Jay Ratliff's time with Cowboys should end

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
8:54
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Jay Ratliff should not wear a Cowboys uniform again.

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Calvin Watkins discusses Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff's arrest early Tuesday on DWI charges. Police say Ratliff's crashed into an 18-wheeler with his pickup.

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Ratliff was charged with driving while intoxicated after an early Tuesday morning accident in Grapevine, Texas, just a few miles away from where teammate Jerry Brown lost his life six weeks ago in a crash that led to Josh Brent's arrest on an intoxication manslaughter charge.

Drunken driving is a huge problem everywhere, and NFL players are not immune. They are, however, afforded opportunities regular folks are not. They are paid well enough to afford limousines for a night out. They are afforded a hotline in which a car service can pick them up and take them home.

Ratliff apparently made no phone call.

The audacity of driving drunk after losing a teammate in such a manner is mind-boggling and speaks to the hubris athletes such as Ratliff have.

In the wake of Brown's death, the organization vowed to support Brown's family and Brent. They moved Brent to the non-football injury list for the final three weeks of the season, and he faces possible sanctions from the league regardless of the outcome of a potential court case or plea agreement.

Have the Cowboys set a precedent in which they now must support Ratliff?

There is a sign inside the locker room that reads in part, "It is a privilege, not a right, to play and coach for the Dallas Cowboys." Ratliff appears to have blown that privilege. This has nothing to do with a postgame dust-up with owner and general manager Jerry Jones, either.

The Cowboys cannot officially cut Ratliff, or any player, until after the Super Bowl. The collective bargaining agreement might prevent them from making a quick judgment on Ratliff anyway, at least until the legal system plays itself out. If the Cowboys need football reasons to release Ratliff, then they can point to his declining sack total the past five seasons.

But this isn't about football or the salary cap. This is about what is right and wrong.

It's time for the Cowboys to adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding drunken driving.

UPDATE (Weds., 10:25 a.m.): I let the emotion of this news story get to me when I said the Cowboys need to have a zero tolerance policy regarding drunk driving. People make mistakes all the time and are deserving of second chances. After reflecting on it overnight, the NFL and NFLPA need to adopt tougher penalties for players arrested for DUI charges, but a zero tolerance policy does not necessarily change behavior. This is not to back off my assertion that Ratliff should be released. I believe the Cowboys should move on from him for a variety of reasons, including this DWI charge so close to the death of teammate Jerry Brown.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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