There was a discussion not so long ago about whether or not that NFL ought to assist players who have been suspended for substance abuse problems to get help, and things of that nature, on this very site. There were many who scoffed at the notion, but there is one simple factor that rules over all others: money.
The NFL makes money by putting a quality product on the field, first and foremost. Having key players serving suspensions and even having their careers ended because of substance abuse—or even use—problems is not in their best interests. Getting them back on the field as quickly as possible is.
Things like this aren’t just a league view, but a team-specific view as well. The Pittsburgh Steelers, for example, have been more active in player engagement in recent years under Terry Cousins, that being his jurisdiction most of all.
Teresa Varley has an article on the team’s website recently that highlights what they dubbed “Pittsburgh Steelers Rookie University”, essentially a crash course of seminars about life lessons for the incoming rookie class, things that players making the transition from amateur to professional status ought to know.
It includes input from veteran players, with Mike Tomlin highlighting James Conner and Terrell Edmunds, a couple of younger players who are not far removed from where Devin Bush and Justin Layne are now. They can relate to the incoming class the things that they wish they would have known when they came in.
“The more you do it, the more you see how much they don’t come prepared with a lot of that knowledge”, Cousins told Varley. “Some get experience at home, but it’s eye opening for some of those guys honing in on some of the details and issues they might have coming into the National Football League”.
All of these things, from money management to relationships and everything else in between and around it, informing players about them helps prevent them from being problems, from being distractions, especially at the start of their careers when their heads are still swimming just trying to learn a new football language and new teammates.
With players coming out of college increasingly early, college programs are less and less invested than ever before to actually set their players up for future success, whether that is on the field or in life. They take shortcuts to get them on the field, both in coaching and academically, and in others way I’m sure as well.
The NFL is a long-term investment that costs a lot more than a four-year scholarship. It’s a relationship that can span a decade or more—just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Ramon Foster, or Maurkice Pouncey. So the Steelers obviously want to do everything they can to make sure their players have their lives in order so they can focus on their job.
Do they have to? No. Is it in their best interests? Yes. And that’s what the business of football has always been about.