Commentary

Unruly Jets turning into the Frat Pack

Braylon Edwards' arrest is latest hit to team's image, yet he'll play Sunday night

Updated: September 22, 2010, 10:35 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

And for their next stunt, the New York Jets are going to build an outrageous float and ruin the homecoming parade.

Or maybe they will steal a horse and sneak it into Roger Goodell's office in the middle of the night.

Let's face it, the Jets have created an "Animal House" image for themselves. After a profanity-laden summer on HBO's "Hard Knocks" and the embarrassing locker-room incident with a female TV reporter from Mexico, the Jets' reputation took another hit at 5 a.m. on Tuesday.

[+] EnlargeBraylon Edwards
Jeff Zelevansky/Icon SMIBraylon Edwards will play Sunday because the Jets need him, and they don't want to anger the union.

This time, it ended up on the police blotter, with wide receiver Braylon Edwards arrested in Manhattan on a drunken driving charge. This came about 12 hours after Rex Ryan publicly rebuked Edwards for his "selfish" taunting penalty in Sunday's win over the New England Patriots.

The Jets' plush training facility in serene central New Jersey has turned into Faber College.

The team's front office responded swiftly Tuesday morning, releasing a statement from GM Mike Tannenbaum that said the club is "very disappointed in Braylon's actions" and "will impose the appropriate disciplinary measures."

Those measures turned out to be next to nothing.

Because of a collectively bargained rule that prohibits a team from suspending or deactivating a player for an alcohol-related offense, the Jets announced Tuesday night that Edwards will play Sunday night in Miami. He won't start, the team said, and Ryan will decide when he plays. If Edwards steps foot on the field in the first half, the whole thing is a sham.

Clearly, the Jets want this to go away as quickly as possible, and the CBA will allow that to happen. Hey, this is supposed to be their Super Bowl season, and nothing is going to stop them -- not even a misbehaving diva whose blood-alcohol content allegedly was twice the legal limit.

So, in the end, Edwards' immediate punishment will add up to this: a little pine time, no fine, an embarrassing day in court and a killer hangover.

Edwards displayed selfish (there's that word again) and dumb behavior, endangering himself and innocent people and showing no regard for his team. There's a safe-ride program set up for NFL players -- call and get a lift home -- but Edwards passed. Or maybe he didn't know about it, but it's his responsibility to know.

The Jets need Edwards, especially with Santonio Holmes still on league suspension for two more games, but he let them down. He let them down big-time.

"It's ridiculous," one player told ESPNNewYork.com, speaking on condition of anonymity. "First, we have a program in place to prevent this exact thing. Second, he's in a contract year and if he can't keep his nose clean this year, how about when he gets a new contract? He has money to call for a ride.

"It's unacceptable because now his teammates have to answer questions on that instead of focusing on Miami," the player continued. "Some people can't handle a little success. ... We just started putting that reporter stuff behind us, and now this. They should fine him to the max. This is just stupid."

By NFL rule, a player can't be suspended if he's a first-time offender of the league's substance-abuse policy (just a max fine of $50,000). But because Edwards previously violated the personal conduct policy, he faces a possible suspension if he's convicted or pleads no contest to the DUI. By the time that process is complete, we'll be talking about the 2011 draft.

There was, of course, the incident last October in Cleveland, where he was accused of punching one of LeBron James' friends outside a nightclub. There was the personal conduct violation.

So, basically, Edwards could strike out on two policies, a double-trouble rarity. The Jets knew about the nightclub altercation when they traded for him. At the time, Tannenbaum acknowledged that Edwards had "issues" in Cleveland, but said he felt the "risk was manageable."

The team managed the risk for 11 months, deciding to keep Edwards around on a one-year, $6.1 million contract. So, in essence, the Jets accepted him twice. Ryan raved about Edwards' performance in the offseason, but what he didn't say is that Edwards missed several workouts in the "voluntary" program.

When a team takes on character risks, it gets burned more often than not. The Jets took heat in the offseason for trading for Holmes (substance-abuse violation) and Antonio Cromartie (paternity issues), both of whom have been well-behaved -- so far.

Edwards, Holmes and Cromartie are in contract years, and that's not a coincidence. The organization's thinking is that, with so much at stake, they will behave and perform. Obviously, it's not a fool-proof philosophy. The fool, Edwards, will cost himself millions in the offseason. There is no chance of his returning to the Jets.

With "Hard Knocks" (let's not forget the cheeseburgers at practice) and the Ines Sainz controversy and the Edwards arrest, the Jets have spawned an inmates-running-the-asylum image. The shame is, 95 percent of their players and coaches are solid professionals in every way, but they get tainted, too.

So now they go to Miami, where, in his last public appearance, Ryan made headlines for flipping an obscene gesture to unruly Dolphins fans. He was fined $50,000 by the Jets. At the time, Tannenbaum's statement said Ryan "showed extremely poor judgment and his conduct was inappropriate."

Sound familiar?

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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