OSU football: Disciplining Justin Blackmon
Did you catch the Sunday Night Football pregame show week before last? That was the day of all the vicious hits that rocked the NFL, and NBC’s Dan Patrick asked cohort Rodney Harrison, a former NFL headhunter, what could be done.
Harrison said he stashed away about $50,000 every year to pay the fines he knew were coming. Said that fines and money would never deter him or most players from illegal hits. If you want the hits to stop, Harrison said, you’ve got to suspend players.
I thought of that in the case of Justin Blackmon, the Oklahoma State star receiver who was arrested at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday on a DUI complaint in Carrollton, Texas, after the police stopped him for going what they said was 92 mph.
State coach Mike Gundy is mum on whether Blackmon will play Saturday.
But here’s the truth about the decision Gundy faces. If Blackmon did something wrong — out at 3:45 a.m. on a practice/schoolwork day, four hours from Stillwater, driving 92 mph, driving after drinking, any combination of those events — that Gundy doesn’t want to see happen again, then he must suspend Blackmon for at least a game. If none of those offenses are major in Gundy’s mind, or none of them added together are major, and it’s no big deal if there’s a repeat action in the next year or so from Blackmon or any other Cowboy, then the stairmaster after practice is sufficient punishment.
The “handle-it-internally” proponents are silly. Internal punishment, whatever that means, is no meaningful deterrent. Running steps, extra sprints, an hour of physical punishment at the hands of a conditioning coach? That’s a fine, like we get for speeding or the modern Rodney Harrisons get for illegal hits.
You want to change behavior, you give players a punishment that will last. That’s what Rodney Harrison knows. If Gundy wants Justin Blackmon to drive slower and sober and not so late four from Stillwater, Blackmon will sit vs. Kansas State. You want to send a message a guy remembers? Make him sit home watching his teammates on TV, trying to win a tough game without him.
Again, maybe it’s not that big a deal. Lots of players (and lots of us non-players) drive fast. Lots of players stay out til all hours of the night. Lots of players take a drink every now and then. Lots of players take off on adventures to the nearest Gotham or beyond.
That’s up to Gundy. So is whether it’s a big deal that Blackmon’s mug shot appearing on espn.com in a year in which he’s become the nation’s most productive receiver.
Coaches are in a tough spot. They have to protect their program, they have to protect their team (not the same thing, by the way) and they want to do right by the players in their charge.
You don’t necessarily treat all players alike, because all players are NOT alike. Dez Bryant and Justin Blackmon didn’t receive the same home training. Not even close. Bryant got little; Blackmon, from all indications, got quite a bit. I don’t know if that means you give Blackmon more leeway than you would give Dez, or less. I don’t know if that means you hold Blackmon to a higher standard than you would hold Dez, or does that mean Dez needed more discipline?
I wasn’t kidding. Coaches have a tough job, trying to decide what’s best.
But this I know. If you want Blackmon in the future to avoid the mess he found himself in Tuesday morning on a Carrollton freeway, you suspend him. Make him watch his teammates try to win without him. That’s a disciplinary action that will stay with Blackmon long after he’s hung up the shoulder pads.
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