Dear NFL Players, Stop Making Dumb Choices

With age comes maturation -- usually. But for a large population of NFL players, maturation has not set in. And for them, it's not college anymore, it's a professional league. These athletes are playing "professionally," hence they should live up to the expectations of being a professional athlete.

Everyone loves to enjoy life and have fun with friends and family. Some do it differently than others. Drew Brees loves to spend time with his family out of the public spot-light and live life with a less celebratory approach. On the other hand, Rob Gronkowski loves to go out and party with anyone in the public because he's that type of guy. Both of these players have made excellent choices on and off the field.

Wait, did I just say the Gronk has made excellent choices off the field? Yes, it's true that he was in those pictures with a porn star and had a little controversy surrounding him, but he knows the balance between "work hard and play hard." Gronk isn't seen on the news convicted for drug abuse; he knows better than to do that. He loves to party and is extremely outgoing and lovable, yet he still does things responsibly. 

Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

These two players are the perfect examples of what an NFL player's off-the-field life should resemble. Want to have fun? Sure, go drink with some buddies. Want to lay low? Spend time with family and do things that keep you out of trouble. It's as simple as making the right choices for you, your family, and your professional career. These athletes make millions of dollars so something like a personal driver would be a smart investment.

On the other hand, look at Dez Bryant. Bryant has gone through it all, with many ups and downs in his life already. He was sued in 2011 for legal fees and cost of jewelry. In 2012 he was arrested on a Class A misdemeanor domestic violence charge for allegedly striking his biological mother, Angela Bryant. But Bryant let the Cowboys help him. Whether it was treatment or a curfew, the Cowboys helped set him straight. In 2013, Bryant spoke at an event for Dallas Men Against Abuse, stating at the event, "I'm done with domestic abuse." People grow up and mature, and Dez Bryant is a prime example of that process taking affect.

There is another large issue that has caused the downfall for numerous NFL players: drugs. Athletes are aware of the fact that drugs are a negative influence and can ruin lives. Why, then, are NFL players being busted for having marijuana, and other drugs?

That's the question going through the minds of many. These players work their tails off to make it to the NFL and then throw their careers away for making stupid off-the-field decisions. Take, Dion Jordan, the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft who is suspended for the entire upcoming season. That's not only career-changing, but life-changing. Think of the money he's losing, the way his family and teammates look at him. He went from one of the best players to his draft class, to a player many have forgotten even exists. 

Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Another one of the example of drug abuse is Josh Gordon. He's one of the most talented wide-receivers in the NFL and an athlete with the chance to place himself among the NFL elite. Instead, he has thrown his career away. On June 7, 2013, the NFL announced that Gordon would be suspended for the first two games of the 2013 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. Then on August 27, 2014, Gordon acknowledged that the NFL suspended him again, for one year, for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. His suspension was reduced to 10 games amidst the new NFL drug policy, but that didn't prevent Gordon from returning to bad habits.

Gordon faced another year-long suspension in January 2015 after testing positive for alcohol use. He entered the NFL's substance abuse program after pleading guilty to a driving while impaired charge in September 2014 and was prohibited from consuming alcohol during his time in the program. Gordon was officially suspended for one year on February 3, 2015 and won't be able to return until the start of the 2016 season. A special NFL talent, gone to waste.

Enough is enough though. In the NFL this upcoming season, there are 22 players that have been suspended for at least one game or more. This adds up to a total salary loss of $14,491,130, in case you were wondering (Via spotrac.com).

Here's a list of the offenses committed and each NFL player's forfeits:

Orson Charles (Violating the league's personal conduct policy): 1 game, $34,411

Derek Wolfe (Violating the league's PED policy): 4 games, $389,813

Jabari Price (Violating the league's substance abuse policy): 2 games, $61,818

Sean Smith (Per his DUI arrest): 3 games, $926,470

Letroy Guion (Possession of marijuana): 3 games, $480,330

Sheldon Richardson (Substanc e Abuse): 4 games, $645,175

Rolando McClain (Substance Abuse): 4 games, $294,117

Datone Jones (Substance Abuse): 1 game, $123,794

Antonio Gates (Performance Enhancing Drugs): 4 games, $1,567,646

Ahmad Bradshaw (Substance abuse): 1 game, $0

Trey Watts (Violating the league's substance abuse policy): 4 games, $120,000

Marcell Dareus (Substance Abuse): 1 game, $474,117

(Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Tom Brady (Role in deflate-gate): 4 games, $1,882,352

Dion Jordan (Violating the NFL's substance abuse policy): 16 games, $5,267,276

Josh Gordon (Violating the NFL's substance abuse policy: 16 games, $1,682,521

Greg Hardy (Violating the league's personal conduct policy): 4 games, $176,470

Eben Britton (undisclosed violation): 4 games, $0

Victor Butler (violating the league's PED policy): 4 games, $175,294

Le'Veon Bell (Violating the league's substance abuse policy): 2 games, $145,709

LeGarrette Blount (Substance Abuse): 1 game, $44,117

LaRon Landry (Violating the NFL's PED policy): 10 games, $0

Ace Sanders (Violating the league's substance abuse policy): 10 games, $0

Sadly, the biggest violation among NFL players is "substance abuse." The policy is strictly enforced by the NFL, rightfully so, but players continue to break the rule. While marijuana is becoming legal in many states within the U.S., that shouldn't serve as a justification for players. Whether it's marijuana or other types of drugs, it's simply not worth the risk of using, especially if your livelihood depends on avoiding it. 

When will NFL players learn? I don't know the answer. To be fair, NFL players aren't the only humans on this planet committing substance abuse. Substance abuse happens around the globe, but as a professional athlete, there is a standard. Kids fall in love with the game of football and grow attached to it. Then they find out their favorite wide receiver, Josh Gordon, is suspended for drug abuse.

That's the wrong image for the NFL. 

Should the NFL levy heavier punishments for substance/drug abuse? That's surely one tactic that could help diminish the amount of players suspended. Otherwise, it seems like the NFL can do nothing, but hit players with worse suspensions than already implemented. Only Josh Gordon, Dion Jordan, and LaRon Landry received heavy suspensions. The other 18 players aren't missing more than four games. Is that enough?

Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

College players sitting at home, entering the NFL, need to realize that this is the next step of their life. It's the real world. Drugs won't help your NFL career and they can potential risk reaching the level of stardom that you've coveted your whole life. So why even risk it?

Again, this is a professional football league. The bottom line for an NFL player is that part of their job is managing what goes into their body. Lots of designer supplements come out that promise huge personal gains, but if they contain banned substances, they're illegal, and naiveté isn't an excuse. You're in the big leagues now. 

Moreover, conducting one's self professionally is also part of the job, and that means following the law as it pertains to you. There's very little excuse for a player to be suspended under one of these policies. Yet here we sit today with 21 players in the NFL sitting out of 93 games during this upcoming season.

NFL players are held to a higher standard because the NFL isn't just a game -- it's a very important and profitable business. 

NFL players, please, live up to this standard.

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