Battles Continue Beyond The Gridiron

By Carla Peay
Updated: December 14, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A little more than a year ago, Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor was murdered in his home — shot by intruders in what appeared to be a bungled robbery attempt.

The team honored Taylor by placing his name in the team’s Ring of Fame back on November 30th. But while remembering the tragedy of a life cut short by gun violence touched all who honor Taylor’s memory, the stories of violence continue.

On September 2nd, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier and teammate Kenny Pettway were waiting outside a club for two women, when Collier was shot 14 times. Collier’s injuries left him paralyzed from the waist down, and required an above the knee amputation of his left leg.

“I remember the bullets being fired. My first thoughts were just to survive. Next thing I remember was being in the ambulance and counting the bullet wounds. It was like a movie; it was so surreal,” Collier said in an interview with ESPN.

Collier was apparently targeted by a man he had had an altercation with several months earlier, who is now in custody on charges of attempted murder.

Then there is the tale of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, who accidentally shot himself in the leg when the loaded gun he was carrying went off, while he and Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce were in a New York club on November 28.

Fortunately for Burress, his wounds were not life-threatening and he turned himself in to police custody. He now faces charges of criminal possession of an unlicensed handgun and is scheduled to appear in court on March 31, 2009 to enter a plea.

The Giants have suspended him for the remainder of the season.

Despite his superior talent on the football field, Burress is a repeat offender, the recipient of multiple fines and suspensions, including two domestic disturbance calls which resulted in temporary restraining orders, which were later dismissed. At age 31, Burress’ career may be over.

But the most disturbing tale of all is the sad ending to the story of O.J. Simpson. Once a brilliant running back, and one of the first players to transcend sports in terms of off the field marketability, the Simpson chapter reached its final conclusion when he was sentenced on December 4 for armed robbery.

Judge Jackie Glass sentenced Simpson to a prison term that could last as many as 33 years, although he is eligible for parole in nine years. Here’s guessing he won’t get it.

A tearful Simpson explained that he was simply trying to retrieve personal property that had been stolen from him when he and two associates entered a Las Vegas hotel room in September 2007 and robbed two dealers at gunpoint.

“I’m not here to try and cause any retribution or any payback for anything else,” Glass said, clearly referring to Simpson’s acquittal on double murder charges 13 years ago.

But the two cases are as inexplicably linked as are football players and violence. Sometimes, players are clearly targeted by people who know that many players carry huge amounts of cash and wear expensive jewelry, and see an opportunity to rob the equivalent of a walking ATM.

But just as often, players set themselves up as targets, with behavior that, while legal, certainly isn’t smart or prudent. Witness the behavior of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who was suspended all of last season for repeated off the field offenses.

Pacman, who never passed a strip club he couldn’t stay out of, was involved in a shooting at a Las Vegas strip club that resulted in a man being paralyzed.

Those of us who are sickened and saddened by this violence hope that one of these incidents becomes a cautionary tale, one that helps bring about a reduction, or even an elimination of these kinds of tragedies.

But it’s not a cautionary tale — just an ongoing one.