Off-field issues like Rodriguez's put NFL teams in tough spot
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Who is Evan Rodriguez?
On the narrow landscape at Halas Hall he's a nobody. In the wider scope of the NFL he's less of a nobody.
The Bears could cut him and most people around here wouldn't remember he was ever here.
That's what general manager Phil Emery should do, of course.
Except that he can't within the context of pro football.
Rodriguez, a tight end/fullback approaching his second NFL season, keeps getting in trouble.
Twice this off-season — which still has months to go — Rodriguez has been on the foul side of the law. The second time was over the weekend when he was charged with DUI.
Emery met the media in Lake Forest on Tuesday and expressed extreme disappointment over Rodriguez's behavior. But he didn't say that's it, the Evan Rodriguez Era is over, he's being released.
Why didn't Emery say that? Because the NFL isn't a morality play performed by Boy Scouts in church basements.
Pro football is a mean game played by mean men. At least they're mean at the office, and for some the meanness spills into the personal lives.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell campaigns for strict rules because flexible ones are too easy for too many of these not-so-gentle men to violate.
So there's a place for Evan Rodriguez and other problems who can block and tackle and run and jump and roughhouse and tough out the brutality of this barbaric game.
If Chicago isn't that place for Rodriguez and he turns out to be talented enough for the NFL, someplace else will take a chance on him. If he goes to, say, the Packers or Patriots or Panthers and becomes a Pro Bowl player — even a troubled Pro Bowl player — fans and media here will bemoan the one that got away.
Emery must believe that could happen. Otherwise why would he have drafted Rodriguez in the first place after the player's troubled college background?
While we're criticizing Emery for his apparent inclination to fall short of divorcing Rodriguez, the rest of us should take a personal inventory of our own priorities. Don't we cheer and glorify bad boys if they're good athletes?
It's easy for us to say Emery should get on a high horse and ride down a high road and rid the community of all the Evan Rodriguezes who happen upon the Bears' roster.
Of course, the rest of the NFL would think he was high while doing so.
Let's say Emery actually did go ahead and reconsider his investment in this relative nobody Evan Rodriguez guy and cut him loose today or tomorrow or whenever solely due to the player's personal conduct.
What then if one of the Bears' stars is involved in a couple of brushes with the law within a short period of time. Wouldn't Emery be obligated to release that player under the guidelines established in releasing Rodriguez?
If Emery went easy on the star, the criticism leveled at him would be that he's being hypocritical.
Yes, Emery would be, which possibly is why NFL teams try to salvage troubled players. It's easier to let the league police regrettable behavior the way it suspended Bears tight end Gabe Miller on Tuesday.
Presumably Goodell also will suspend Rodriguez, who later will return to the Bears and try to evolve from nobody to somebody.
If Rodriguez can make that jump on the field, Bears fans will cheer him and local media will glorify him regardless of what he does off the field.
Meanwhile, we'll just have to hope not to get into the way of Evan Rodriguez on the expressway early some weekend morning.
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