Mike Brown has been called a lot of things over the years, but this would have been off base, he said:
“Do I think we have a locker room with the James Boys, Pretty Boy Floyd and John Dillinger? I don’t.
“I’m not Ma Barker!”
The Cincinnati Bengals owner was referring to the merciless crime matriarch from the 1920s and 30s who, along with her four sons in her gang, was considered Public Enemy No 1 by the FBI.
The Barker Gang robbed, kidnapped and murdered their way across the Midwest and South until Ma was killed in a Florida shootout with the feds in 1935. They say she died with a Tommy Gun in her hands.
“The most vicious, dangerous and criminal brain of the last decade,” FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover described her at the time.
As for the assessment leveled at Brown — though indirect and nowhere near so damning — it still wasn’t favorable. It came from veteran broadcaster Bob Costas last Sunday on CNN.
The conversation was about quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is being treated like a pariah among NFL owners because of his political activism and the fact he expressed it last season by taking a knee during the national anthem before his San Francisco 49er games.
He’s now out of a job and even though he’s thrown for 70 touchdowns against 32 interceptions in his six-year career, took the 49ers to the Super Bowl five years ago and even managed 16 TDs against four picks with the hapless 49ers last year, none of the 32 teams in the league has invited him to camp.
Costas was making a point that teams often look the other way on more grievous offenses and he singled out the Bengals and especially cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.
“Domestic abusers — people guilty of various forms of misbehavior — find a place on NFL rosters,” Costas said during the interview. “Pacman Jones was just suspended again — for a single game — for some run-in with the police several months ago.
“This guy’s got a rap sheet a mile long, and collects millions of dollars from the Cincinnati Bengals, who at various times seem to have been running a halfway house for miscreants.”
Brown was asked about that at the annual preseason media luncheon Tuesday at Paul Brown Stadium.
“Bob Costas is someone we all respect,” he said. “He’s earned his niche. He’s a national media figure. Syracuse hasn’t turned out many better.
“But it doesn’t mean he’s always right. I think he swung and missed on this one. I think he is looking backwards at some point beyond where I’m looking. I really think he’d been better to look into this a little bit more.”
Brown said while the assessment may have once been more on the mark, it isn’t now:
“Over the last four years statistics show the Bengals are in the bottom quartile of the National Football League for the number of suspended players. Not the top. We have had far less than most teams. Some teams have had three, four. maybe even five times as many players suspended. They’ve had many more incidents than we have had.”
And yet the Bengals have a few players whose transgressions are a lightning rod for scrutiny.
Along with the oft-suspended Jones, there is rookie running back Joe Mixon, who was responsible for an ugly incident at Oklahoma University three years ago, and there’s veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict, whose annual on-the-field antics have often drawn the ire of opposing players and the league.
No ‘hanging judge’
Before coming to Cincinnati eight seasons ago, Jones had troubles at West Virginia University and then was hit with NFL suspensions when he was with Tennessee and Dallas for various run-ins at nightclubs and with authorities.
In 2007 after Jones’ tussle with an exotic dancer at a Vegas strip club, one of his entourage fired a gun that left a bouncer paralyzed. Jones was ordered to pay $12.4 million in damages that time.
With the Bengals there have been a few incidents, the latest coming in the wee hours of Jan. 3 when he had a run-in with a hotel employee and was charged with kicking and head-butting him. He also was uncooperative with police officers and was caught on tape in the back of a cruiser telling one, “I hope you die tomorrow.”
That brought two days in jail, anger management classes, an apology in court and Sunday criticism from Costas.
Brown keeps giving Jones a chance and reiterated Tuesday how “Adam Jones is a good person if you know him. I like him as a person. I admire his energy … his courage. I admire a lot of things about him.”
That said, Brown admitted Jones “made an ass of himself” in January:
“He got drunk publicly and made an ass of himself. He embarrassed himself. He embarrassed the club, embarrassed the league and embarrassed his family. Nobody knows it more than him. He has paid a dear price, both in the judicial system — he went to jail for a couple of days — and at the league level.
“He has been suspended for a game next season and that’s expensive unless you don’t think a couple of hundred thousand dollars is much money. Most of all he has suffered in the court of public opinion. It’s been a real slap in the face for him.
“I think he can overcome this. If I’m wrong, I’ll take the responsibility for it and that will be the end of it. But I’m going to give him the chance.”
He is doing the same with Mixon ,who got into an altercation with a young woman in an Oklahoma café and punched her in the face, breaking her jaw. He was suspended for a year by the Sooners and after another minor incident last year, his position in the draft fell until the Bengals picked him up in the second round last April.
“Joe Mixon is young guy. He just turned 21 yesterday,” Brown said. “The misbehavior he was involved in was three years ago. He made a terrible mistake. He struck a young woman and hurt her badly. I think it was a reflexive action, but it was a terrible result and he paid a price for it.
“He was punished by the courts and the university. He made amends with the young lady and she has publicly forgiven him.
“He’s going to be watched carefully forever more because of this. But we think this was a one-time thing and I think it is time to give a guy like this a chance to do the best with his life. I don’t see what is served by denying someone that opportunity.”
With a moment’s reflection, he added: “I try to work with the guys. That’s just who I am.”
And with a shrug, he admitted: “I’m not exactly a hanging judge.”
Ma Barker would have liked that about him.
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