Raise your hand if you remember the extremely public ridicule that Dez Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys and their fans experienced when it was reported that the organization had implemented "The Dez Rules" during last year's off season that was to carry over into the regular season. The Cowboys implemented these rules because there had been too many incidents that Dez had been involved in that were black-eyes the wealthiest NFL franchise. Prior to the rules, Dez had been kicked out of a rather upscale mall in the Dallas area and he was arrested for assaulting his mother, which is a Class A Misdemeanor. Here are the rules (that we knew about) that Dez had to abide just weeks after the team returned from Training Camp:
- Midnight curfew; if he was going to miss his curfew, team officials had to be informed well in advance
- No Alcohol Consumption
- No Strip Clubs and if he's going to attend night clubs they establishment(s) had to be approved by the organization and had to be accompanied by a security team
- Counseling sessions twice a week
- 3 man rotating security team, 1 member of the team would always be with Dez
- Members of the security team would drive Dez to practice, games and team functions
While the rules may have seemed ridiculous, the Dallas Cowboys saw the need to protect a player, a member of their family, from himself. Keep in mind that the checkered past that Dez reportedly had, centered around his tardiness while he was a student-athlete at Oklahoma State. Additionally, there were no arrests on Dez Bryant's record while he was a student at Oklahoma State and his year long suspension from collegiate football was handed down because he lied about his friendship with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. The Dallas Cowboys established rules for a player who is still playing under his rookie-contract and he had no run-ins with law enforcement and who's mother had made some questionable - at best - life choices (See Jeff Ireland's Question to Dez). Fast forward to the end of the 2012-2013 season and Dez Bryant is easily the Cowboys' best wide receiver and offensive player, but he's arguably the team's best player.
Ten days ago, the Aaron Hernandez saga began. I remember tweeting (@RevBAJones) that there was no way that this situation was going to end well and how could it? The New England Patriots, as an organization, decided to reward Aaron Hernandez for his first two seasons as a professional football player with a 40 million-dollar deal; 40 million dollars to a player who was drafted in the 4th round, 40 million dollars to a player who came with a litany of red flags from his time at the University of Florida, 40 million dollars to a young man who's own mother said that after her husband, Aaron's father, passed away during a routine surgery when Aaron was 16, that her son began to go down a destructive path. Let me be clear, the pending trial and the charges Aaron Hernandez is accused of are not the fault of the Patriots, nor his father's passing, they are his and his alone. However, how could the Patriots leave a player with that much baggage to essentially fend for himself? It doesn't absolve him of personal responsibility, but to date, there hasn't been anything reported that the Patriots did anything to essentially protect him from himself and his past.
There are no winners and losers in this case, there are just losers; a man lost his life, another man (may have) lost his freedom and career, a team/organization has lost one of their own, a son has lost his father, a (future) wife has lost her (future) husband, etc. There's a part of me that wants to stand on the soapbox of personal responsibility and just preach/lecture until I feel better, but it's too late for that and it's extremely difficult to force personal responsibility on an individual that hasn't had to deal with much in the way of responsibility since he was a teenager.
No matter how this case ends for Aaron Hernandez, it's fair to say that his life will never be what it was or could have been. Additionally, Dez Bryant's rules have helped in his maturation both as a man and a professional athlete. Perhaps more teams will look to implement rules for troubled players. The new face of troubled NFL players is the Honey-Badger and so far he's said and done all the right things, much like Aaron Hernandez did after he was given the 40 million dollar extension, and the Cardinals are making sure that they do whatever they can to assist Tyrann Mathieu in distancing himself from his past.
It cannot be understated just how important the help and assistance can be to young men who become millionaires overnight. No one achieves or maintains success on their own and I believe that the "Dez Rules" were implemented by the Cowboys to help Dez tap into his potential, become success and sustain it. Did the initial implementation feel like baby-sitting a grown man with a son - absolutely - but what would be saying if this were Dez being paraded out of his house in handcuffs and being charged with First-Degree Murder?