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NFL Copes With Another Tragedy


And let's turn, now, to something that is often a topic of conversation on Monday mornings - football. For a second straight week, the world of football is coping with a tragedy. The Dallas Cowboys won a thriller yesterday, beating the Cincinnati Bengals 20-19 on a last-second field goal, and that really kept their playoff hopes alive. But the Cowboys' celebration was filled with tears as well. The day before, two Dallas players were involved in a one-car accident. One of the players was killed. The driver, his teammate, was arrested for drunk driving. And this comes on the heels of last week's murder-suicide involving a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Joining me now, NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. And Tom, what can you tell us about this accident that killed Dallas linebacker Jerry Brown?

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: It happened early Saturday, David. A car driven by Cowboys defensive lineman Josh Brent went out of control. Jerry Brown, 25-year-old practice squad player, died in the accident. Brown joined the Cowboys just in late October. And the two men were very good friends. They played college football together, at Illinois. Brent, who is 24, was released from jail on a half-million dollars bond. He was charged with intoxication manslaughter. If convicted, it could mean up to 20 years in prison.

GREENE: Wow. And as I just mentioned - I mean, this follows the murder-suicide last weekend, of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. I mean, what is going on? Is this just tragic coincidence, or is this something the NFL should be worried about?

GOLDMAN: Well, you know, the Belcher case, although tragically extreme, wasn't the first domestic violence incident in the NFL by far; nor was the Cowboys tragedy the first case of alleged drunk driving. The NFL is aware of the problems. After the suicide of former star player Junior Seau earlier this year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell started a 24-hour hotline, and ramped up the league's mental health efforts for players. But with these two tragic incidents on back-to-back weekends, undoubtedly, there will be calls for the league - and for teams - to do even more.

GREENE: Well, the games did go on, despite all of that. And of course, there's one more NFL game tonight, and that is New England hosting the incredible Houston Texans. What are we expecting?

GOLDMAN: What about the incredible New England Patriots? They've got a great offense, to go against the incredible Houston Texans' defense, so something's got to give. I'm not going to predict which side will give, but it's going to be a great game.

GREENE: And the big college news, Tom, over the weekend? A first in the Heisman Trophy presentation.

GOLDMAN: A first, yes. We have our first freshman, Johnny Manziel, a Texas A&M quarterback - Johnny Football, as he's called; the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, very exciting player to watch. You wonder how good he can get, if he stays in college another three years. He set the Southeastern Conference record, with 4,600 yards gained rushing and passing. He led the Aggies to a season-defining upset of Alabama, which was number one at the time. Of course Notre Dame fans, they were rooting for their great senior linebacker Manti Te'o, who finished second in the voting. And they comforted themselves a bit by noting at least Te'o doesn't have a mugshot that made the rounds on the Internet, as Manziel did. He was arrested in June, for fighting in public and then showing police fake ID. Manziel, obviously, prefers the photos from this weekend, of him holding the Heisman Trophy.

GREENE: From the Heisman. You win the Heisman freshman year - I mean, where do you go from there?

GOLDMAN: To the professional ranks. So the question is, when?

GREENE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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