The Cincinnati Bengals cannot keep out of the negative media limelight. After having successful football seasons on the field the last few years, the off-field follies continue to pile up. Reggie Nelson is the most recent Bengals’ player to be indicated in a criminal case that is back dated to September 2007.
The report by ESPN came from an investigation about a shooting involving former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, while Hernandez was a 17-year-old freshman at University of Florida. One of the witnesses at the shooting identified Reggie Nelson as one of the suspects that accompanied Hernandez. The police report wasn’t released publicly at the time because the Gainesville police department considered it an “open investigation,” according to the ESPN report.
The findings of this investigation which were discovered in light of the current murder trial involving Hernandez and the shooting of Boston native Odin Lloyd, has already resparked the bad reputation the Bengals’ organization received throughout a 17-arrest, 3-season span from 2005-2008.
With Nelson being mentioned in a criminal case that has national attention, and the recent incident with Adam “Pacman” Jones and a woman outside a Cincinnati bar on June 5 that has resulted in assault charges – which can be seen here – the Bengals find themselves back in rough waters.
Both cases, even if either results in dropped charges or none altogether, is not something the team wants to deal with heading into a training camp that will be featured in the upcoming ESPN’s “Hard Knocks” on Aug 6 and a 2013 season where the Bengals are one of the favorites to win the AFC north.
Bengals’ owner Mike Brown has already told reporters that the team passed on Hernandez in the 2010 NFL Draft due to off-field issues with his character a big question mark. The team has conflicting issues with players like Jones who has seen his fair share off off-field legal issues with three in the last three seasons alone.
What the Bengals can hope for is for Nelson’s case going no further than it already has – which is a likely possibility – and that Jones’ trial that is set for Aug. 19 – after the second preseason game – ends quickly before the regular season commences. Those who may recall the Bengals’ string of legal issues that peaked at 10 arrests in 2006 and helped in cooling off the 2005 (11-5) defending division champions to an 8-8 record and no playoff appearance, will note the team chemistry became fractured by mid-season. Some believe that whatever happens off the field has no real bearing on how a team plays on it. However, arguments can be made that teams with chronic player behavior problems tend to suffer when it’s game time.
The Cincinnati Bengals rank first in player arrests since 2000 at 40, following them are the Vikings (40), Broncos (35), Titans (32), Buccaneers (28), Chiefs (27), Jaguars (27) and Browns (26) respectively. All these teams combine for a 775-888 record and one Super Bowl win (Buccaneers XXXVII).
The good guys of the NFL are the New York Jets with 11 arrests, followed by the Cardinals (11), Eagles (12), Giants (13), 49ers (13), Bills (14), Cowboys (15) and Patriots (15) with a combined record of 861-801 and five Super Bowl wins (Giants XLII, XLVI; Patriots XXXVI, XXXVII, XXXIX).
An argument can be made for the records of the most and least arrested teams that schedules, injuries, coaching etc. have more of an impact, and there’s a good chance those do, but the expectations of the individual organizations reflects both on and off field progress. The New England patriots wasted no time releasing Hernandez before any arraignment or trial ever occurred – less than three hours after hearing of his arrest.
New England’s head coach Bill Belichick has been vocal about not having distractions on their team and it has rewarded them with wins and rings. It’s now time for the Cincinnati Bengals to decide whether or not they are going to stick to their guns about improving their image and creating a winning environment and this upcoming season is a good place to start.