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Players just can’t burst their bubble

The NFL career of running back Curvin Richards is not particularly memorable. He played in 12 games over three seasons for Dallas and Detroit and averaged 3.3 yards on 55 carries.

However, diehard Dallas fans of the early 1990s will never forget Richards’s final performance as a Cowboy or the reaction to it by head coach Jimmy Johnson.

A former Pitt standout, Richards fumbled twice while subbing for Emmitt Smith in the fourth quarter of Dallas’s 1992 season finale against Chicago. One fumble was returned for a touchdown, but the Cowboys still won with ease, 27-14, to close out a 13-3 season.

In Johnson’s eyes, the two fumbles loomed as large as the hole in the Texas Stadium roof.

When Johnson cut Richards the next day, everyone in the team’s training complex knew that a message had been sent to the entire team. Mental lapses, lack of preparation, careless play and lackadaisical effort would not be tolerated, particularly on the eve of the postseason.

That was nearly three decades ago. To this day, the release of Richards is regarded by Cowboys staffers, past and present, as the quintessential personnel move to discipline one player while motivating the others.

Which brings us to Kemah Siverand of the Seattle Seahawks and life in the NFL during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to news reports, a female visitor was attempting to gain entry to Siverand’s hotel room while sporting a Seahawks hoodie, with the hood over her head. This novel approach to violating restricted access during training camp was quickly unmasked by team security personnel.

So, for his misguided attempt at subterfuge, Siverand, an undrafted rookie cornerback from Oklahoma State, was presented his walking papers.

While Richards and Siverand suffered the same fate, Siverand merited his release through a lack of common sense. The lesson was likely not lost on the rest of the Seahawks.

Bad judgment was also practiced by Cleveland Indians pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac, who were optioned to the team’s alternate site for at least 10 days for leaving the team hotel in violation of established safety protocols.

Forget the self-discipline that is so often associated with professional athletes. Where is the regard for team rules and the health of fellow teammates, coaches and staff?

Locker rooms are plastered with mantras about personal investment in team goals. The ongoing struggle to simply complete a season during this global health crisis might be the ultimate test of an athlete’s commitment.

With all the new directives in baseball regarding clubhouse buffets, social distancing in the dugout, spitting on the field and muted celebrations, how did two adults come to the conclusion that leaving the sanctuary of the team hotel for pursuits in uncontrolled environments was responsible, rational and professional?

Should the actions of the Kemah Siverands, Mike Clevingers and Zach Plesacs of the sporting world really come as surprises? Like art, sport often imitates life.

After Siverand was cut, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said, “There’s a big conscience that goes around here, where you’re always protecting your teammates, and you’re always looking after each other here, so that we make good decisions.”

If teammates was replaced with fellow citizens in Carroll’s quote, the entire statement could be regarded as a credo to live by for every person in every nation.

Within the athletic bubbles and out.

Jim Caltagirone resides in Altoona. He is an regular contributor to Voice of the Fan.

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