NFL offseason player arrests a growing trend

Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, center, is led away, as his attorney Michael Fee speaks to him, right, after arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass. (AP Photo/The Sun Chronicle, Mike George, Pool)

NFL athletes have been busy this offseason. But I’m not talking about OTA’s, mini camps or workouts. I’m talking about arrests and citations.

Recent events in the case against former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez got lots of attention, but that wasn't the only news item of consequence.

Since the Super Bowl on February 3, there have been a total of 30 arrests of current or former NFL players, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The stat is one of many in a database on the Union-Tribune's website which includes every citation greater than a speeding ticket that the newspaper could find going back to 2000.

The Union-Tribune's researchers admitted that "the list cannot be considered comprehensive in part because some incidents may not have been reported and some public records proved to be elusive."

Also, there's an acknowledgment that "[i]ncreased media coverage of incidents also probably accounts for more incidents listed in recent years" compared to the past.

But the research does seem to show a trend.

I wrote above that there have been 30 arrests since the Super Bowl. Three have occured in just the last few weeks:

June 25: Cleveland Browns linebacker Ausar Walcott was arrested and with attempted murder.
June 26: Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was arrested and charged with murder (along with five weapon counts)
June 29: Indianapolis Colts safety Joe Lefeged was arrested for possession of an unregistered pistol at a traffic stop.

[Click here for the complete list.]

Of the 30 arrests this year, the most frequent were for DUI/DWI (6), assault/battery (5), public intoxication (4) and drug charges (4). Three different individuals were arrested twice for various infractions.

One of the people who was arrested twice was free agent wide receiver Titus Young. He was arrested twice in one day back in May. In case you missed it here is a timeline of Young’s arrests (with a funny mugshot too).

Tampa Bay safety Cody Grimm was another repeat offender. He was arrested twice in Virginia for public intoxication, first in March and again in May.

In fact, there were 11 arrests in May alone.

Which teams have had the most arrested players? The New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns, with three each. All three of the Jets players were charged with possession of marijuana.

The 30 arrests were spread across 17 teams, which is just over half the league. Four of the arrests were of free agents.

For a more visual interpretation of the arrests, the Business Insider provides charts with some interesting numbers.

So why is this happening? Here's one possibility: of the four major sports, the NFL has the longest offseason. That's just one factor, of course, but it's worth thinking about.

The NFL is definitely paying attention to its players' activities away from the field.

"One [arrest] is too many," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told USA TODAY. "We have policies and programs that hold all NFL employees accountable and provide them with programs of education and support."

It's hard to avoid thinking that these programs are starting to fill up fast.