Yesterday, Colts backup defensive tackle John Gill was found drunk and passed out in a ditch by members of the Indianapolis police department and arrested for public drunkenness.You might think, in the wake of such an escapade, the Colts would be inclined to cut Gill.
Not so. Turns out that Gill will likely stay on the Colts roster but spend the season on IR to treat his alcoholism. From Phillip Wilson at the Indy Star:
“In respect to John Gill, he’s got a problem unfortunately that many Americans are familiar with either in their family or in the workplace,” (team President Bill) Polian said after the Colts’ morning workout at Anderson University. “The No. 1 priority for him is to get treatment and we’re in that process right now.
“Football is not a priority. It’s not even a consideration. We’re in discussion with the league office and they’ll let us know what the appropriate roster category is for him, but he’s going into treatment as quickly as possible. That’s being arranged with the appropriate people at the league level and we’ll move on from there.”
Gill hasn’t been officially placed on IR as of yet, but Polian and coach Jim Caldwell indicate that should merely be a formality.
As recently as ten years ago, the idea of a player publicly going on IR for alcoholism would have been an impossibility. The fact that the Colts didn’t throw Gill out on the street, and the fact that they were so quick with support for Gill, is a sign that the NFL, and the sports world in general, has become much more sensitive to the idea of treating players for illnesses that go far beyond the scope of torn ACL’s and sprained ankles.
There was an article in Sports Illustrated a while back that talked about Major League Baseball blazing a trail in this regard, with players such as Zach Greinke publicly missing time due to social anxiety disorder and clinical depression. Football, that ultimate manly man’s game, hasn’t been as quick to take to such methods.
Plenty of old school hardasses think alcoholism is a character flaw and not an illness. Gill’s support from the Colts could be an indicator that way of thinking is slowly being phased out. A year from now, Gill could still be on the sauce and still an alcoholic. But he has a far better chance of succeeding with the Colts supporting him than he would if they had cut him loose. I bet plenty of NFL players in history wish they had gotten a similar second chance.