This is not the first time it has been obvious the NFL learned nothing from its year in Ray Rice/Greg Hardy hell. Remember, the football world got wind of the Giants' enabling of Josh Brown less than a year ago.
This is just the latest time the NFL has fallen back to square one on the topic of violence against women. Now everyone should wonder whether the league ever moved off of it in the first place.
No, not if last week’s NFL Draft is any indication.
A player involved in an active rape investigation: first-round pick. One caught on video punching a woman and breaking bones in her face: second-round pick. One previously charged twice in incidents with his children’s mother, once for throwing her to the ground and once for biting her: fourth-round pick.
One arrested and accused of dragging his girlfriend across the floor a month before the draft: third-round pick. One charged a week before the draft with hitting a woman outside a bar, knocking her tooth out and knocking her unconscious: sixth-round pick.
Those picks, respectively, are Gareon Conley, Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, Jourdan Lewis and Caleb Brantley.
It feels like more than a mere coincidence that both Rice and Hardy have been back in the news lately. Rice will be part of a presentation to players and staff this season about social responsibility, according to ESPN, speaking of the repercussions on his life from hitting his then-fiancee in 2014.
You have to wonder how Rice can explain the concept of consequences to players whose only prices were falling a few rounds lower than expected, or to teams that insist they don’t "condone" such acts or have "zero tolerance" yet still embrace players with those histories.
Hardy, on the other hand, is apparently still dodging responsibility and giving non-apologies for what he was caught doing to a woman that same year. According to a detailed Bleacher Report story Tuesday, Hardy is trying to make it in a new spring league, as a springboard back into the NFL.
"I’m working to get the Greg Hardy name back in good standings, and for redemption,” he told Bleacher Report. "An apologetic, happy comeback. Get to the Hall of Fame."
There is no reason to believe Hardy won't be back if he proves he can play. There’s no reason to believe Rice would not already be back had teams believed his skills hadn’t eroded, as they do with aging, injured running backs.
Because, clearly, when a player is talented enough to be useful, such histories of violence against women are shrugged off, excused, explained away.
The teams will tell you they conducted extensive probes into the various cases, issued lie detector tests, scrutinized police reports, interviewed coaches and teammates and classmates and friends … and, of course, the players themselves.
Then they say, essentially, we trust him, we believe him, we can’t deny him a second chance, we can work with him, we can put him in a supportive environment … and, wow, he can really play.
Just as they always have with “character” concerns and “red flags” before 2014, and as they have since then.
Oh, there was a moment even before all the ugly incidents with women piled up — back when Aaron Hernandez was arrested — when teams pledged determination to vet these young men harder. Maybe they still do. More likely, they search for the reason to take them, rather than not to take them.
The Josh Brown fiasco proved that. For those who weren’t convinced, the draft proved it again.
The NFL is right back where it started. Or even further back. Now, not even a graphic video turns a team off anymore.