NFL needs to end late nights

. Tuesday, September 2, 2008
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How many times have you heard the saying "nothing good happens after midnight?"

Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Richard Collier was shot and critically wounded at 2:45 a.m. Tuesday and you can be sure that if he pulls through, the loved ones praying by his bedside will reinforce that mantra to him. If he doesn't pull through, you can be sure that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will reinforce that mantra to the rest of the league.

The 26-year-old Collier and former Jags teammate Kenneth Pettway were parked in Collier's Escalade waiting for two women they had met in a night club earlier that evening when a gunman opened fire on the vehicle, striking Collier several times.

The shooting was the third in the last 20 months in which an active NFL player has been critically wounded. Denver Broncos cornerback Darrent Williams was killed in his limo on January 1, 2007 following an argument at a night club. Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died on November 27, 2007, a day after being shot in his home during a robbery. All three shooting occurred between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m.

While these three are the most extreme of examples, there is no shortage of athlete-related altercations in the wee hours of the morning. Seemingly every week, an NFL player's name appears on a police report.

The "where" part of the equation is typically the same: late night, out on the town, in or around a bar or night club. The "why" also remains a constant: someone gets jealous, words are said, tempers flare and things get out of hand. The "what" varies only slightly depending on to what degree the altercation escalates. The "who" is the only piece of the formula that really changes.

The similarities between the shooting Collier was involved in and the one that killed Williams are strikingly similar. The one in which Taylor was shot at home was it an extreme rarity, the exception and not the rule.

Nonetheless, each of the three incidents shares that one indisputably common thread - time.
Goodell knows it. The NFL owners know it. And the players can no longer claim to be naive enough not to know it.

A mandatory curfew of 1 a.m. needs to be put in place. Not just on the night before games, not just every night of the season, but every night of the year.

A curfew would keep the headlines involving NFL players in the sports section and out of the crime log. It would mean that Williams would still be alive. It would mean that Adam "Pacman" Jones and Ray Lewis never would have been accused of conspiracy to commit murder. It would greatly help the image of the league, ensuring that America's favorite sport remains just that.

When punishing problematic players, a curfew would be something solid Goodell and the NFL owners could lean on rather than the vague description of the league's personal conduct policy. After all, while these athletes are commodities. The organizations with whom they are contracted ahve both a personal and monetary interest in protect their investments.

Would it be practically impossible to enforce, yes. But a 1 p.m. curfew would leave no gray area. There would be no flexing or shifting of the line in the sand. It would be in the same spot for both a franchise quarterback and a third-string linebacker. It would either be crossed or wouldn't be crossed.

If Richard Collier pulls through, you can be sure that he'll never cross that line again. It's high time Goodell and the NFL owners make it very clear where that line is and do it before tragedy strikes another one the league's players.