When now former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez walked into a court room Wednesday before being charged with murder, a lot of people asked why the Dallas Cowboys have not cut their own disgraced player.
What is nose tackle Josh Brent, who awaits a September trial date for intoxicated vehicular manslaughter, still doing on this team?
Isn’t he a killer, just as Hernandez has been alleged? Hernandez was formally charged on Wednesday with an allegation that sounds almost as cold as one of the NFL’s other most infamous cases, Rae Carruth.
Josh Brent may be a lot of things, and the circumstances of his transgression are tragically stupid, but he is not Aaron Hernandez or Rae Carruth.
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There are plenty of comparisons to be made between Hernandez and Brent, and many reasons to release one or both from their respective franchises. Yet there is one distinct difference between these two shamed players: Hernandez’s actions are allegedly premeditated while Brent’s were the result of negligence and supreme arrogance.
Only one of these men can claim what they did was an accident, which is what keeps Brent as a distant member of the Dallas Cowboys.
If you don’t recall, back in December Brent was arrested after he wrecked his car driving drunk with teammate, practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown, who died in the accident.
If the Cowboys were ever going to release Brent it would have been before the end of the 2012 season.
The Cowboys have deemed he is worth the peripheral headache as he deals with his legal issues while the Patriots decided no way on Hernandez.
Just as there were questions about Hernandez’s character when he was selected by the Patriots in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, there were a lot of concerns about Brent before his December car wreck.
That was not Brent’s first episode driving drunk. He was kicked out of the University of Illinois for several reasons, namely for a DUI which led to a two-month prison stay. As a result, Brent was merely selected in the NFL’s supplemental draft, which is not an easy path.
Hernandez was reportedly heavily scrutinized by NFL teams when he was coming out of Florida for gang activity, which is seldom good.
What Hernandez has allegedly done is to continue a pattern of deliberate criminal behavior.
What Brent has done is to continue a pattern of undeniably criminal stupid behavior.
Make no mistake, the Cowboys quietly want Brent back on their team. If they didn’t, he would have been long gone by now regardless how much Brown’s mother has reportedly begged the team to give Brent a chance by keeping him around.
While the Cowboys players and coaches were collectively sad for Brown, they were more shaken for Brent. As a practice squad player, they barely knew Brown. As a productive teammate with an infectious personality and upbeat demeanor, they liked, needed and appreciated Josh Brent.
They have not dumped him because what he did was a preventable accident, and more importantly he can play.
A personality like Brent’s elicited a degree of sympathy while what Hernandez has allegedly done — murder a friend with a gun — is to inspire disgust.
Argue that if Brent did the same thing as an employee of Blah Blah Blah Life Insurance, he would have been fired. That is how the real world treats such people.
But one of the benefits of making the NFL is that not all of the real-world rules apply.
He is a 6-foot-2, 320-pound man with a good base, quick feet and an ability to fill run lanes and plug that A-gap. Those guys are hard to find, especially for a team with an aging small nose tackle (Jay Ratliff), that needs a giant body to help fill the middle of a new 4-3 defensive scheme.
Check your disgust that any team would keep a man with this track record around for another chance; the NFL is about results and when Brent played he produced.
Brent is not going to play in the NFL this season; expect him to do jail time, and then the NFL will likely impose some sort of penalty as well before he can return.
By the time Brent is done serving his time, he should be a 26-year-old man. He would have multiple prime NFL years remaining.
The better example for Brent is not Aaron Hernandez but former NFL receiver Donte Stallworth.
In the spring of 2009, Stallworth killed a pedestrian in a drunk driving accident. He missed all of the 2009 season as a result.
He has played for four teams since he returned. One of those teams? The New England Patriots.
All teams will make exceptions when production and talent are involved. It has to be worth it.
According to the Patriots, Hernandez wasn’t.
According to the Cowboys, Brent is.