The Troubling Life of Kenny Britt
Kenny Britt’s life in the spotlight has been defined by choices both good and bad. More often than not, these choices are of the head-scratching variety.
Seven years ago Britt was a top wide receiver prospect out of Bayonne with a choice between the University of Illinois and Rutgers University. He chose to stay close to home and committed to Rutgers. Staying close to home provided Britt with the support and guidance that led him to have one of the most successful wide receiver campaigns in Rutgers history. He would start as a true freshman in 2006 and decided to declare for the 2009 draft after his junior year.
In 2009, to the surprise of most analysts, Britt was chosen with the 30th pick in the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans. Everyone figured he would be picked 29th by the New York Giants keeping him close to home once more. Instead, the Giants picked Hakeem Nicks. Even at 30, Kenny Britt became the highest choice ever from Rutgers. The university’s first first-round pick.
Britt’s professional career has been anything but smooth though and has been marred by more off-the-field blemishes than highlighted by on-the-field spectacle. Since 2009, he has 146 receptions for 2,354 yards and 19 touchdowns. The most telling number though might be 9. The number of run-ins with the law that Britt has had in the four years he has been a pro.
The latest instance happened just this week. After a stabbing incident left Britt’s closed friend injured in Jersey City, Britt drove him to the Jersey City Medical Center. He was uncooperative when police attempted to talk to him about the incident. His friend is fine, but also not talking to officers. A spokesperson for Britt later put out a statement that Britt would cooperate with authorities, but the police countered that statement by putting out their own that said they have not been able to reach him and are looking for information on his whereabouts. The statement from Britt also made it a point to say that the wide receiver was leaving a dinner and found his injured friend outside.
This was a horrible but appropriate way to bookend a season that began for Britt with a one game suspension after he was arrested on suspicion of a DUI in July 2012 in Kentucky. Also on his unimpressive resumé, a 2011 car chase through the streets of Bayonne and a June 2012 incident in Hoboken where cops suspected that there was marijuana in Britt’s car.
Kenny Britt is dynamic when he is on the field, but his off-the-field antics along with his injury problems has never allowed him to establish a rhythm or any consistency. He has not played in all 16 games since his rookie season. Twice he has had to visit NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell and some believe the one-game suspension at the beginning of the season was so short because it was a clear message from Goddell that he was giving Britt one more chance.
It is not known at this time what will come from this latest run-in. As the information trickles in, the incident continues to get weirder. The evidence might show that Britt had nothing to do with his friend’s stabbing, but would it matter after this ninth time? His propensity for being at the wrong place at the wrong time might be wearing thin on the Titans organization. Britt has skill, but his injuries have kept him from showing too much of that and who knows when the Titans will stop seeing him as a project with long-term rewards and instead start to see him as a bit of a liability.
It has been a disappointing four years for a New Jersey product whose promise and potential rivals other NJ receivers such as Victor Cruz and Miles Austin. His raw skill set is arguably better than both of them.
If there is any silver lining here though, it is that sometimes it takes a major shock (such as getting dropped by the Tennessee Titans maybe) for someone to change their ways.
The case of Adam “Pacman” Jones illustrates this perfectly. Jones was a similarly troubled football player who was similarly chosen by the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the 2005 draft. Due to legal problems, Jones was cut by both the Titans and the Dallas Cowboys and was even suspended for an entire season at one point.
Now, however, Jones has rejuvenated his career with the Cincinnati Bengals and wants to drop the moniker “Pacman” because it stands for everything that he now warns rookie football players against. Jones was a keynote speaker at the rookie symposium before the 2012 season where he asked those entering the wild world of professional football to learn from his mistakes.
Perhaps a private conversation between the two first round draft picks is in order. Whether it is Adam Jones, Roger Goddell, or his own family and friends who helps him, I hope Kenny Britt is well on his way to making better life decisions and is committed to staying out of trouble and on the field because his talent is too great to waste.