Here is my Wednesday column on Ahmad Brooks.
Dear Jed York,
We understand the population of NFL players is no different from the general population. There are people who do bad things.
One of your players did a bad thing around 2 a.m June 8. Two of your rookies, Lawrence Okoye and Michael Purcell, according to the Sacramento Bee, saw Ahmad Brooks hit your practice squad player, Lamar Divens, with a bottle three times, punch him in the face and threaten to get a gun. Either Okoye or Purcell gave the police a “taped eyewitness statement,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Brooks, the outside linebacker you gave a $44.5 million contract last year, reportedly had been drinking at San Jose nightclubs with Divens, Okoye and Purcell, and Brooks was too drunk to drive. So, Divens, the designated driver, drove Brooks home, like a good teammate. Okoye and Purcell were in the backseat. When they arrived, Divens pretended to throw Brooks’ keys into bushes before handing them over to the star linebacker. Brooks apparently couldn’t take a joke, so he allegedly assaulted and threatened Divens.
Divens had to get three stitches. He initially wanted to press charges, but has informed the police he and Brooks have resolved the issue and Divens wants to drop it.
What are you going to do about this, Jed?
Brooks would face a four-year maximum prison sentence if he were charged and convicted of felony assault. Former Raiders coach Randy Hanson recently was sentenced to 120 days in jail for hitting someone once in the nose with a bottle. Brooks supposedly hit Divens with a bottle three times and punched him and threatened gun violence.
You can understand teammates getting into fights. The Oakland A’s used to fight in the ’70s. In a way, fights can bring teammates closer together. But when someone uses a weapon, that’s not a fight. That’s an assault.
There’s a chance the Santa Clara County District Attorney will not charge Brooks, and there’s a chance Brooks will serve no jail time.
If that happens, would you allow him back on your team? Would you keep his name on the back of your jersey?
The Patriots released Aaron Hernandez before they found out what he was charged with. Owner Robert Kraft didn’t want anyone associated with a murder investigation associated with his franchise.
Brooks didn’t commit murder, but he did strike a teammate with a weapon and threaten to get a firearm.
Jed, this is your chance to stand up like Robert Kraft did. You’re the president of the 49ers, a franchise that is supposed to “win with class.” You don’t need to wait for the police to guide your decisions.
If you take Brooks back, you send three messages:
1. To the league: The 49ers are just like any other team that tries to win at all costs.
2. To the locker room: Do whatever you want as long as you’re a Pro-Bowl talent.
3. To Santa Clara, the 49ers’ new home: Don’t joke with our players if you see them around town. They might crack you over the head with a bottle.
Remember, Brooks is the same guy who was accused of punching a woman in the face in 2008 (Brooks and the woman settled out of court), and who was dismissed from the University of Virginia football team in 2005 for an “unspecified” incident.
He was a first-round talent who didn’t get drafted until the third-round of the Supplemental draft because teams were scared off by his off-the-field issues.
He was drafted by the Bengals, a franchise notorious for signing troubled players. But even the Bengals cut him. Then you and Mike Singletary signed him in 2008. You probably figured Singletary could turn Brooks’ career around. Brooks has turned into a terrific player for you, but he doesn’t seem to have changed his character.
I’ve been around the team almost every day the past two years. Brooks doesn’t like to give interviews – he’s distant – but he’s never been rude. He smiles and says hello. He’s pleasant. He never gave me an indication he was angry or violent.
But he gave Divens that indication. Now, it’s your move, Jed.
If you cut Brooks, you send the message the 49ers hold their employees to the highest standards, and the league and Santa Clara can be proud of them.
That’s the message you need to send. It’s not all about winning. A franchise must stand up for what is right.
Besides, you already have replacements for Brooks’ – 29-year-old Parys Haralson and Corey Lemonier, your recent third-round pick.
Something like this should not be swept under the rug. You can fine Brooks, suspend him, delete him from the roster, or do nothing.
I know what I would do.
Grant Cohn writes two sports columns per week for the Press Democrat’s website. He also writes the “Inside the 49ers” blog. Follow him on Twitter @grantcohn.