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Jets Failing to Teach Braylon Edwards by Playing Him Sunday By Kevin Blackistone, FAN HOUSE, National Columnist, 9/22/2010 2:52 PM In the wee hours before he killed a man, Donte' Stallworth was knocking back shots of tequila with friends at a Miami Beach club. "Three, four at the most," the NFL receiver told police later. "I wasn't really counting." When he finally left the club that late winter morning a year and a half ago, he stopped by his condo in Miami to sleep off the alcohol. And when he came to, he decided to satisfy a hunger pang by getting behind the wheel of his 2005 Bentley and hitting the road in search of breakfast. It was a quarter after seven in the morning by then. A 59- year-old father and construction worker named Mario Reyes, who'd just finished a night of work, was crossing a road Stallworth happened to be driving down. Stallworth said he tried to swerve around the pedestrian. He failed. Lab tests showed Stallworth was drunk. He pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide. Among his friends he drank with that horrific morning was fellow NFL receiver Braylon Edwards, who was arrested Tuesday for driving drunk in New York City. I thought that having been a participant in the precipitation of such a tragedy would scare the participant straight. I thought, too, that a participant's loved ones and dependents and employer would remind the participant that, on that fateful morning, for the grace of the Creator went he. But at least one of those parties, maybe the most important, failed Edwards, too. The New York Jets said that Edwards, whom they imported last season for $6.1 million to help them get to the Super Bowl, will play as usual Sunday, save starting the game on the team's opening offensive series. "He will dress. He will be active. But he will not start," Jets' general manager Mike Tannenbaum told the media Tuesday night. "We're disappointed in what he did." If Tannenbaum's announcement wasn't a reminder of the potential gravity of Edwards' transgression, it was a reminder of what is most important to most pro sports' teams, as well as a lot of college versions that generate a lot of cash: win, no matter what. A lot of us raised an eyebrow at the type of team the Jets assembled this offseason. They brought in defensive back Antonio Cromartie, who has been named in several paternity suits (Wednesday was the national blog protest against black couples bearing children, particularly multiple, out of wedlock) the past couple of years, failed to make a couple of traffic court dates and taken a $500,000 advance from the Jets to make some child support payments. They signed receiver Santonio Holmes, whom the Steelers let go despite his Super Bowl heroics because Holmes seemed to be continuously fending off charges drug, assault and domestic violence charges. He currently is under suspension from play by the NFL, which, no doubt, explains why the Jets decided to sit Edwards for a series rather than a game. They acquired from Cleveland Edwards after he was accused of punching out a friend of LeBron James at another hour in the morning when mothers tell us nothing good happens. And these men whose maturity seemed somewhat arrested were all being led by a coach, Rex Ryan, who looked to suffer some of the same development issues. The league reminded Ryan and his entire team of as much after a female TV reporter, Ines Sainz, complained earlier this month that they made her feel uncomfortable as she tried to do her job interviewing their quarterback, Mark Sanchez. It is one thing to be brash as the Jets acted on HBO's "Hard Knocks." It is another thing to be crass. The Jets at best have confused the former with the latter. Its troops, however, stand to suffer the most from the culture the team has cultivated. Jets' owner Woody Johnson was quick and decisive in reacting to Sainz's allegations. This week thus far he appeared derelict in dealing with Edwards. But Sainz didn't impact the Jets' win-loss record. The availability of Edwards does. Indeed, if the Jets really cared about the 27-year-old Edwards, rather than just leave the No. 17 Edwards on their active roster, they'd remind him of his night with Stallworth by suspending him for at least a game, if not until his Nov. 9 court date for the misdemeanor charge he was handed. It is true that most of us have employers who wouldn't send us home after such a criminal charge and that many of us still dare to be so stupid as to drive after drinking. Some of us may even work someplace where we wouldn't have to divulge an upcoming court date for such a thing. And for almost all of us, it wouldn't be national news, or even local news, if we did find ourselves in such a pickle. Maybe we all need to face that stigma. But it is different when you are an athlete who plays for a team that represents an entire region and is part of a quasi-public trust. And it is particularly different when all of that is true and you've had a brush with the tragedy that can result from what you've been charged. Edwards' father could slap his son upside the head to get his attention on this matter. The kids Edwards benefits through his foundation, and who look up to him because of his athletic prowess, could write him a collective letter expressing their disappointment. So, too, could the family of a young man Edwards befriended before he succumbed to a heart defect. But what Edwards really needs is for his employer to remind of what he just dodged. It was what his friend, Stallworth, went through over a year ago. It was being stopped drunk driving only after having to get out of his car because he hit someone. It was being told the person he hit died from his stupidity. It was having to see the family left behind without their breadwinner, the father, the husband. It was the real possibility of spending years behind bars, rather than a month as Stallworth did because of an allowance in Florida's judicial process that doesn't exist in every jurisdiction. The Jets, unfortunately, remained focused on the Dolphins on Sunday, and Edwards, as a result, will remain blinded from what is most important for him.
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