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Pacman must prove he's ready to grow up - ESPN.com


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Pacman must prove he's ready to grow up

By Jeffri Chadiha



If Adam "Pacman" Jones really wants to make an impression when he appeals his one-year suspension on Friday morning, he'll be wise not to place too much faith in history.

I don't think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is going to be swayed by arguments about how the league didn't treat the players involved in 283 other criminal incidents with similar malice. I'm also convinced that Goodell won't rethink his decision once reminded that Jones hasn't been found guilty of a crime thus far. What I do believe is that if Jones can offer a strategy for turning his career in the right direction, he stands a chance of making an impact.

For all the attention Jones has received over the last few weeks -- Goodell suspended the Tennessee Titans cornerback for conduct detrimental to the league on April 10 -- it's vital that Jones understands a lot of people want to see him overcome these problems. After all, Goodell's punishment was harsh for good reason. Jones has too much talent and potential to let his career implode over what has been considerably bad judgment. And despite all the hype about Goodell laying down the law, the commissioner would rather see Jones doing the right things instead of screwing up to the point that Goodell might have to banish him from the league altogether.

This is the most important point that Jones needs to recognize when he and his lawyers meet with Goodell. Jones would be better served if he talked about what, if anything, he's already done to improve his life.

If he has truly considered going back to West Virginia to finish his degree during his suspension, then he should already have some ideas of what he'd like to study. He should be brainstorming more ways to give back to the community, to help younger kids make better decisions with their own lives. And above all, he should be able to answer more questions about how he'll handle his life away from the field.

From everything I've heard about Jones, there are plenty of reasons still to have hope for a transformation. At his best, he's charismatic and fun-loving, the type of player who practices hard, plays even harder and has already given his time to charitable efforts.

In fact, it's important to note here that he blossomed into a more technically sound cover corner who performed at a Pro Bowl-caliber level last season after a rookie year when he got by mostly on talent. Players don't make those kinds of leaps unless they're willing to recognize their weaknesses and overcome them.

If Jones could take that same attitude into his personal life, he'd be moving in the right direction already. The problem, however, is that there is so much for him to address. People who have dealt with him talk about his problems with authority, his anger management issues, the way he approaches life with an air of invincibility that enables him to think he can escape any potential misfortune. There's also an obvious fatalism about him, for as one league source says, "Pacman doesn't have a death wish but he acts like he could give a f--- about the future."

Now I recognize that Jones has had a tough life, especially since he escaped violence and poverty as a youth in Atlanta. But let's also face reality: He isn't a victim here. He's a well-compensated professional football player who's earned himself a position as the face of the league's personal conduct policy by basically refusing to grow up.

The commissioner cited only four incidents in ruling on Jones' suspension, but the fact is police have questioned Jones 10 times during his two-year career and officers are still sorting through his alleged involvement in a triple shooting in Las Vegas in February.

This type of baggage makes it hard for me to think Jones can win an appeal by talking about how the league didn't take such a harsh stance in other incidents, like the double-murder trial involving Baltimore Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis back in 2000.

Does anybody really think Goodell didn't study that case and countless others before handing out Jones' punishment? Goodell surely talked with a lot of lawyers about the risks in handing out a one-year suspension to a player who hasn't been convicted of a crime yet. In fact, it's even harder to see Jones succeeding on Friday when the same man who penalized him is the one who's hearing his appeal.

What Jones also has to be mindful of is the fact that he's basically in this all by himself. The NFL Players Association has offered minimal support for an issue as explosive as this one and the Titans already have agreed to abide by the commissioner's ruling. I also haven't heard much about other NFL players rallying to his defense, which is the most damning evidence of all. It means that few people are confident in Jones' ability to win the commissioner's faith come Friday.

So now the question is simple: How creative can Jones be when he meets Goodell? He used his imagination with the Titans' fans a few weeks back, when he apologized for his behavior in a full-page ad in the Nashville Tennessean. He's also had his lawyers suggest that a lawsuit could be in the works if Goodell doesn't back down.

But when Friday arrives, it will take more than threats, crafty public relations moves or a stack of research to help his cause. What Jones needs most is to convince the commissioner that Jones already is thinking about the best ways to find a path leading to maturation.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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