Dolphins Cut Chad Johnson and Set New Standard for NFL

It’s been a rough month for the player formerly known as “Ochocinco.”

First he had to bid his last name goodbye, returning to boring, plain old Chad Johnson in order to give his new wife a normal surname. Perhaps the name change was the source of the argument that led to Johnson head butting his wife, sending her to the hospital and him to jail after being arrested for domestic violence. His arrest then led to the Miami Dolphins choosing to release him, hoping to create a culture change for the organization. To top it off, VH1 decided to cancel their reality show, Ev & Ocho centered on Johnson and his wife Evelyn. Now, not only is Johnson’s NFL career possibly over, his future in TV may be in jeopardy (pun totally intended).

The St. Louis Rams could be a perfect fit for Chad Johnson.

Given that this is his first arrest during his 11 year career, Johnson seems to have been dealt a bad hand with this move. One arrest in over 11 years is practically unheard of in the NFL. Sure Johnson has made himself a distraction to his teams in other ways, be it over the top touchdown celebrations, fines for said celebrations, and ridiculous name changes, but he’s always been one of the better citizens in the NFL. Certainly a nowhere near the criminal his formate teammate Adam “Pacman” Jones was.

But despite his clean record (until this incident), Miami was quick to dismiss Johnson from the team, a move many teams wait much longer to make. It took two arrests in the span of a month for the Lions to part ways with Aaron Berry, and he was likely to have less of a role on that team than Johnson would have for the Dolphins. This, of course, in no way is condoning Johnson’s actions, but given the somewhat lenient precedent NFL teams set regarding run-ins with the law, the Dolphins releasing of Johnson seemed like a harsh punishment in comparison.

Another world famous head butt heard round the world.

But the Dolphins deserve credit for trying to change that precedent, however. Perhaps this will start a new trend in football – one the NFL desperately needs – of holding players accountable for off-field decisions and reducing player crime.

Commissioner Roger Goodell must know his league isn’t in a great place PR-wise when the majority of news in the offseason involves DUIs (Kenny Britt, Nick Fairley, Marshawn Lynch, Darius Heyward-Bey, Justin Blackmon), domestic violence (Johnson, Dez Bryant) and assault charges (Berry, Elvis Dumervil).

NFL player arrests have steadily risen as of late. In 2010, there were 42. That rose to 44 in 2011 and is already at  48 in 2012 with a few months left to go. Goodell is well aware of this trend and met recently with NFL Players Association head, DeMaruice Smith to find a way to begin reducing these numbers and clean up the streets and the NFL’s image in the process. If Goodell and Smith reach the right decision, these discussions will end in stricter league punishments for any run ins with the law.

If the rest of the league follows Miami’s example, Chad Johnson could be the catalyst of a new, crime-reduced NFL.

While the league seems to be headed in this direction, teams can also add to the cause in their own way, just as the Dolphins have done. While coach Joe Philbin insists Johnson’s release was not solely for his arrest but for his “body of work,” it just as well should have been. If more teams installed this type of no-tolerance policy, players would quickly get the message from their lack of paychecks that law enforcement hasn’t been able to get through to them.

Chad Johnson was shown a harsh reality after his first offense that many others are allowed to escape from. At some point, enough is enough, and it seems Johnson was made a martyr for players to see the consequences their actions make on their careers.

For someone who has been a model citizen off the field for so long, it’s a shame Chad Johnson made the mistake he did.

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