Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch was formally arrested for Driving Under the Influence this past week. Various sources have claimed that Lynch will not be suspended because his DUI falls under the NFL's substance-abuse policy, and because this is Lynch's first offense under that policy, only a two game checks fine will be imposed. Those views are short-sighted.
It's true that the NFL's substance-abuse policy states that a player who is convicted of a one-time DUI offense will be subjected to a fine only. The policy also makes clear, however, that a suspension will be levied if the league finds any aggravating circumstances with respect to the player or incident.
In Lynch's case, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell won't have a hard time finding aggravating circumstances. Maybe not with Lynch's most recent DUI — the facts surrounding his arrest have not come to light yet — but certainly with Lynch's past behavior.
During and after his rookie season in the NFL, Lynch was a part of a few incidents that did not result in criminal charges or league discipline. In the midst of his first offseason, however, Lynch hit and injured a woman in the street and then left the scene of the accident. He eventually pled guilty to a simple traffic violation and avoided any league discipline.
His next offseason, in 2009, Lynch was arrested after being found in a vehicle that contained marijuana and a hand gun that belonged to Lynch. Goodell suspended Lynch for the first three games of the 2009 season based on Lynch's conviction of a gun charge.
In March of 2009, Lynch was placed on probation for three years. His DUI occurred less than four months after his probation expired.
Lynch's prior conduct fits squarely into the type of aggravating circumstances Goodell needs to slap Lynch with a suspension. Add in the fact that NFL players have been getting more DUI's than the Kennedys this offseason, and the likelihood of a suspension for Lynch grows more certain.
If Lynch is suspended for even one game, then his suspension could affect how the NFC West plays out this season. Last year, the Arizona Cardinals and Seahawks were in a dead heat up until the final week of the season for the chance to make it into the playoffs. The Seahawks visit the Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Week One. If the Seahawks are without Lynch for their opening game, then the Cardinals will most likely take a one-game lead over the 'Hawks to begin the year. That deficit may be insurmountable in a division as tight-locked as the NFC West.