Saving Pacman

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In an unsubstantiated report from an Atlanta radio station, Titans cornerback Pacman Jones apparently indicated he'd be playing soon for a team in the AFC West that wore red uniforms. Nothing I've uncovered indicates this report is true or the Kansas City Chiefs are the team Jones mentioned.

But one thing is certain - Pacman will be back in the NFL this season. Will things be different this time? A year ago, Jones was suspended from the league for a year.

The idea of Pacman in a Chiefs' uniform scares me to death. When asked about it earlier this week, I responded that if the Chiefs signed him, I'd probably retire as Publisher of Warpaint Illustrated.

After reading comments concerning Pacman from people who know him (and those who think they know him), it gave me pause to think about what men like Herm Edwards and Gunther Cunningham could do to save Jones' life.

That's at the core of this entire issue. Pacman needs to be saved from himself and his entourage. He needs to take the hood out of his life.

In the NFL there are two sets of players. The first group includes those who place the team above themselves. In the second group, it's the exact opposite. In Kansas City, for the most part, the first group is strong. But some NFL locker rooms heavily favor the selfish.

I'm not going to recant all the offenses that resulted in Pacman's suspension, because it's old news. What's important is that Jones will likely be reinstated this year and what he does with that second chance will define not his legacy as an NFL bad boy, but rather determine what kind of man he chooses to become for the young fans who still wear his name on their back.

I'm not about to make this a racial thing, but there are sad cases in the NFL. Twenty-year olds with riches in hand are bled dry by friends, family and business professionals.

In Pacman's case, my bet is that it's a combination of all three. Sudden wealth rewards the immature athlete and gives him enough power to ruin his life forever.

Is it fair to those who are given these riches before proving their worth as football players and men? Not really, although few will feel sorry for them.

As far as Pacman is concerned, those who know him say he has a heart of gold. His real problem lies in the fact he can't say no to his entourage. Like most athletes, the peer pressure to take care of his buddies has corrupted his judgment. On the other hand, going to strip clubs with firearms in your back pocket is stupid, and he should know better.

But even with the suspension and the stupidity, he's going to play in the NFL this fall. He may not have learned his lesson, but he'll get another shot.

This may be his last chance, however. Pacman won't be given the leeway major league baseball once gave New York Yankees pitcher Steve Howe, who had drug problems but was given six or seven chances to get his act together.

Will Pacman's last chance come in Kansas City? I don't believe so, but regardless of where he ends up, he needs to leave the hood in Tennessee. He needs to tell the leeches who have milked him dry of his dignity and finances to stay away. For the first time in his life he must stand up and turn his back on those individuals no matter how close to him they may be.

If he can't do that, he may end up living on the streets like some of his older NFL brethren. That's a fate that shouldn't befall anyone given the incredible opportunity Pacman Jones was handed three years ago.

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