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The NFL's Nonsense Problem

On the field and off it, players are raising the bar on ill-advised actions. From silly taunts to personal insults, it seems like players need to take a step back and think twice before they say or do something

Golden Tate admitted it was 'immature' to wave at the Rams' defense while running in a touchdown. His act led to a penalty. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Golden Tate admitted it was 'immature' to wave at the Rams' defense while running in a touchdown. His act led to a penalty. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It's been another banner year for nonsense in the NFL but, just in recent days, so many seem to be rounding into midseason form when it comes to almost comically ill-advised thought or actions.

When Carolina safety Mike Mitchell looks right into the camera and claims he’s being targeted for fines by Roger Goodell, because the commissioner needs a little extra spending money, it’s difficult to know where to start in dissecting the absurdity of that premise.

When Washington safety Brandon Meriweather goes as tone-deaf as possible and declares he’ll be out to "end people’s careers" and "tear people’s ACLs" in reaction to the league’s emphasis on outlawing hits to the head, you just have to marvel at his powers of judgment and sense of timing.

And when Seattle receiver Golden Tate enters the taunting Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection on Monday Night Football, Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones promises Jets receiver David Nelson he’ll "find out where you live and come get you," and Carolina receiver Steve Smith vows to Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, 'If I see him on the street, I’m going to bust him in the (bleeping) mouth," you know the NFL’s on a hot streak when it comes to the idiotic.

And that’s even if you happen to agree with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on his unknowable supposition that Deion Sanders in his prime(time) could shut down, stop, or cover—whichever the question really posed—Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, he of the four-inch and 38-pound size advantage. When Sanders himself plays the voice of reason in that debate, reminding his Twitter followers that two different eras can’t be fairly compared, Jones becomes the only guy playing on an island of sorts. (I’ll take Johnson, by the way, especially if there’s any tackling involved in that time-tripping one-on-one matchup).

Just because you have a microphone or camera aimed your way doesn’t mean you have anything particularly thoughtful to say.

Seemingly every day provides a new reminder that just because you have a microphone or camera aimed your way, and the platform that saturation coverage of the NFL provides you, doesn’t mean you have anything particularly thoughtful to say, or do, in some cases. (And, yes, that charge can have validity when aimed right back at us media types, too. Point taken.)

But I suppose we’ve been building to this nonsensical point ever since Ray Lewis first voiced his half-baked Super Bowl blackout conspiracy theory, hinting that he suspected the league’s power-brokers of pulling the plug in the half-lit Superdome, in order to slow down Baltimore’s budding third-quarter blowout. (Picture Lewis as Matt Hooper in Jaws: “This is no lighting accident!’’)

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, playing the loyal ex-teammate, merely took the silliness a step further, claiming he even believed Goodell’s hand was involved in the blackout, citing "Vegas, parlor tricks" in a context I’m not entirely sure what to make of. I’ve only been to Vegas twice and pretty much stick to blackjack.

Whatever. Let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good mindless story. Like Mitchell’s claim that he’s being targeted for repeated league fines because he plays a physical brand of football. That sounds all well and good, and maybe even plausible. Except for the fact Mitchell’s most recent fine of $7,875 was for taunting after he shoved Rams quarterback Sam Bradford out of bounds in Week 7, then turned his back on the St. Louis sideline and spread his arms to exult in self-celebration. Nothing real physical about taunting, except that Bradford did blow out his ACL on the play and is lost for the season.

Mitchell might also care to know that Goodell has zero to do with the fine process for on-field transgressions like the one he was docked for. That’s the job of Merton Hanks, the NFL’s vice president for football operations, and a former longtime NFL defensive back. So a fellow DB nailed you, Mike. Not the commish. And the money collected by the league for fines doesn’t go “right in Roger’s pocket,’’ like Mitchell posited, with little regard for reality. It gets donated through the NFL Foundation to assist former players in need via the NFL Care Foundation and the NFLPA’s Player Assistance Trust. That’s not exactly the same as Goodell’s cash stash for poker games and nights out with the boys.

As for Meriweather, where to begin? Even if he doesn’t care how it sounds to the fans and media to be talking about ending a guy’s career or tearing people’s ACLs in reaction to your history of being fined and suspended for head-high hits, maybe he should care how it sounds to his fellow NFL players. The ones he has to go up against every week, even beyond his good friend, Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall.

Meriweather was making the point that others have made about the new rules trying to take head-level hits out of the game, namely that low hits are the new high. But to boast about his new intent, as if there’s no other option beside head shots or tearing ACLs? Brilliant. And this coming from a player who tore his ACL last November, on a non-contact play.

I get it that in-game trash talk like the type Jones and Nelson engaged in during the Bengals’ blowout of the Jets last Sunday probably happens pretty frequently. Jones called Nelson a dirty player and said the Jets receiver tried to cut block him four different times after a play. “Thank God I took my medicine today—I guess—and I didn’t go off,’’ Jones said. Unless, I suppose, you consider telling your opponent that you’re "going to find out where you live and come and get you" going off, that is.

Boys will always be boys when it comes to the conflict between defensive backs and receivers, as Smith and Jenkins illustrated the week before in the Panthers’ win over the Rams. In that game, Jenkins, according to Smith, was getting personal with information he gleaned off the internet about Smith’s wife, trying to get under the skin of the veteran Carolina receiver. Smith considered it disrespectful treatment by the second-year Ram.

So disrespectful that in response, Smith, beside making the "bust him in the (bleeping) mouth" threat, got a little personal himself the next day on the radio. Alluding to the fact that Jenkins has four children, with multiple women, at age 24, Smith added: "It sounds like he needs to wear some condoms."