Eisenberg: It's Time For Strong Action


Bernard Pierce correctly predicted that his career with the Ravens was over when he was picked up and charged with driving under the influence in Baltimore County earlier this week.

"I'm getting cut tomorrow," the running back told police, according to a police report obtained by numerous media outlets including the Baltimore Sun and TMZ.

It took the Ravens less than 12 hours to make the decision to cut him.

Until recently, it wasn't so clear they would respond so definitively. When their quarterback, Steve McNair, was picked up for DUI in Tennessee in 2007, he kept his job. When the team's offensive line coach, Andy Moeller, was found guilty of DUI in 2011, he kept his job.

Plenty of other Ravens have dealt with serious off-field issues over the years without losing their roster spots.

Pierce made the same mistake as McNair and Moeller but was immediately cut, not because he was less valuable than those other two, but because, quite simply, the atmosphere has changed in Ravenstown. In response to the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal and other headline-making off-field incidents that have embarrassed the franchise for more than a year, the Ravens have become adamant about refusing to tolerate players who get in trouble.

I don't blame them.

The Ravens had more players arrested (five) than any other NFL team in 2014. Their highest executives, Owner Steve Bisciotti and President Dick Cass, both told reporters during the "State of the Ravens" press conference on Feb. 24 that they hoped and believed the rough year was "an aberration." Yet two more players have been arrested since then, bringing this year's total to three.

It's time for strong action.

A sports franchise is in business to win, but it also has to put forth a product its community can support in good faith, a product fans can believe in – a team that makes you feel good about cheering for it. Having sold out every game at M&T Bank Stadium since 2005, the Ravens don't have to worry about fan loyalty or support. But this recent run of off-putting news doesn't help.

They had few problems in Head Coach John Harbaugh's first six years here. It would surprise me if they took more character risks than other teams when assembling their roster. But as former Head Coach Brian Billick often said, it is what it is. Things have spiraled in the wrong direction, necessitating attention – and action.

"I think things come in waves, and we certainly took a crash here last year," Bisciotti said last month. "There isn't a lot you can do. I think that we are a team and an organization that cares, obviously, about our reputation, and when it takes a hit, then you examine what you do."

That examination has produced what appears to be a zero-tolerance policy. Like Pierce, the other two Ravens arrested this year, Victor Hampton and Terrence Cody, were immediately cut. Cody was indicted on animal cruelty charges and Hampton was charged with driving while impaired. The team has never said the moves were a response to off-field news, but feel free to draw your own conclusion.

Admittedly, none of the three players figured prominently in the team's plans – Pierce was the most prominent and had sunk to the bottom of the depth chart at running back – so making an example of them was easy. (Pierce, a former third-round pick, does have potential, as evidenced by the fact that the Jacksonville Jaguars quickly picked him up.)

We'll see what happens if the Ravens have to deal with the problems of a more important player, one being counted on to carry a heavy load.

But I wouldn't want to be the one to test the organization's resolve.

There's room for philosophical debates about whether the Ravens should have adopted this strict stance sooner; whether it's appropriate for anyone to lose their jobs before they're tried and convicted; and whether, amid the almost giddy "cut him" cry that arose as soon as the news about Pierce broke, we would want someone we love to receive such treatment.

But the Ravens obviously are in no mood for philosophy. They're embarrassed and miffed, trying to move beyond beyond the "wave" that has dragged their name through the mud. When the wave persists, they have no choice but to send louder and louder signals about what behavior they deem unacceptable.

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