Now that we've had a day to think about it, it's easier to let it set in that a starting linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks last season was arrested on Saturday for possession of marijuana. This is his third run-in with the law in three years.
Regarding the law he broke, it's
pretty insignificant to discuss that here. At this point with LeRoy Hill, the football-related questions we have to ask ourselves is "Should Seattle re-sign him?" and I think the matter isn't about pot so much as it's about a track record of off-field issues that will certainly give him a reputation of being a law breaker.
That doesn't mean he won't play in the NFL in 2012. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress play in the NFL. Vick went to federal prison and then got out of prison and a couple of years later was a star again. The kind of star that the league could build it's brand around again and market to fans as a reason to watch the game. Hill is not that kind of star, but if a team sees him as a valuable on-field asset then he will be on the field as soon as any suspension is lifted.
That's another question that any team signing Hill will have to address. If he is suspended by Roger Goodell for four games, then it's 25% of the season that the team will be without him. Again, that doesn't mean that a team won't sign him. Neither does the fact that he's had three violations in three years.
Pacman Jones is still in the league.
Teams that concern themselves with character will stay away from Hill. They will be scared off by the idea that he may get in trouble again, be suspended again, and leave the team with a hole in their linebacker core. If Hill tells a team that he's absolutely sorry and won't ever let it happen again, should they believe him?
"Obviously I got in trouble, but that's over with and behind me," Hill told me before the start of the season. "I don't plan on getting in trouble ever again. But what I can do on the field, everybody knows that."
That's what he told John Boyle of the Herald before the year. That turned out not to be true. It's not about what he did, it's about whether or not you can trust your players to do the right thing and to put the team ahead of yourself. The saddest part about this for Hill is that he didn't hurt the team in this case, he only hurt himself.
As a free agent, Hill had no contract to violate. He's pretty much the only victim here. He turns 30 in September and he's not a star linebacker so much as he is a capable starter, but Hill probably did roll himself from a veteran one-year minimum contract into what would have been a nice, final NFL contract.
At this point, he'll probably be playing on the one-year minimum again. He most likely cost himself millions of guaranteed dollars by doing what he did. By believing that he wasn't harming anyone by having "a little weed" and then finding out that he just hurt himself more than he could have ever imagined.
Before this news broke, I was already of the belief that Seattle had to upgrade it's linebackers and that at his age, Hill wouldn't be a part of the long-term plan. After this news broke, my opinion hasn't changed at all. If anything, it could even be more enticing for Seattle to retain him since it will be at a fraction of the cost and won't impede a younger player from getting much-needed game experience.
From what I've gathered in comments around the internet, there are a lot of people that don't care at all about the arrest. There are a lot of other people that do care about the arrest, but not because of what it was actually for. It seems the most people still believe that football issues come first; sign him if you still believe he's a good player for this team.
Above all else though, just remember that this is a man. He's not just a football player, he's a person that has to make a living. A lot of people have wondered, "Why was he living in an apartment?" Well, Hill might have made something like $15 million in his career and maybe he made something like $1.5 million last season and that sounds like a lot of money.
Until you start to consider questions like "What if he gets arrested and never plays in the NFL again?"
Then he'll never collect another NFL paycheck as a player again in his life. He may play again and now it's at least a possibility that he may not. As of Saturday, he was an impending free agent that had an official 2012 salary of $0. He's not going to collect residual checks in 20 years for a sack he made in 2011. Now he's a man without a team or a job that has to start going around the league with his agent and explain why this won't happen again and convince a front office that he's a changed man. That's the potentially sad ending to the career of LeRoy Hill, the player or LeRoy Hill, the Seahawk.
Remember that he's a man that will have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Not us. We're just the spectators, the fans, the people that will have to deal with our own actions and consequences. We're just lucky that millions of people won't hear about it.
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