You would have to hold the title of world's greatest football prognosticator to have predicted this one. The NFL suspended the greatest quarterback of this generation, Tom Brady for the first four games of the 2015 season. The first of those four games, an opening night showdown with the Steelers at Gillette Stadium, the night New England plans to raise the banner of the Lombardi trophy it won in controversy and in the process letting the air out of the Colts’ season and the footballs. Two of the league’s top players, and one on this list, will miss that opening night contest, setting up a matchup headlined by 2014 second round draft pick Jimmy Garoppolo who projects as the starting quarterback for New England in Brady’s absence.
Interestingly enough, the future Hall of Famer entered the league as a backup quarterback and when the starter at the time Drew Bledsoe was forced to miss time due to injury, Brady grabbed hold of the job and refused to relinquish it. Garoppolo gets his opportunity in different circumstances and in place of a four-time Super Bowl Champion, and while few expect him to steal the job, can he at the minimum demonstrate that he’s capable of taking over once Brady calls it a career?
What is more concerning for the NFL and its fans is the type of debate this news stirs. Should the league come down harder on infractions off the field or rather those that question the integrity of the game on the field? Clear evidence proved former Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulted his wife, and yet the NFL decided to suspend him for just two games. Meanwhile along with the Brady suspension, the Patriots were also fined $1 million and stripped of two draft picks, including a first round pick in 2016 for the “DeflateGate” incident. The league considered the “Spygate” fiasco and viewed New England as a repeat offender. When an off-field incident occurs, you consistently hear phrases along the lines of “there are more important things in life than football,” so why should an incident which may have harmed the integrity of the game be considered more detrimental than that in which pain was inflicted on another human being in an act of violence? The league needs to find consistency in the suspensions it hands out.
The mistake was made and the NFL soon changed its policy on domestic violence, as evidenced by Greg Hardy's 10-game suspension, in addition to the games he sat out last year following the incident. Adrian Peterson was also placed on the commissioner's exempt list last year, although he was reinstated a few weeks ago.
Nevertheless, here are the 10 best players who received a suspension in the last decade.
10 Albert Haynesworth – 5 games
9 Greg Hardy – 10 games
Greg Hardy blossomed into one of the better pass rushers in the NFL while in Carolina. However, an incident during that time obliterated his reputation. Hardy was suspended 10 games after committing a “significant act of violence” against his ex-girlfriend, as stated by the NFL. Hardy played just one game last year. Following the negative fallout from the soft Ray Rice suspension, the NFL revamped its policy on domestic violence and the Panthers placed him on the exempt list, meaning Hardy would be forced to sit out, but still collected his $13.1 million in remaining salary. The case was dismissed after the victim failed to show up to court during the appeals process, following Hardy having been convicted.
8 Plaxico Burress – 4 games
7 Aldon Smith – 9 games
6 Josh Gordon – 10 Games (Possibly One Year)
5 Ndamukong Suh – 2 games
4 Adrian Peterson – Indefinitely (later reinstated)
3 Ben Roethlisberger – 4 games
2 Michael Vick – Two seasons
1 Tom Brady – 4 games
Just the idea of the league’s poster boy being suspended for any amount of games sent shockwaves across the NFL world. And when his four-game suspension became official, few could fathom such a punishment, especially since we hadn’t seen one quite like it in the history of the league. Brady and the Patriots were penalized for the “DeflateGate” scandal in which it was reported that some footballs were purposefully under-inflated to gain a competitive advantage. The team was labeled as a repeat offender (“Spygate”) and therefore received a harsher penalty.
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