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Everyone must do a better job of warning players about gambling

Mike Florio and Chris Simms unpack reports that the NFL is investigating Colts’ Isaiah Rodgers Sr. for possibly violating the league’s gambling policy and question if the policy needs to be edited for clarity.

Although the evidence suggests that Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers knew he was violating the gambling policy, given that the account he used reportedly was in the name of an associate, this latest example of the intersection between NFL players and sports book apps should be the one that finally gets everyone’s attention.

Even if their attention should have been gotten years ago.

The fact that so many players have been suspended for violating the league’s gambling policy amounts to a failure by many. The league, the union, the teams, agents, everyone -- including the players.

The NFL’s policy reads as if it was written by lawyers for lawyers. One or more teams, we’re told, have re-written it to make it understandable to players and non-players.

The league’s decision to unilaterally impose a gambling policy that includes clunky, inconsistent provisions regarding where and how players can bet on non-NFL sporting events has given the NFL Players Association no reason to take ownership of the final product and assist with its proper implementation. As a result, plenty of players don’t realize that, while it’s not a violation to make a bet on a non-NFL sporting event on the sidewalk outside the team facility, it becomes one as soon as they walk through the door.

The union has not made education the kind of priority that it should have been. When the crap hit the fan in April with five suspensions announced in one fell swoop, the union sent an email not to all players but to all agents. As if it’s the agents’ responsibility, not the union’s responsibility, to explain the rules to the players.

Everyone has an incentive to get this right. The NFL, the NFLPA, the unions, the teams, the agents, the players.

Everyone. Us included. We all want the best football players to be available to play football. We don’t want to see careers become derailed or destroyed because no one has gotten in each player’s face and made it clear to him that, if you do this, you will be caught, and you will be done.

Coaches get in players’ faces all the time, about all sorts of things. Coaches set clear rules for players all the time. Why is this any different?

Given the extreme consequences of a violation, this is something about which coaches should be hounding players every single day. The league should want that. The union should want that. Everyone should want that.

And if they are hounding the players constantly and it’s still happening, then maybe someone needs to take a step back and wonder whether something else is going on. Do some players arrive at the NFL already with a gambling addiction?

At a deeper level, is the NFL’s ongoing money grab via umpteen sports book sponsorships sending a mixed message to players who think that, if it’s OK for the owners to take gambling money on the back end, they should be allowed to try to take some of it on the front end?

Whatever the cause(s), it’s the biggest problem the NFL is currently facing. And it’s just a matter of time before the NFL finds itself without a star player or two because of it.