Minnesota governor blames idle time for NFL off-field issues

Gov. Mark Dayton helped push through a plan that will have the state of Minnesota chip in $348 million for a new Vikings stadium.

Now, he’s calling a string of off-field problems for NFL players “troubling.” The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that since 2011 the Vikings have had 11 player arrests and 39 arrests since 2000, the most in the NFL in that period.

Appearing on Minnesota Public Radio earlier this week, Dayton blamed excess free time for players.

Idle time is the devil's play,” Dayton said, according to the Pioneer Press. “It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o'clock (in the morning) and having problems. It doesn't excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it.

“Shake one of their hands and you know that this (football player) is someone who is not your ordinary citizen. They're heavily armored, heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It's, basically, slightly civilized war.

“Then they take that into society. Much as soldiers come back, they've been in combat or the edge of it and suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge. And that's part of the reality. That's not to say it's good and it shouldn't be improved. It should.”

Maybe it’s not a good idea to compare football players to soldiers but you get what Dayton is suggesting here. Football players are playing a game for lots of money. Soldiers in hostile areas are putting their life and well-being on the line.

Interestingly, Dayton stood up and supported the most recent Viking to get in trouble, Adrian Peterson. The running back has been accused of resisting arrest in Houston.

“Adrian Peterson, who I've met several times and who has really proven to be an upstanding citizen and a really fine role model,” Dayton said. “He claims he was not responsible for that altercation.”

Players were given a little more free time during the new CBA. It’s probably premature to blame that for the focus that has been paid to arrests and off-field issues this offseason. The NFL seemingly dominates the news year-round and that means the news that isn’t as positive too.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradBiggs

Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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