Commentary | Offseason is arrest season for NFL players; Bucs' Lovie Smith holds his breath

adell@bradenton.comJune 29, 2014 

Buccaneers Ring of Honor Football

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith, right, and former head coach Tony Dungy smile during a news conference Tuesday in Tampa after it was announced that former linebacker Derrick Brooks would be inducted into the team's Ring of Honor. ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHRIS O'MEARA — ASSOCIATED PRESS

'Tis the season to be nervous.

NFL teams are on break until camps open in late July, and that means coaches need to sleep with a lawyer's phone number under their pillows.

NFL statistics show players with idle time often wind up doing time.

Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Lovie Smith would improve his chances of getting a good night's sleep if he could put a governor on Akeem Spence's car and get him regularly tested for marijuana. And if wouldn't hurt if he could convince Da'Quan Bowers to check his weapons into the local armory.

Lovie is fortunate that the Bucs have shed more than a few guys who had an affinity for winding up on somebody's rap sheet.

Arrests in the NFL from the end of the 2013 Super Bowl until the opening of camps last summer showed a 75 percent

increase over the previous year.

There were 35 players arrested during last year's offseason. The final stats for June are not in, but 27 players have been arrested, and things are revving up.

When Roger Goodell became NFL commissioner in 2006, the arrest rate dropped. But last season it started climbing again, perhaps because his punishments are too lenient.

Consider: The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks led the league in performance-enhancing drug suspensions last season, and the Super Bowl runner-up Denver Broncos had the most crime-related arrests with seven. So maybe crime pays.

The diva positions are prone to make police blotters at an up-tempo rate, with wide receivers and cornerbacks having the highest arrest rate.

The good news for the Bucs is Smith has demonstrated little tolerance for off-the-field knuckleheads, but he could have some problem children taking up space in his locker room.

His predecessor, Greg Schiano, got rid of a lot of headaches. Unfortunately, Schiano sometimes couldn't tell the good from the bad and lost some quality players, which earned him a pink slip.

The NFL worked hard to shed its National Felony League acronym but took a big hit in the last year with the arrests of Aaron Hernandez, Ray Rice and former player Darren Sharper, whose charges ranged from murder to domestic abuse and rape.

Most of the other Bucs who made arrest charts in recent years are gone, including Michael Hill, Cody Grimm, Ahmad Black and Aqib Talib.

Still around is defensive end Bowers and Spence, a defensive tackle arrested for speeding in excess of 100 miles per hour and marijuana possession.

Arrests come in all shapes and sizes and can be embarrassing.

New Bucs receiver Louis Murphy made the "Wow, did I really do that?" list when he was arrested for possession of Viagra without a prescription after police searched his place following complaints about loud music.

During Goodell's first eight years as commissioner, there have been 395 arrests that include 107 DUIs, 84 for disorderly conduct, 43 domestic abuse and 34 involving firearms.

Goodell managed to keep the numbers down with fines and suspensions along with encouraging teams not to sign players who have a habit of getting into trouble.

But arrests don't necessarily mean a player won't be productive, and a lot of players learn in college that there could be worse things.

The better college players are more prone to arrests. Since August 2010, the SEC has had 72 players arrested, which is as many as the four next-highest conferences combined, according to arrest nation.

Lovie Smith is just hoping he doesn't get any midnight phone calls from now until camp opens on July 25.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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