Sheldon Richardson and Todd Bowles were both mobbed by media outlets yesterday to talk about Richardson's arrest and subsequent failure to disclose the information with the Jets. It was an awkward period for both men, though especially for Richardson. It reminds me a bit of being a teenager and skipping class on a pop test day. My teacher confronted me about it and told me that she was going to tell my parents and I said I would tell them first. I didn't tell them and hoped it would just go away. A few weeks later, my parents were furious and I was trapped. As an immature teenager, I didn't realize that trying to hide my mistake was just going to make matters worse. As an adult (albeit still immature), I know much better. Sheldon Richardson didn't.
According to NJ.com, Richardson had some concerning things to say about the whole issue. Below is the complete transcript of the interview, containing Richardson's responses to various questions about the incident:
What happened that night?
You know I'm an honest person, I would tell you, but this is a case. It's a legal matter, and it's ongoing, so I can't really say too much about that night. I would just like to apologize again to my teammates. I already had a little personal meeting with everybody—coach brought everybody in. They know what's going on a little bit as far as me being apologetic and them having to answer questions as far as what I did on that night. I apologize to my family, to the Jets organization. They're still standing behind me; I'm thankful and grateful for that. My family that was in the car with me. Wake up call. What I said yesterday, I still mean today. This was the main reason why I said what I said yesterday. I'm still standing on that. I promise you that you won't hear my name again.
Why didn't you tell the team?
The way I handle my business, I just always handle it on my own. I had a lended hand here. Just wasn't smart. I made a bad decision, not contacting them. I didn't want to get in trouble as far as my own team and my own organization, who;s out here trying to lend a hand for me. I just denied it pretty much.
Did you confide in any teammates?
Uh uh. Nobody. My parents didn't even know. They found out on the news.
You said Thursday you weren't going to be in the news again, then the news broke about an hour later.
I'm talking about after the news had broke. This was after that. What I told the media, this is why I said what I said in the media yesterday. Just cause you didn't know about it—all this was going together. I know they've got some stipulations out there about me, but I've been clean, still clean. Whether you believe it or not, that's on you. Once again, I apologize to everybody.
Did you think people weren't going to find out about the arrest?
I didn't know anything about it. I wasn't concerned about that; I was trying to get it over with as fast as possible. Like I said, I was handling it on my own, and people went to work. Back home, they looked up files, found my name, and read my police report, I guess.
Have you hired a lawyer?
Did you know the league's policy is that you have to report everything ASAP?
Me, being a professional, I would say that, no, I didn't know that. I didn't know that, and I take full responsibility for that. But them not knowing fully what's going on, before they pass judgement on me, I say they let the situation blow over--not blow over, but resolve [itself]—and then pass their judgment before doing anything drastic by extending my suspension.
Do you think that you have to rebuild trust with the organization?
Most definitely. It's not even a question. I let them down. Simple as that. I'm not afraid to say that. Todd Bowles is still behind me. Everybody's still behind me. The only person I haven't addressed yet was Woody--Mr. Johnson.
How do you go about rebuilding that trust and what's the time frame?
That's up to them. One day at a time. Being responsible, doing what they ask me to do. That's pretty much what I got.
Any effect on long-term future with team?
No. I don't think so. If they realize that I mean what I say today, I don't think so cause I'm still going to go out there and give it my all.
Any concern about failing another drug test as a result of the incident?
No. Not at all. I didn't fail a drug test before that night or after that night, so ...
Head coach Todd Bowles said you "have a problem." Do you believe that, and if so, what is it? Is it a maturity issue?
I would say I have a problem as far as being open with people as far as my own personal business. Like I said before, I'm very private; no matter how much you think I'm open and boastful about how I go about my business on the football field. But my own personal life, I keep to my chest. Like I said, my own parents didn't know what was going on.
Do you think the league might add more games to your suspension?
I don't know what to think. I don't know how to feel about that. I just hope they don't. I just don't think they will. I just hope they don't.
Are you concerned they'll add more games?
We'll see. That's all we can do is see.
What was your family's reaction, especially considering there was family in the car, a 12-year-old, and that you were going 143 mph?
Once again, that's a legal matter, so I can't really say nothing about that. But they're my parents, man. Through thick and thin, they're still going to be my parents, right or wrong. They're going to have their opinions about it. Yes, they said it was a mistake. I shouldn't be in this predicament. I've got to do better. And I will do better."
To clarify, when you spoke to the media Thursday, you didn't think the story would come out the way it did, or you did know?
I didn't think it would come out. Public record, but I didn't think it would come out as soon as it did.
