Thursday, March 2, 2017

Combine ethics 101

It's NFL combine week in Indianapolis, the second greatest orgy of over-thinking outside of the NFL Draft itself, when players are prized or not prized according to things like whether or not they have tight skin.

(No, really. I once heard a draft analyst speak glowingly of former Colts defensive back Marlin Jackson because he had "tight skin." It was as if he were speaking Klingon).

Anyway, now come shuttle runs and vertical leaps and 40-yard dash times for offensive linemen who'll never be called upon to run 40 yards in their entire NFL careers. Now come the Wonderlic and one-on-one interviews with team personnel, in which prospects will be asked weird and irrelevant questions that reveal a lot more about the people asking the questions than the people answering them.

At some point, relevant questions might get asked. Like, I don't know, how you feel about punching women in the face.

The post-Ray Rice NFL has allegedly gotten religion on such matters, which is why, among others with character issues, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon was not invited to the combine. Mixon's a heck of a running back, by all accounts. He's also a 6-foot-1, 227-pound football player who got into an altercation with a young woman in a bar in 2014, and decided the way to deal with it was to punch her in the face.

At least one NFL GM seems willing to overlook that.

"Some of that stuff that's out on him, it's pretty ... it's out there," Lions GM Bob Quinn told my former colleague Michael Rothstein of ESPN, lamenting Mixon's exclusion from the combine. "Everyone can look at the video and [see] exactly what happened. What we really don't know is what were the circumstances around that."

I'm sorry, but ... the circumstances around that?

OK, one more time: A 6-foot-1, 227-pound football player punched a woman in the face. He broke her jaw, eye socket and cheekbone. And, yes, she slapped him first. She also may or may not have  called him a racial slur.

You know what?

It doesn't matter.

It doesn't matter what she called him. It doesn't matter that she slapped him. It doesn't matter what extreme provocation there might have been. If you're a 6-foot-1, 227-pound football player -- if you're any male -- you walk away. And you walk away because you don't hit women.

Ever. Ev-er.

The circumstances around that?

Like so much else at the combine, it's irrelevant.

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