last year.

Veterans like Jason Taylor and Anthony Cromartie could be past their prime, but Ryan believes in them.

He also added former MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. The running back is fourth all time in rushing yards. The San Diego Chargers let him go after a poor season last year, but he is already racking up yards with the Jets.

Receiver Santanio Holmes is waiting to play after being suspended for drug use. He became immortalized for the making the winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII. The man who threw that pass to him is also waiting for the end of Holmes’ suspension.

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a young woman in a Georgia nightclub this summer. While charges were dropped, Roethlisberger still has to serve a four game suspension. But his Steelers are 3-1 without him and Pittsburgh fans are willing to forgive the two time Super Bowl winning quarterback for a chance at another championship.

Is this the year for redemption in the NFL? Jets receiver Braylon Edwards hopes so after he was charged with a DWI Sept. 21. Every year, football players run into trouble more than endzones. In 2008, Plaxico Burris shot himself in the leg and is sitting in jail. He didn’t have a permit for the gun that he was carrying in his sweatpants. But Burris will be back, just like the rest of these NFL thugs.

What else do players know? Some spent high school and college getting away with things because of the jerseys on their backs. The University of North Carolina was under scrutiny after many players were accused of academic fraud. Schools are regularly called into question because athletes are not meeting the academic or behavioral standards for students.

But football fans are forgiving as long as players produce. Owners love the money those happy fans spend.

The American public may also be forgiving; just ask Bill Clinton or music phenomenon Haley Williams. She accidentally uploaded a topless photo of herself to Twitter this summer. Since then, she has had two songs on the Billboard Charts top ten.

Redemption and second chances are a great thing. America was built on the promise of a clean slate. But athletes and superstars are gracing posters on kid’s bedroom walls. These idols should still be held to a high standard because they influence the behavior of their young fans.

Maybe it’s time for coaches and owners to stop giving second chances to trouble makers in the NFL. Everyone loves a story of redemption, but how many felonies and misdemeanors should be so lovingly forgiven?

Author: Evan Duncan

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