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By CHRIS HAVEL
Talk about a disastrous Fourth of July weekend for several Packers and other pro athletes.
The great golfer, Rory McIlroy, ruptured an ankle ligament playing soccer. Giants pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul almost blew off both hands playing with fireworks. And the Packers’ Andrew Quarless was arrested for playing with – and more importantly twice discharging – a handgun in public.
Word also came down that Packers’ defensive end Datone Jones has been suspended one game for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Jones reportedly was cited for marijuana possession on Jan. 19, the day after the Packers’ meltdown at Seattle in the NFC Championship game.
Furthermore, Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion awaits word on his possible suspension stemming from an off-season arrest on drug and weapons charges in Florida.
What in the name of “Packer People” is going on out there? McIlroy and Pierre-Paul were accident victims. At most, they could be accused of bad judgment.
What’s Quarless’ or Jones’ excuse? This is why NFL head coaches may not be able to sleep at night. Dealing with pre-game jitters the night before kick-off is one thing. Worrying about what foolishness may befall a player or players during the summer off-season is quite another thing.
It is why Packers head coach Mike McCarthy had NFL security conduct its players meeting just 48 hours before the start of summer vacation. Apparently, not every player received the message.
Quarless, according to an eye-witness, was involved in an argument with several women when he discharged a handgun into the ground twice. The incident occurred in South Beach, Fla., at approximately 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Quarless got into a black Porsche and left the scene. According to the police report, he was later located and arrested while trying to ditch the handgun in a planter outside a restaurant.
Exactly how this affects Quarless and the Packers remains to be seen, but it doesn’t look good for the veteran tight end. On the heels of a strong off-season, Quarless was pushing for more playing time and more passes targeted his way. This incident puts all of that into question.
What Jones did was foolish. What Quarless did was beyond that. It was a selfish act that put his career and the team’s season at risk. All of Quarless’ talk this off-season about how he’s grown weary of being the underdog, and of how he belongs in the same class as the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski seems so irrelevant now.
Now, McCarthy and the Packers must pick up the pieces. The team issued a rather bland statement regarding Quarless. It was the Packers’ first comment, but it won’t be their last. This is serious. Quarless is fortunate that one of the two bullets he fired didn’t ricochet and strike a bystander in the head. Then, he’d be looking at a whole other form of discipline.
Clearly, this means an opportunity for Richard Rodgers, who could catapult himself into the No. 1 spot at tight end. Rodgers needs to show up at training camp in great shape both physically and mentally. It also means an opportunity for B.J. Raji while Guion serves whatever suspension he receives. Raji could nail down the nose tackle job in Guion’s absence.
Beyond that, it means a battle between Josh Boyd and Khyri Thornton at left defensive end while Jones is out. Ultimately, Quarless’ arrest is a cautionary tale for his teammates. I would be shocked if any other Packers were involved in shenanigans before the start of training camp.
If they are – especially in light of this recent incident – they probably aren’t worth keeping on the roster. It is a disappointing post script to the holiday weekend.
Training camp can’t get here fast enough.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ MVP Parties the evening before home games.