In the Wake of the News
9:02 PM CDT, June 3, 2013
As far as apologies go, Evan Rodriguez's mea culpa Sunday after the second alcohol-related, offseason arrest for the Bears fullback sounded like a guy with experience expressing regret.
It included all the requisite remorse and necessary nattering about falling short of expectations.
"I know that more is expected of me and that I let a lot of people down that are counting on me," Rodriguez said in a statement released by the Bears. "I will make positive changes in my life so that this doesn't happen again."
I don't doubt the sincerity of Rodriguez's disappointment and concern. I do question whether the Bears can trust Rodriguez to follow through on those "positive changes" he vows to make.
About 12 hours before Rodriguez promised publicly "this wouldn't happen again," he was spotted in a downtown Chicago club past midnight. According to several people at the Paris Club in the wee hours of Sunday morning who spoke with the Tribune, Rodriguez was at the trendy Hubbard Street bar with friends. That's not far from where Illinois State Police arrested Rodriguez at 3:30 a.m. Friday on the Kennedy Expressway and charged him with driving under the influence. A police source told the Tribune that Rodriguez had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17, twice the legal limit.
Professional athletes in the offseason have every right to partake in Chicago's robust night life. Professional athletes arrested twice in the last 75 days for alleged alcohol-induced incidents should know better than to put themselves back in a similar environment so quickly.
Flouting the law suggests Rodriguez believes playing in the NFL is his right. Smart players treat it as a privilege.
If Rodriguez cannot take his profession more seriously than that, he has no business being a Bear. If the Bears cannot count on a 24-year-old to show better judgment off the field, how can coach Marc Trestman depend on Rodriguez on Sundays? Accountability matters to every NFL head coach, but none more than first-year coaches such as Trestman trying to establish respect in a locker room and a football city.
This isn't all Trestman's call. But he can influence general manager Phil Emery, who must realize the perils of allowing a player to make an NFL roster with such a poor track record of making decisions. In recent Bears history, those miscalculations are filed under Benson, Cedric or Johnson, Tank. Any positives Rodriguez offers as a backup fullback/tight end hardly outweigh the potentially negative way he represents the Bears organization.
Emery declined comment, but a Bears spokesman said he will be available after Tuesday's organized team activities at Halas Hall. Attempts to reach Rodriguez through a representative were unsuccessful.
The Bears begin a mandatory minicamp next Tuesday. Unless the Bears cut Rodriguez for reasons everybody would understand before that starts, the second-year player will show up symbolizing the opposite of everything Trestman's new coaching staff wants on his roster. Tone-setting practices for the 2013 season, even three months before the season opener, are no place for even one irresponsible, entitled and oblivious player.
It was after Rodriguez's March 21 arrest at 5:32 a.m. in Miami on charges of disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer — charges that later were dropped — that Emery made his disapproval clear. The way the case played out legally had zero effect on Emery.
"He was re-educated on my expectation of a Chicago Bear on and off the field," Emery said after that incident. "He made an error in a decision as far as where he was at, time and place. Fortunately there has been no case moving forward, but I was disappointed in him. He is aware of that."
Apparently, Rodriguez lost awareness. If the March incident was bad, this was worse. This latest arrest Friday followed a troubling pattern of behavior for Rodriguez that traces back to college. The Bears took a chance in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL draft by selecting a player who had a felony assault charge, which involved roughing up a woman, reduced to a misdemeanor at West Virginia. After transferring to Temple, Rodriguez was arrested in 2009 for disorderly conduct.
The Bears drafted Rodriguez anyway.
That Bears' 2012 draft class, the first one by the reputed draft guru Emery, looks more dubious by the day. First-rounder Shea McClellin remains closer to unpolished than finished product as a pass rusher. Second-rounder Alshon Jeffery could be a 60-catch wide receiver — if he stays healthy. Injury-prone third-rounder Brandon Hardin hasn't played a full season at safety in two years. After Rodriguez in the fourth, Emery chose two practice-squad candidates: defensive backs Isaiah Frey and Greg McCoy. Only Frey still is under contract.
Cutting Rodriguez would make Emery's first draft group pale even more in comparison to the rest of the league's that year.
It shouldn't matter.
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