Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was back in Boston on Wednesday, in connection with Boston College’s decision to retire his jersey. He was asked about another Boston quarterback whose jersey will be retired by the local NFL franchise, inevitably.
In response, Ryan did his best to avoid saying anything that would be even remotely controversial.
“Obviously, that’s a hot-button issue here in New England, but also across the league,” Ryan said, via FOX 25 in Boston. “I don’t know enough about the particulars of the situation. I really don’t. I think everybody rushes to judgment sometimes in certain ways so, you know, I don’t know enough about it. Certainly we’ve heard about it ad nauseum, but I don’t know enough about it.”
It’s surprising that any NFL player -- especially a starting quarterback -- wouldn’t want to know all there is to know about what’s happening with Brady, if only to know how best to deal with a similar situation if/when the unblinking red eye of 345 Park Avenue lands on his franchise and targets it, or him, with allegations of breaking the rules.
“As far as our union side of it, this is what they’re there for -- to help you in situations where you need help and I think they’ve done the appropriate thing on that end,” Ryan added.
And he’s correct on that point. Despite the narrative that the NFLPA needs to stand down in certain circumstances, the union has a duty under federal law to represent each and every player whom the league targets for discipline. That’s what it’s doing with Brady, and what it’s done with any other player that wanted to exercise his appeal rights.
At some point, Ryan or the Falcons could be targeted unfairly (or, as in the case of artificial noise being piped into the Georgia Dome, fairly). That’s why it’s important for the union (as to the players) and the media (as to the players and the teams) to be willing to challenge evidence and poke holes in arguments made by the league office.
Last year, it was the Patriots. Four years ago, it was the Saints. Earlier this year, it was the Chiefs.
Eventually, it will be another team that finds itself singled out in connection with a rule that is either being broken by multiple other franchises or that has never previously been enforced, in any way. As former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue explained in striking down the suspensions imposed on Saints players in connection with the bounty scandal, picking out and punishing one team isn’t the way to implement a change in culture, for the NFL or any organization.