55 Yard Line - CFL

Edmonton Eskimos' defensive end Adam Braidwood (shown above trying to bring down the Argonauts' Michael Bishop in 2007) may not carry that title much longer. Braidwood looked like he might be a good-news story this year; he got off to a strong start in the CFLin 2006 before running into significant injuries, spending time focusing on boxing and MMA and then trying to make a CFL comeback this year. His on-field comeback actually went pretty well, but his off-field actions are far more concerning, and they're what may result in his departure from the CFL.

Braidwood was charged with aggravated assault and forcible confinement during Grey Cup Week for involvement with a group that attacked a man and forced him into a car. He was back in the news again Monday, and not for anything good. Here are the details of the new charges, from Dean Bennett of The Canadian Press:

Edmonton Eskimos defensive lineman Adam Braidwood is in more trouble with the law and the CFL team is signalling his checkered career with the club may be coming to an end.

The 26-year-old football player appeared in provincial court Monday to face 10 new charges relating to a domestic assault alleged to have occurred at a north-end Edmonton home.

The charges include assault, uttering threats, weapons violations and breaching bail conditions.

Police spokesman Clair Seyler wouldn't reveal the circumstances of the case, but said the domestic offender crime section is investigating. That section focuses on crimes involving spouses, marriages and relationships.

Since then, it's come out that Braidwood's bail hearing on the new charges won't be until Thursday and the Crown is going to try to have his bail from the first set of charges revoked. The Eskimos apparently haven't yet made a firm decision on what to do with Braidwood, but this statement from general manager Eric Tillman Monday certainly doesn't bode well for his future with the team:

"Learning of this second alleged incident with Adam is incredibly disappointing. We had a very candid discussion a couple of weeks ago, where I expressed our sincere concerns about Adam as a human being while at the same time being crystal clear about what our organization expected of him going forward. He understood our message was a balance of compassion and accountability. With this latest development, we will gather more information via the legal process and then do what is best for the Edmonton Eskimos."

Of course, Braidwood is hardly the first CFL player to get in trouble off the field, and Tillman knows a thing or two about that as well. If the Eskimos do in fact decide to get rid of Braidwood, some will undoubtedly argue that Tillman is being hypocritical; if he received a chance at redemption, shouldn't he then extend that chance to others? I don't agree with that viewpoint, and I think there are good reasons why the situations are quite different.

For one thing, Tillman's case carried several extenuating circumstances, and it's important to keep in mind that he received an absolute discharge. In his case, involving a charge of sexual assault in a 2008 incident with a 16-year old girl who was babysitting his children, court heard that he "came up behind the teen, put his hands on her hips with his fingers through her belt loops and pulled the girl towards him." That certainly isn't excusable behaviour, but keep in mind that the victim and her family publicly forgave him and the legal system concluded he had committed a crime but didn't deserve further punishment; the absolute discharge means he doesn't even have a criminal record. The incident is still significant and can't be shoved under the rug, but Tillman's remorse for his actions and moves to try and make amends for what he did are also noteworthy. You can make a case that he never should have received another CFL job, but the Eskimos decided to give him a second chance, and he's done a terrific job of rebuilding their organization so far.

Braidwood's situation is rather different. He hasn't yet been proven guilty or innocent of anything in court, so final conclusions on if the Eskimos should keep him are tough to draw at the moment. However, the information that's come out for far doesn't speak well for him, especially considering both the number and severity of the charges raised against him. What's particularly frightening is that the 10 charges from the second incident appear to have come while he was out on bail from the first one, and after he was warned by Tillman and the organization to clean up his act in the future.

That's a disturbing pattern of behaviour, and one that rings similar to the Josh Boden situation. The Lions gave Boden a chance after some troubling run-ins with the law, but cut him despite his football talent after he was charged with domestic assault and robbery. Those charges were eventually dropped and Boden signed with the Tiger-Cats, but he didn't last long there and soon was charged again with firearms offences and sexual assault. This year, he faced more charges in relation to breaking and entering and sexual assault. Braidwood certainly hasn't hit Boden levels yet, but the Lions and Tiger-Cats must be glad they aren't involved with him any more, and the Eskimos' organization may consider that case when they're thinking about Braidwood.

The CFL has definitely had its share of outlaws and renegades over the years, and Braidwood hasn't yet reached the level of many of them from the information that's come out so far. However, from this corner, the Eskimos and the league need to consider each individual situation on its own merits. There are considerable differences between Ricky Williams and Lawrence Phillips, just like there's a wide gulf between Tillman's past and what Braidwood's accused of. Some individuals will use a second chance to improve themselves, help others and make sure they don't slip back into their past; others will take advantage of being given another opportunity. Tillman and the Eskimos' front office know Braidwood better than any of us on the outside, and it will be up to them to decide which category he fits.

My biggest concern with this case is that some may use it to try and make generalizations about larger groups. Just because Braidwood's facing these charges, it doesn't mean that the Eskimos are a renegade organization full of criminals. In fact, they've even been known for fighting crime in the past! Another one that may come up is Tillman's past; just because he has his own history with criminal proceedings doesn't mean he has to welcome all players who continually run into trouble.

Similarly, just because Braidwood and other CFL players in the past have gotten in trouble with the law, that doesn't mean the league's full of dangerous people. Most CFL players are terrific role models who spend tremendous amounts of time working to help others. Braidwood's also competed in boxing and mixed martial arts in the past (he's shown above training for MMA in 2006), and some might use this as another chance to rail against MMA, but that's also disingenuous. Just because Braidwood's from Delta, B.C., no one's going to attempt to argue that all British Columbians are criminals, or all Canadians are criminals. It's just as silly to try and do that about the sports he's competed in.

Whether Braidwood is retained or tossed by the Eskimos should be a decision based upon the circumstances of the charges against him, the eventual outcomes in court and the organization's opinion of his prospects for redemption. If Tillman and company really think he can turn his life around, then fine; keep him. If they don't, they should axe him. Neither decision should be dictated by Tillman's own past or larger perceptions of the Eskimos or the CFL.

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