The NFL began the week reeling in the wake of Kansas City linebacker Javon Belcher's murder of Kasandra Perkins - the mother of his child - and his public suicide in the presence of coach Romeo Crennel, GM Scott Pioli, linebackers coach Gary Gibbs and police.
Perkins, who has been forgotten in all the post-shooting finger-pointing and memorials to Belcher, was laid to rest on Thursday in Texas. One of Belcher's cousins summed up the feelings of so many by saying her family was "overwhelmed with both sadness and confusion." (There was a second service for her on Saturday attended by several members of the Chiefs.)
Earlier Saturday, nose tackle Josh Brent of the Cowboys was arrested for intoxication manslaughter after a one-vehicle accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown.
All that was sandwiched around the news on Friday that Tom Brady and supermodel wife Gisele Bundchen welcomed a daughter into the world.
Bundchen gave birth to Vivian Lake on Wednesday, and shared the news on her Facebook page with this post:
"We feel so lucky to have been able to experience the miracle of birth once again and are forever grateful for the opportunity to be the parents of another little angel. Vivian Lake was born at home on December 5. She is healthy and full of life. Thank you all for your support and well wishes. We wish you and your families many blessings."
Vivian Lake Brady will likely grow up with the love of two adoring parents who, from all appearances and reports, appear to be in a happy, healthy, stable and loving relationship. We're not sure if Gisele is still angry at those receivers who "can't catch the ball" and rumors that she was cursing Wes Welker in Portuguese throughout her labor cannot be confirmed. One never knows for sure how any couple is doing outside our relationships - remember Tiger and Elin's model marriage - but it's certain we'd hear more about a public figure cheating on his or her spouse or committing some sort of crime than we would know about something our next door neighbor did.
Three-month-old Zoey Belcher, meanwhile, is an orphan. She will be provided for by the NFL financially. Zoey, who is being cared for by Jovan Belcher's mother, will benefit from the NFL's collective bargaining agreement - which allows her guardian or estate to receive $109,000 a year for four years, before receiving $48,000 in year five and then $52,000 per year until she turns 18 or 23, if she attends college.
Money is important, but the loss of her two parents carries a price tag none of us can imagine. God willing, little Zoey will grow up with nothing but love from her grandmother and those who are lucky enough to care for her. It's a blessing that she'll only hear about what happened to her parents through the filter of others and history and not through first-hand experience. And her caregivers will hopefully have the benefit of trained counselors and others in helping them educate the child about what happened to her parents and why.
To say Belcher failed as a father - despite the financial legacy left by the fine print in his NFL contract - is a catastrophic understatement. Simply put, he is a murderer. The headline: "Drug-addict kills mother of his child, self" applies here like it would in any other killing at the bottom of Page 2B of your local newspaper. (Kids: Google "newspaper" in case you've never seen one.) The fact that Belcher chose to take his own life - and traumatize so many others by doing so - does not mitigate what he did to Perkins and to his own daughter by making her an orphan by his own hand.
And the ensuing debate over gun control triggered by the likes of Jason Whitlock and Bob Costas gave the NFL some much appreciated cover by obscuring the fact that the league has a rampant substance abuse problem - not only manifested by the 26-and-counting PED suspensions handed out this year but amplified by the fact that so many players like Belcher are wrestling with pain-killers, alcohol and other drugs that fall outside any list of banned substances.
In June 2009 when he was still in college, Brent, who is being held without bond, pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 60 days in jail, two years of probation, 200 hours of community service and fined about $2,000. Don't hold your breath for the NFL to use Saturday's crash as a call to greater action on alcohol abuse.
Here's the bottom line: the NFL has had two players (and a player's girlfriend) killed in the past week at the hand of NFL players. The constant in each case was not the weapon but the presence of drug/alcohol abuse.
Many of the illicit drugs players take can and do work for millions of people, but only when managed by trained medical personnel. Belcher's situation was the perfect storm of someone with anger issues documented back to high school, the long-term mental effects of head trauma after years in the NFL, abuse of alcohol and pain-killers without a doctor's supervision, jealously, anger, rage and a loaded gun.
NASCAR these days is certainly less dangerous for its participants than the NFL. I'd certainly feel safer strapped in the passenger side of Jimmie Johnson's Chevy than I would in the Patriots' backfield Monday night when the Texans call for a blitz on 3rd-and-8. Major injures are a rare occurrence on the stock car circuit. Most of the time drivers walk away from crashes at speeds of 160 MPH and up. Not a single Winston/Sprint Cup driver has died on the track since Feb. 18, 2001. But NASCAR didn't get truly, truly serious about driver safety (by mandating the use of the HANS head-and-neck restraint which had been around for 15 years and using SAFER soft walls) until after the death of perhaps its second-greatest driver, Dale Earnhardt.
