NFL players rip Jim Irsay punishment

ByMike Wells ESPN logo
Thursday, September 4, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS -- Life without owner Jim Irsay began late Wednesday afternoon for the Indianapolis Colts.

But for others around the NFL, the six-game suspension and $500,000 fine issued to the longtime owner were not a sufficient enough punishment.

"It's kind of like a slap on the wrist," Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes said Wednesday. "But it is what it is. It's the business."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed down the penalties Tuesday after Irsay pleaded guilty to driving while impaired.

Irsay cannot attend any games or practices and is not allowed to be at the team's facility until the day after Indianapolis' game against the Houston Texans on Oct. 9. He's also banned from using social media in any fashion regarding the Colts or the NFL.

Some players around the league questioned whether there was a double standard for how Goodell ruled on punishments for owners as opposed to players.

"For your organization to win ballgames, I don't really see that playing a big part with it," Tennessee Titans safety Michael Griffin said. "What does it do actually to the team? Suspend him for six games -- he can still watch at home, he's on vacation. $500,000 just lets you know how much he's actually making.

"How does that affect the actual team? I don't see it affecting the team like losing draft picks or something of that nature. ... Same 53 men. You're going to win games with him there or not."

Hughes, whom the Colts traded to Buffalo in 2013, noted how Irsay was fined only $500,000 while Denver Broncos receiver Wes Welker will lose $1.8 million while serving his four-game suspension for breaking the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

"I'll just let the numbers speak for themselves," Hughes said. "I mean, he's a billionaire, so I'm pretty sure [$500,000] won't hurt too badly."

The Colts are maintaining a business-as-usual approach without Irsay because they knew a suspension was possible. The franchise was without the owner for a period of time while he was in rehab after his arrest in March.

"I'm sure it hurts, we know how much the Colts mean to him," Colts quarterback Andrew Luck said.

Irsay's daughter, Carlie Irsay-Gordon, will oversee the franchise in her father's absence.

What will be different, according to the players, is that they won't be seeing Irsay around the facility or in the locker room after games. Irsay has never missed a game since the team moved to Indianapolis in 1984.

"He's been with the organization since he was a kid," tight end Coby Fleener said. "It's a stiff punishment. It will be a tough thing for him."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano knows what it feels like to not be able to be involved in something you're so passionate about. Pagano missed 12 games in 2012 while he battled leukemia.

"I have a real good sense," he said. "You pull anybody away from this game that has the passion and drive and love for this sport that we're so privileged to play and coach, you feel helpless. Believe me. I have a really good understanding." Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky and Bills reporter Mike Rodak contributed to this report.

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