Why Are So Many NFL Players Getting Into Trouble Now?

We are in the midst of an NFL offseason like no other. Behind-the-scenes NFL action, like the scouting combine and free agency period, usually fill this time of year. However, this offseason has an unprecedented layer of complexity. The actual start of the 2020-21 season is still under debate. That’s a lot of unstructured time for rich, young NFL stars to get themselves into a world of trouble.

Are more NFL players actually getting into trouble?

Some of the most memorable cases in recent American history involve NFL players. Who could forget the twisted story of Aaron Hernandez, charged with three separate homicides before taking his own life in prison?

Then there’s Ray Lewis who narrowly escaped his own murder charges. And of course, there’s O.J. Simpson who has the dubious honor of being in the trial of the century for the murder of his ex-wife.

Lately, though, it seems like more and more players are getting into serious trouble during the off-season. Is there really an upward trend, and if so, what’s driving it?  

The factors behind the sudden trend

During the season, NFL players lead a rigorous lifestyle. They are required to push their bodies and minds. From training camp all the way through the playoffs, there is an atmosphere of intense structure pervading everything that these players do. 

But when the offseason hits, the structure suddenly disappears, leaving a noticeable gap in players’ lives. That’s when bad things happen. NFL players are young, with more than half of today’s active players being in their mid-20s, and they have become millionaires overnight. Money, youth, and time are a dangerous combination. 

This off-season though, players have had to contend with social distancing as well as their usual lack of structure. As the old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.” And for these young players flush with cash, they have nothing but time on their hands. 

Recent arrests of NFL players

The structureless 2020 off-season has already claimed a number of victims, as Pro Football Talk details. In early May of 2020, four different players got arrested on the same Saturday. Washington Redskin’s receiver, Cody Latimer, was arrested for assault, illegal discharge of a weapon, and menacing after neighbors reported shots being fired sometime in the early morning hours. 

Quinton Dunbar of the Seahawks and DeAndre Baker were arrested for robbing people with an assault rifle in the afternoon of that same Saturday. Later that evening, Ed Oliver of the Buffalo Bills was arrested for drunk driving and being in possession of an illegal firearm. And that’s just one day of this crazy, socially-distanced off-season. In January, Julian Edelman was arrested for vandalism.

A warrant was issued, then rescinded, for Odell Beckham Jr. for battery later in the month. New England’s Joejuan Williams was arrested for possessing an illegal substance. The Browns’ Greg Robinson was arrested in February for carrying 157 pounds of Marijuana. The Jets’ Quinnen Williams was in possession of an illegal firearm while attempting to get on a plane in NYC.

In March, the Dallas Cowboy’s Ventell Bryant received a drunk driving charge. Super Bowl-winning Chiefs cornerback Bashaud Breeland got arrested in late April after he got caught in possession of an illegal substance. Breeland spent a day in jail before subsequently making bail. He faces a four-game suspensions next season due to a separate incident involving an illegal substance.

Unstructured time and high anxiety fill this difficult offseason. The bad news is that there’s still a whole month left. Hopefully, the rest of the NFL can keep its act together in the meantime.