Sadly, it appears the NFL is letting Belcher's suicide and Perkins' murder pass as a lone tragic incident and another example of out of control gun violence instead of using it as an imperative to get serious about substance abuse in the league at all levels.
Much consideration has been given to the means of violence used by Belcher against Perkins and himself and not the act of violence or mindset/lack-thereof that caused him to pull the trigger nine times when the gun was pointed at Perkins and once when it was pointed at himself. The broader issue of gun control isn't going to be addressed here - as a rule we avoid political or partisan discussions in this space and try not to take ourselves too seriously - but the problem of substance abuse and its potential lethal combination with long-term head trauma in the NFL is relevant because that's something that the league can actually control, once it acknowledges there is a problem.
And it's not unreasonable to assert, despite what Whitlock and Costas said, that Perkins would indeed be dead had Belcher had not possessed a gun. The jealousy, rage and anger that allowed him to pull the trigger nine times in this particular case would have no doubt propelled the 6-foot-2, 228-pound, physically-perfected Belcher to stab her 19 times with the nearest carving knife or beat her to death with his fists had he chosen to attack her in that fashion.
Belcher's suicide spared the citizens of Kansas City from a murder trial that would have no doubt brought into question his mental state at the time of Perkins' murder and the fact that his unstable condition was brought about by a series of issues, including drug abuse, that were allowed and possibly even promoted by his status as an NFL player. That is the last thing the NFL would have wanted. There's always the possibility of a civil lawsuit from Perkins' family that could be filed against Belcher's estate which could go down these avenues in open court. And since the objective in any civil suit is to go after the deep pockets, it's not going to take John Adams, Denny Crane or James Sokolove to see that the NFL and Chiefs might be potentially on the hook for liability here.
This story clearly has only just begun unfold, along with the lives of young Zoey and Vivian.
Time to focus back on the postitive. Vivian is Brady's second child with Gisele. They have an older son, Benjamin, who turned three Saturday. Brady has a 5-year-old son, John, with his ex-girlfriend Bridget Moynahan, who revealed she was pregnant shortly after the couple split and he started dating Bundchen. Brady said his daughter is going to be an athlete. If that doesn't work out, she's a shoo-in for the cover of Sports Illustrated's swim suit issue in 2032.
Brady, from all accounts, appears to be a caring father for all his children and has a civil relationship with Moynahan as they work to successfully co-parent John. There's no doubt that if Brady fell one red cent behind in any child support it would be front-page news on every blog and website from aol.com to Yahoo!
It's certain Brady will be rested and ready for the Texans on Monday night in what will be the game of the year thus far for both teams.
Congratulations to him, his wife and their growing family.
And may Zoey live a life of peace that her parents never knew.
Time for this week's rankings. Teams are listed with their current records and ranking last week.
1. Texans (11-1; 1): Andre Johnson said Monday's game against the Patriots is be the biggest in team history, even though the team is already in the playoffs. This might actually live up to the hype.
2. Falcons (11-1; 2): The Panthers are crying about how Matt Ryan disrespected them after Atlanta's win earlier this season. Atlanta will pack some extra tissues for the Panthers this week.
3. Patriots (9-3; 5): The Patriots brought in paddles for the defensive players to taunt Tom Brady with during practice by adding height to the pass rush. They don't call him J.J. Swat for nothing.
4, Broncos (10-3; 7): Von Miller or Peyton Manning? Forget league MVP, the Broncos would have enough trouble trying to determine team MVP.
5. Ravens (9-3; 4): They hold the tiebreaker over New England but the Ravens lost to Charlie Batch and the Steelers at home last week, not a good sign heading into the holiday season.
6. Bears (8-4; 6): Chicago's Cover-2 defense should look familiar to Patriots' fans - they're bringing "bend but don't break" to whole new level - this fumble recovery was the 300th turnover created by Lovie Smith's defense since his arrival in Chicago.
7. 49ers: (8-3-1; 3): If Colin Kaepernick didn't have so many tattoos he's be just another average, untested quarterback.
8. Giants (7-5; 8): The Giants lost to the Redskins and appear to be struggling on offense as the playoff picture begins to take shape - looks like they've got the rest of the NFC right where they want them.
9. Packers (8-4; 10): Aaron Rodgers said this week on his weekly radio that he'd trade last year's MVP award for another Super Bowl title. He might have to cash it in this season just to win the NFC North.
10. Colts (8-4; 9): So much for that bridge year in Indianapolis. Red Sox fans, there's hope - as soon as they sign Andrew Luck to shore up the roatation.
11. Steelers (7-5; 11): After Sunday's win over Baltimore, Batch was the No. 2 quarterback in New England after Brady.
12. Bengals (7-5; 14): BenJarvus Green-Ellis is doing a solid job in Cincinnati this season - rushing for 885 yards and averaging 3.9 yards per carry. But he's lost two fumbles. Maybe they don't have the same grade stick 'em in Cincinnati.
