There were plenty of jokes cracked last week when it was announced that Adam “Pacman” Jones was set to speak at the rookie symposium, a mandatory event for first-year players aimed at steering young, soon-to-be rich men onto the right path before their careers truly begin.
Most of them were predictable (is he taking them to a strip club? har har), and some were pretty obscene. And on it went, because no matter how much you change, making it rain in a strip club will always put you at the butt end of jokes. That’s just a scientific law of our society.
But the truth is that Jones was the ideal candidate to speak to this year’s rookies, because early in his career he was exactly what the NFL doesn’t want a young, talented player to become, ever. Beyond the infamous Vegas nightclub shooting in 2007 when he was making it rain and shots were fired, leaving a man paralyzed and Jones owing $11.65 million to the victims for his role, he also went to a strip club the night before a disciplinary hearing with Roger Goodell. For most players, attending a bar that happens to showcase women dancing naked would just be an example of boys being boys. But for a player who was involved in a shooting incident at one of those fine establishments, it was an idiotic decision, and Jones knew it.
He called that the “stupidest (expletive) decision” he’s ever made when he spoke with Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Goodell suspended Jones for one year, and it remains remarkable that he’s still in the league at all. Yet he is, because he’s learned from the idiocy of his youth. Since signing on with the Bengals in 2010 he’s played without a single off-field incident, and it’s his transition from delinquent to quiet performer, and from Pacman Jones to Adam Jones that made the rookies stop and listen.
All of those misdeeds formed this interesting perspective that he relayed to the league’s newest rookies:
“If I could tell them anything, I just want them to realize this is a business. When you sign your contract, you are the head CEO of your company. The Adam Jones Company — whatever it is. We can’t go running down a field for the rest of our life.”
That Adam Jones Company was previously an awful place to do business. Jones has resurfaced on the other side just fine, but gauging the ability of other young players to correct their character flaws quickly is difficult during a time when the rookie symposium has arguably never been more important to the NFL.
Early in his career before he’s even played a single meaningful snap in the NFL, the Justin Blackmon Company is riding mighty low in the NFL’s stock market. The Jaguars rookie has had two DUIs over just the past two years, and the Nick Fairley Company isn’t doing too well either. Ditto for the Mikel LeShoure Company, fueling the argument that the Lions have flirted far too much with character issues over the past two drafts.
Look beyond that, though, and look at Jones’ words more simply, and how they relate to the behavior of a key group of young players just entering the league. Here’s a man who was a frequent guest at rock bottom, and he’s since recovered. He’s a rare case in that sense, because he’s taken ownership of his character.
So far, the likes of Blackmon and Fairley–two immensely talented players taken in the first round over the past two drafts–have shown little ability to learn from their mistakes.