NFL set a record for longest streak without an arrest in this millennium

The NFL has set a new modern-day record for the longest streak without any active player arrests reported. It’s been about 67 days.

The current run breaks a 64-day arrest-free streak that had been the record for more than 11 years, according to a review of public arrest databases. And it’s part of a broader trend that shows far fewer pro football players are getting in trouble with the law than in previous years.

The record for longest stint without an arrest fell early Friday morning, though it can be reported with more certainty now that a few days have gone by without any news stories of players landing behind bars.

Records date back to 2000, when the media, led by USA Today and the San Diego Union-Tribune, began logging each arrest of all active players. Since then, more than 800 arrests have been documented – about one per week, on average.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell News Conference

Until now, the longest the league had gone without a reported arrest was the span between the wee hours of July 18, 2004 and the early morning of Sept. 20, 2004. That arrest-free streak lasted exactly 64 days and 48 minutes.

But the current mark is now slightly longer, and growing. As of this posting, the streak had passed 67 days and counting. The last time we heard about an active player getting arrested was on Oct. 15 at 1:20 a.m. PDT, when Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman was booked on suspicion of a hit-and-run.

Not only had the previous streak stood for 11 years, it was roughly two weeks longer than any other arrest-free span since 2000. In more recent years, the NFL hadn’t even come close to that run. The closest the league had come since 2004 was at the end of last season, when it went about 43 days between arrests before a few players were busted on Dec. 29.

In fact, this November was the first time in six years that the league had gone even a full calendar month without an arrest.

Of course, it’s always possible an arrest slipped through the media cracks. And there have been a few cases where reporters don’t discover an arrest for a week or so. And just because no active players were arrested during the streak doesn’t mean the NFL hasn’t had to deal with its typical run of headlines involving the law. During the streak:

  • At least three former players were arrested during this span.
  • At least two free agents (ex-Cowboys RB Joseph Randle and former Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard), who were on rosters as recently as earlier this year, were arrested.
  • One active player (Rams WR Stedman Bailey) was shot.
  • Another player (Raiders LB Aldon Smith) was given a year-long suspension by the league for an arrest this summer, his fifth.
  • Just on Thursday, another ex-player was sued over rape allegations.
  • And on Friday, we learned one prominent ex-player (former Eagles QB Donovan McNabb) was released from jail following sentencing on a DUI.

But by NFL standards, the active run without an active player arrested is historic. Consider that the NFL averages nine or 10 arrests during a typical 67-day span. The average respite between arrests is about one week.

There are other encouraging signs for the league as well. For a while, no NFL team had gone two years without any of its players getting arrested. But Sunday marked exactly two years since the last New York Giants player arrest was reported, and Dec. 29 would be two years since the last report of a San Diego Chargers player getting arrested.

Overall, 2015 has seen very few arrests compared to prior years, including only two reported since the regular season began.

Barring a crime spree over the last week and a half of 2015, the league will finish the year with the fewest arrests since they were first logged publicly in 2000.

In a piece on the broader trend Friday, the NFL told USA Today it was encouraged by the drop in arrests. And while experts expressed caution that that the trend would continue, some players attributed part of the drop to newer league policies on player punishment and the desire to avoid the public shaming that comes with each news report of player legal troubles. And an internal NFL study reported by ESPN showed arrests were down 39 percent since the NFL formed a new personal conduct committee a year ago.

Obviously, each situation that leads to the cops being called on a player is unique, and there are about 1,700 players on active rosters at any given time, each with their own distinct lives. As much as we like to assign a tidy explanation to all trends, the fact that these players all simultaneously avoided handcuffs at the same time for a prolonged stretch might be more of an interesting coincidence than anything else. Still, it’s worth noting that the only NFL players getting in trouble right now seem to be those who find themselves out of the league.

Mike Rosenberg

About Mike Rosenberg

Mike Rosenberg is a former reporter for the San Jose Mercury News and is now a freelance reporter based in Seattle, and has covered sports business and other news for more than eight years. He's most interested in what's happening the 99.9% of the time your favorite team is not playing.