NFL Police Reports
The San Francisco 49ers’ off-field reputation may be improving after a number of high profile encounters between 49ers and law enforcement in recent years. And although the Oakland Raiders recently took on the responsibility of one of those 49ers—five-time arrestee and pro bowler Aldon Smith—all is so far so good this preseason for the silver and black in the police report column.
According to data compiled by USA Today, none of the 12 criminal arrests of NFL players since the end of the 2015 season involved 49ers or Raiders, although the latest involved a recent 49er—linebacker Dan Skuta. Skuta was arrested for alleged battery on June 19, accused of “pushing a woman’s face with an open hand after she refused to give him her phone number in Orlando.” (USA Today.) After two seasons with the 49ers, Skuta signed with Jacksonville last year as a free agent.
The highest profile arrest of an NFL player this off-season was of quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who was indicted on January 30 on a domestic violence charge. The Cleveland Browns released him shortly thereafter, and he is still without a team.
The NFL franchise with the most off-field concerns as of late may be the Rams, who have returned to Los Angeles after 20 years in St. Louis. Rams players have been arrested twice this off-season. Linebacker Tre Mason was arrested in March, accused of reckless driving, possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest. Safety T.J. McDonald was arrested for an alleged, non-alcohol DUI under suspicion of hitting a parked car.
The individual player trending for the wrong reasons this off-season, other than Manziel, may be Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, who has a long history of legal troubles. He was arrested in March for allegedly leaving the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license. Police reports involving Suggs date back to his rookie year in 2003, when he was charged but ultimately acquitted of felony aggravated assault, stemming from an alleged fight with weapons outside a Phoenix basketball tournament. Then, in 2009, according to CBS News, the mother of Suggs’ children filed a civil complaint against him for alleged assault with a soap dispenser and a bottle of bleach. New domestic violence allegations surfaced in 2012. (Huffington Post.)
Heading into the 2016 season, four players on the 49ers’ 90-man preseason roster have a history of criminal arrests/charges, which is above the arrest rate for NFL players generally. The most recent data available, from 2013, indicates a league-wide arrest rate of approximately 3.75 percent. (Huffington Post.) Two current 49ers have multiple arrests/charges, including a pending charge. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks was indicted last August for sexual battery stemming from a 2014 incident at the San Jose home of former 49er Ray McDonald. McDonald, a defensive end, was arrested three times as a 49er, became a Chicago Bear in 2015, and was promptly cut by the team after he was arrested again for alleged domestic violence. Brooks’ other incident was in 2008, in which he was accused of punching a woman.
The three other current 49ers with an arrest history are fullback Bruce Miller, wide receiver Jerome Simpson, and guard/center Daniel Kilgore. Miller was arrested last year for domestic violence, to which he pleaded no contest. Simpson joined the 49ers last season, although he was suspended for six games related to his 2014 citation for possession of marijuana and driving with an open container. (ESPN.) The 2014 citation was Simpson’s third incident, all of which allegedly involved alcohol or drugs. Kilgore was accused of public intoxication in 2014.
The Raiders have only three players on its preseason roster with histories of arrests/charges, and only one excluding perennial kicker Sebastian Janikowski and the still-suspended Smith. Janikowski has three alcohol/drug-related arrests, but the most recent is nearly 13 years old. Smith was suspended for a year following his last arrest/charge as a 49er, and he must apply to the NFL for reinstatement, which he will be allowed to do as early as September. (ESPN.) Smith’s run-ins with the law involve alleged DUIs, an assault, and even an alleged false bomb threat at an airport. He pleaded no contest to a gun-related charge in 2013. The only other Raider with a prior arrest is cornerback Sean Smith, who pleaded guilty after a 2014 DUI arrest.
Although the 49ers experienced an uptick in arrests/charges from 2010 to 2015, San Francisco is not the most criminally troubled NFL franchise since 2000, and neither is Oakland. Both teams are roughly in the middle of the pack in this category. There have been 23 arrests/charges against 49ers in the past 16 years, only 21 involving Raiders.
By this metric, Bay Area NFL teams are less than half as troubled as the league-leaders in this area. The Minnesota Vikings have experienced 48 arrests/charges since 2000, and the Denver Broncos trail the Vikings only slightly with 47 such incidents.
The leader on the positive end of this spectrum appears to be the New York Giants, who have managed to average less than one arrest per season, for a total of 14. The Houston Texans did not exist in 2000, but they, too, have averaged less than one arrest per season, for a total of 13 in the team’s history, which began in 2002. The Philadelphia Eagles have only 15 arrests/charges in the past 16 years.
There does not seem to be a strong correlation between criminal arrests/charges and winning or losing in the NFL. The troubled Broncos have had 10 winning seasons and a Super Bowl victory since 2000. The Indianapolis Colts won 13 out of 16 seasons, including a Lombardi Trophy, but have experienced 33 arrests/charges during that period. And clean living does not always translate to victory on the field. The Buffalo Bills have done well off the field with only 18 arrests/charges but not so well on Sundays, with only two winning seasons out of 16. On the other hand, the aforementioned Giants have won two Super Bowls, and the winningest team this century, the New England Patriots, has a respectable off-field track record of only 20 arrests/charges, although it was a Patriot, Aaron Hernandez, who was infamously convicted of first-degree murder.
In spite of the headlines that NFL players generate when they face criminal charges, and the league’s resulting reputation, NFL players have a lower arrest rate than their counterparts in the general population. According to a study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice, the arrest rate for NFL players in 2013 was approximately 3.75 percent, compared to about 4.95 percent for men aged 20 to 39 generally. (Huffington Post.)
Compared to the NBA, however, the NFL’s arrest rate appears to be significantly higher. According to the LA Times, the arrest rate for NBA players in 2013 was no more than 1.5 percent.
Speaking of the NBA, and with the 49ers apparently cleaning up their act, Bay Area police reports in the world of sports may shift to another team—and another sport. According to ESPN, Draymond Green was arrested July 10 on assault charges. So begins the off-season for Green and the Golden State Warriors.
Except as otherwise noted, this article is based upon data compiled and reports by USA Today. Marcus Brown is a real estate and commercial attorney in Walnut Creek, handling both transactions and litigation. His favorite 49ers moments are Montana to Taylor to beat the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII and Smith to Davis to defeat the Saints in the 2012 NFC Divisional Playoffs.