OXNARD, Calif. - It was as if Orlando Scandrick was hooked to a polygraph.
“I made a bad decision,” the Cowboys' cornerback began, explaining his four-game suspension, announced Monday, for violating the NFL’s drug policy. “I’m responsible for what goes in my body. I know I’m responsible for what goes in my body. It’s a very humbling experience, and I’m very sorry.”
What did you take?
“I ingested something in my body while vacationing, recreationally.” It was an amphetamine, he then clarified, taken while he was on vacation in early April. Scandrick continued: “In no way, form or shape was this trying to gain a competitive edge. I made a mistake.”
“It’s on the list [of prohibited drugs], but it wasn’t to gain a competitive edge.”
In five minutes, Scandrick ran down the basics of his suspension with a specificity and openness that made me stand back and wonder if I was really listening to an NFL player. The last time I covered a suspension, it was Von Miller's, who copped to little, offered no details and let his story trickle out over the span of weeks, as it got progressively worse -- and worse, and worse.
Scandrick, though, behaved on Tuesday as if he’d been consulting with the best spin doctors out there -- except, of course, there was no spin. When asked about the rumors that his ex-girlfriend had drugged his drink with MDMA, he cut off the question. “I wasn’t persuaded, nor was I drugged,” he said. “I simply just made a bad choice.”
And so when Jason Garrett stepped onto his stage few minutes later -- because only at Cowboys camp does a coach get a concert-sized stage -- there was very little to address. There was no need to pester Garrett for more details, because the details had already been laid out in the simplest, clearest terms. Garrett went through the rigamarole of how important the preseason would be for Scandrick, about how much the team will miss him as a leader, and his message echoed that of his starting cornerback: “It’s disappointing,” Garrett said. “It certainly is. The rules are such that we have to control what goes into our body. We own that.”
And then, of course, there was the Ray Rice moment.
About halfway through Scandrick’s five minutes, the question surfaced. You got four games. He only gets two. He beat his fiancée. You took a drug. By now, you know the drill. There are a dozen other, longer, suspensions to compare to Rice’s, and dozens more are coming, and really, I hate that we have to keep talking about Rice. But here I am, sitting in a tent on a tennis court in Oxnard, where the wind carries talk radio blather, and they’re talking Ray Rice too.
“… and he only got two games, and Scandrick got four, and I just think that’s something we need to discuss.”
“I couldn’t agree more. Couldn’t agree more.”
And then, of course, they get worked up for a good 7.5 seconds and move on, but their gripe is valid. Scandrick wouldn’t indulge the question of fairness in his case versus Rice’s, nor should he for fear of incurring Roger Goodell’s wrath, but everyone’s thinking it. They’re thinking it now, that the NFL is implicitly saying that taking some Molly is worse than beating a woman, and they’ll think something similar every time a player gets suspended this season.
That’s terrible for the NFL, which looks more and more like its collective head is buried 50 feet in the sand with every subsequent suspension and mention of Rice’s name, and it’s a shame for Scandrick, who handled his own situation like a consummate professional. That almost doesn’t matter, though, not when every utterance of the word “suspension” evokes comparisons to Rice. That’s going to be the case for the rest of this season, and perhaps into next. It’s at least a tiny bit of karmic payback for Goodell and company, who should have taken one listen to Scandrick’s words and wished they’d hired his same advisers on Rice’s behalf.
Taking drugs and owning up to it may not be as sensational as abuse or tampering with a urine sample or needing a fertility medication. Even so, if players across the NFL know what’s good for them, they should pay more attention to what unfolded in Oxnard on Tuesday -- for what Scandrick did to earn his suspension and how he handled it.
“It was a bad decision,” Scandrick said. “I should have never done it.”
And then he apologized, and it seemed so easy. It was so easy.