A lengthy and informative item from ESPN.com regarding the Henry Ruggs situation contains a few details that stand out. One stands, as it relates to the potential resumption of his football career.
As of March 16, Ruggs secured permission to leave home confinement twice per week for three hours at a time to work out at a training center that caters to pro athletes. The item notes that it’s unclear whether Ruggs hopes to play football again. Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he just needs to have something to do, something to break the monotony. Something to give him hope. An outlet for the feeling that he’s trapped at home. A way to use God-given skills that will begin to erode, in time.
Or maybe he thinks he has a chance to put this behind him. As the article explains, a hearing will happen today regarding the argument that the police lacked probable cause to request a warrant for blood to be drawn from Ruggs for alcohol testing. Without that proof, the DUI case goes away.
That won’t sit well with NFL fans who believe, based on the reports of the BAC level, that Ruggs was driving drunk. That he’s responsible for the death of 23-year-old Tina Tintor and her dog. That he should be imprisoned for a period of years, and that he should never play football again.
But what if, legally, he’s cleared? What if a court finds there was no probable cause?
At that point, the NFL would be in a difficult spot. Based on precedent, a banishment would be difficult to defend. In 2009, receiver Donte’ Stallworth was suspended for one season after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter. One year earlier, defensive end Leonard Little was suspended eight games after an involuntary manslaughter plea.
If Ruggs has his charges thrown out, what will the NFL do? If a guilty plea to DUI manslaughter leads to a one-year suspension, what do dismissed DUI manslaughter causes trigger?
Maybe that’s why Ruggs is working out. Maybe he’s getting ready for the possibility that he’ll eventually be cleared to return to pro football. Whether a team gives him another chance would remain to be seen.
It won’t be an easy sell. Consider this quote from Clark County district attorney Steve Wolfson: “I’ve been involved in the justice system for over 40 years as both a defense lawyer and a young prosecutor. I’ve never been involved in, or am I aware of, another criminal case involving somebody traveling 156 miles an hour.”
Tina Tintor and her dog burned to death in the fire caused by the crash. It ranks among the most horrifying stories the NFL ever has produced. It’s impossible to imagine Ruggs ever getting another chance in the NFL, regardless of how his legal situation is resolved. It’s also impossible to imagine the DUI case against him being thrown out on a technicality, given the reality of the harm his actions caused.