What would say to fans who wouldn't want to believe that maybe you can do better in the future?
Time will heal all wounds.
You made a reference to something having depressed you in the offseason. What was that, specifically?
Once again, that's a little personal matter. I had a death in my family, close to me. Once again, I don't want to get into it because I just don't feel comfortable just telling everything about my life like that. But you know, hey. I'm healing from that.
Do you think you need to make changes in your day-to-day life?
Yeah. Decision-making. That was just one bad night--after my suspension that was just one bad night. I thought it would be fun to show my family members something, [They] never rode in a car like that before, and, hey.
I found this interview kind of disturbing. From everything that's happened recently, it sounds to me like Sheldon Richardson has a problem and needs help. His 4 game suspension is the result of failing multiple drug tests for marijuana and he was on extremely thin ice. Okay, everyone makes mistakes. Then, he allegedly took a 12 year old family member in his car (which reeked of marijuana), was allegedly clocked at speeds between 120-143mph multiple times, and allegedly tried to escape a police chase. At one point, he allegedly lost control of the car and the rear of the car ended up in oncoming traffic. At another point, he allegedly showed full cognizance of the situation by turning off his lights in hopes of avoiding detection. Yet when he was told that Bowles said that "he has a problem" and was asked if he thought he did indeed have a problem, he said that he only has a problem being open with people. He referred to the situation as "his personal business" when in fact, it is 100% the business of the team as well because it will likely impact his playing status in the future (among other reasons.) In addition, there is an actual NFL policy requiring him to make it known to his team, increasing the emphasis that it is no longer just his private life when something of this magnitude transpires. This isn't exclusive to the NFL. You can't try to conceal this information from your employers in general, especially if it could result in missing time at work or prison time. If you just want some of the more concerning cliff notes, here you go:
When asked about the night, Richardson described the event as "That was just one bad night--after my suspension that was just one bad night."
When asked about addressing the media on Thursday, he said "I didn't think it would come out. Public record, but I didn't think it would come out as soon as it did."
When asked about his suspension, he said "I just don't think they will. I just hope they don't."
When asked about any long-term effect on his position with the team, he said "No. I don't think so. If they realize that I mean what I say today, I don't think so cause I'm still going to go out there and give it my all."
When asked about his claim of "not being in the news again" by reporters, he said "I know they've got some stipulations out there about me, but I've been clean, still clean. Whether you believe it or not, that's on you. Once again, I apologize to everybody."
When asked why he didn't tell the team, he said "The way I handle my business, I just always handle it on my own."
While I may not be a practicing psychiatrist, this is riddled with red flags. Endangering the life of a 12 year old family member, attempting to flee the police in a high speed car chase, and being caught with a strong smell of marijuana while on suspension for multiple failed drug tests is not "just a bad night." If he thinks they probably won't add to his suspension for this, he is in denial. His actions clearly violated the NFL's personal conduct code, even if he doesn't have to worry about marijuana charges or prison time. Which he probably will. It will absolutely impact the team's long-term plans with Richardson, and he will be lucky to earn a fraction of what he could have pre-suspension when contract time rolls along (never mind the fact that he publicly demanded Suh-money.) He made the claim that he's been clean and if we don't believe it, it's our problem. Not to sound unprofessional here but...dude, you just got caught and then didn't even tell your freaking parents, never mind the team or media, when it happened. It's our fault if we don't trust you right now?
The arrest was concerning and his time with the press has certainly not made it any less concerning. It really sounds like Sheldon has a problem and is in denial. If he won't admit that he has a problem, things aren't going to get better. If he's not willing to open up about his issues and seek help, Sheldon could become the next star athlete to sabotage his career. Frankly, it would be a darn shame.
On the lighter side, I really liked how Bowles handled the situation. Bowles is a new coach and he's already getting bombarded by controversy. Some people might not know how to handle the situation. Bowles was extremely even-keeled and gave very strong, articulate responses to questions asked. I particularly liked this response:
"It's disappointing," Bowles said. "If it happens two times in that kind of time span, you're more worried about Sheldon the man, as opposed to Sheldon the player. ... Right now, I'm just worried about getting him the help that he needs. I'm not even worried about the football player."
Bowles is spot-on here. Sheldon needs help as a man more than anything else. We all know Sheldon has little to worry about as a football player. He may be the best defensive lineman in football not named J.J. Watt. This really will be a trial by fire for Bowles. First off-season on the job and his best young player is already threatening to throw his career down the tubes. It's hardly Bowles' fault if he fails to reach Sheldon, but if he can manage to get Sheldon the help he needs, it will be hard not to applaud him both as a coach and as a man.