FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- This looks bad for Sheldon Richardson, real bad. Two weeks after getting suspended by the NFL on a marijuana violation, he gets into his 2014 Bentley and decides to be Mario Andretti, allegedly racing another car up to speeds of 143 mph, according to police.
Wait, it gets worse: He allegedly speeds away from police, trying to hide in a stranger's driveway. The police track him down, smell marijuana in the car and find a loaded handgun under the seat.
Now, the really bad part: There's a 12-year-old kid in the car.
Somehow, the New York Jets' talented defensive end walked away facing only a resisting-arrest charge, a misdemeanor, and some traffic violations. It would be troubling enough if this were an isolated incident, but now we have a pattern of poor behavior. If the facts of the case are accurate -- they were released Thursday by the St. Charles County (Missouri) prosecutor -- Richardson exhibited sheer recklessness and a frighting lack of judgement.
The Jets should be angry. They are angry. They were blindsided by the news, which came down about an hour after practice ended -- about an hour after Richardson stood in front of reporters and vowed, "[The Jets] don't have to worry about my name being in the news again."
How can the Jets ever trust Richardson? Instead of confiding in them two weeks ago when it happened, he kept them in the dark, putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to learn the details at the same time as the media. Not only did he embarrass himself and his family, but he shamed his employer, and that's something the organization never can forget.
This is a player who already has dropped hints about deserving a $100 million contract in the future. He's lucky if he gets a second contract, period. No organization will invest franchise money in a high-risk player, especially in the post-Ray Rice era. Already facing a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, Richardson is only one strike away from a 10-game suspension. It's hard to say how this latest incident will impact his status -- no drug charges were filed -- but it appears to be a violation of the personal-conduct policy. His failure to disclose the information in a timely manner also violates the policy.
In short, he's a train wreck.
Before the news broke, Todd Bowles backed Richardson, saying they'd "help him hopefully get help with his problem" -- thinking it was just the suspension. A short time later, the Jets' coach discovered his Pro Bowl defensive end -- seemingly unfazed by the suspension -- was prepping for training camp by burning rubber on the highways of his hometown, St. Louis.
"I'm not a dope fiend, man," Richardson said before the arrest became news.
If he's not a dope fiend, he's just a dope. Not only did he endanger his own life, but he endangered the lives of at least three others, including the 12-year-old.
Richardson probably ruined his future with the Jets, who should look to trade him after the season. They can live without him as long as they re-sign Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison, both of whom are entering contract years. Wilkerson is a terrific player and does all the right things; he deserves the big deal, not Richardson. They have No. 1 pick Leonard Williams ready to replace Richardson; he already is working with the starters.
This is reminiscent of John Abraham in the mid-2000s. Abraham, a first-round pick in 2000, was a gifted pass-rusher, but his off-the-field problems scared the new regime that took command in 2006. Despite a 10.5-sack season in '05, he was traded for the first-round pick, which turned out to be Nick Mangold.
You could see the Richardson situation playing out the same way. They can't move him now because he has little trade value -- it would have to be a fire sale -- so they will have to wait until the offseason. Bowles, who stressed accountability in his opening-night speech to the team, shouldn't have to build a team with unreliable, immature players who repeatedly let down their teammates. Maybe not now, but eventually he will sack the team's leading sacker.