13. Seahawks (7-5; 15): Pete Carroll said Russell Wilson is the best professional QB he's coached since his days at USC.
14. Buccaneers (6-6; 13): Greg Schiano told TIME magazine (People still read TIME?) that the NFL should scuttle kickoffs after a touchdown or field goal with scoring team retaining possession at its own 30, facing fourth-and-15. The team either can go for it or punt it away. In effect, punts would replace kickoffs. Good luck trying to figure out that one since most players don't even know the new overtime rules.
15. Vikings (6-6; 12): That 5-2 start has gone the way of Mary Richards and the rest of the WJM-TV news team (except of course Ted Baxter, who stayed on the air until he became a judge and took over Bushwood Country Club.)
16. Redskins (6-6; 20): RGIII is fun to watch, but even this type of modified 'pistol' offense can't last forever in the NFL, just ask Mike Vick. Pocket passers tend to last longer in the NFL, just ask Brady and either Manning.
17. Cowboys (6-6; 17): The Cowboys are sitting at .500 deep into the season and Tony Romo has the full support of the front office - at least said Vice President Stephen Jones. Wonder how little Stephen got that job? Hint: See any politician named Kennedy or Bush.
18. Lions (5-7; 16): This may be the only time we'll ever compare Ndamukong Suh to Tim Tebow. This week Suh became the victim of criticism by a teammate who chose to remain anonymous (to protect the family jewels if nothing else) - who told Yahoo! sports that Suh and others on the team "don't understand what it takes to win." Amazing how players on a team that's 4-8 tell their teammates they don't know to win.
19. Dolphins (5-7; 18): Another losing team playing the "disrespect" card as several Dolphins complained after their loss to New England that the Patriots had too much success with their string of successive runs on the left side of the line. It's one thing when teams that win play the "no respect" card, but when you lose - just shut up.
20. Chargers (4-8; 19): Twinkies. cockroaches and Norv Turner. One down, two to go. That line was so good last week, we had to keep it.
21. Saints (5-7; 22): The Giants face the Saints on Sunday. Giants punter Steve Weatherford told the New York Times - the parent company of this blog - that exiled coach Sean Payton will "get his message to them somehow" when it comes to illicit communication with his players. Here's his message to Drew Brees - "Stop throwing interceptions."
22. Rams (5-6-1; 23): Correction from last week. Sunday's victory over the 49ers will be the only thing memorable about this season.
23. Cardinals (4-8; 22): Darnell Dockett - the pride of Florida State University - was fined $200,000 for allegedly spitting on teammate Kerry Rhodes during their argument in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Jets.
Thank God for the @nflpa that's all I got to say... "I ain't got no worries"— DARNELL DOCKETT (@ddockett) December 8, 2012
Rhodes said it didn't happen but that didn't stop the Cardinals, who slammed Dockett because he disagreed with a coach's decision on the field. The fine has been appealed. Stay tuned.
24. Bills (4-7; 24): This time of year teams like the Bills fade into irrelevance.
25. Titans (4-7; 25): They held the Texans to only 24 points last week - so that gives the Patriots some hope right there.
26. Jets (4-7; 26): Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy or Tebow? And you thought Sophie's Choice was tough.
27. Eagles (3-9; 27): Vick and LeSean McCoy are out this week against the Bucs. Probably for the best. Next week the Eagles will return to Philly just in time for their fans to boo Santa Claus.
28. Raiders (3-10; 28): The NFL said it's willing to help the Raiders build a new Stadium in Oakland. Roger Goodell says "having full stadiums is critical for us" - even if they're full of Raiders' fans.
29. Panthers (3-8; 29): Cam Newton joined the long line of NFL players being ripped by their anonymous associates as a report on CBSSports.Com this week surfaced about how he was a "total a--hole" during the Pro Bowl practice week last January, acting like a "diva" and committing the ultimate sin of dissing Ray Lewis. Yes, we wouldn't want to diss Ray, especially considering how well he treated Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.
30. Chiefs (2-10; 32): Crennel deserves coach of the year honors for simply being able to guide his team to victory last week.
31. Browns (4-8; 30): Joe Thomas ripped former Cleveland running back Peyton Hillis - saying he "toxic" to the Browns last season. Hillis responded by comparing Thomas to "a crazy ex-girlfriend." These two teams have a combined six wins this season. Wonder why?
32. Jaguars (2-10; 31): So how would they have been any worse with Tebow?
As always, let us know what you think. Join our in-game Patriots-Texans fan chat on Monday at 8:15 p.m. Post your thoughts here, on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page or e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @realOBF.
The author is solely responsible for the content.