Brent must show he's changed to play again

DALLAS -- Josh Brent stood in front of a judge and listened patiently and silently about his fate. He wasn’t in front of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell or a room of his football peers.

There were no NFL coaches or scouts determining Brent’s future on Friday. There were 10 women and two men making a decision in a Dallas courtroom.

Brent was given a 10-year suspended sentence for being convicted of intoxication manslaughter for his role in the drunken driving accident that killed his best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown.

Brent was placed on probation for 10 years and must pay a $10,000 fine. He will serve a mandatory 180 days in jail in compliance with Texas law on suspended sentences.

Once he’s served his time, the court won’t be in the way of him resuming his NFL career if he so chooses. That fate would be in the hands of Goodell.

"I don’t know [whether he wants to play again]," Brent’s mother, Sherri, said as she left the courthouse Friday.

Brent should have the opportunity to play again if he wants to, but the 6-foot-2, 320-pound former defensive tackle should use his jail time to take a long and hard look at his life before asking for a second chance to play the game he grew up with.

Brent was drunk and driving fast on that December 2012 early morning, an irresponsible combination with a tragic result.

This is the second time Brent was involved in a drinking-and-driving incident. While in college at Illinois, he was given probation for a DWI offense.

You would have thought the first time would have gotten the message through.

It didn’t with Brent.

Maybe the death of his best friend, which leaves a family shaken and a baby girl without a father, will open his eyes to what he’s done.

The NFL needs to make sure that message sticks this time. Counseling and other stipulations must be part of the equation if Brent is to play in the league again.

"He’s still sad and still grieving about Jerry Brown," Brent’s co-counsel, Kevin Brooks, said.

"Josh was pretty somber, not jumping for joy," added his other attorney, George Milner, on the sentencing. "Not sure how to take everything. You can’t understand the guilt that he is living with. I said this on Dec. 8 -- there's not going to be a winner in this case."

And because of that, Brent must clean up his act before he ever winds up near an NFL team again.

That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a second chance. The first assistant to the Dallas County District Attorney, Heath Harris, said Brent has a right to play in the NFL.

But he shouldn’t play until he has shown he can handle the responsibility and demonstrate he understands the consequences of what he’s done. Six months in jail alone isn’t going to do that. Paying a fine isn’t doing it, either.

Brent knows he can never have another drink again. He knows he can’t hang out in bars, clubs or at people’s houses where drinking is going to be prevalent.

No more birthday parties for teammates at clubs. No more hanging out late with his drinking buddies. Recovering alcoholics don’t go to bars. Recovering drug addicts don’t contact their suppliers. Recovering gamblers don’t check the point spreads.

That life is behind them. If Brent wants another chance to play in the NFL, his old life must be behind him.

This case with Brent isn’t about the 34 people in Dallas County who received probation after being charged with intoxication manslaughter.

It’s not about him being a former player for the Dallas Cowboys. The franchise didn’t place a drink in Brent’s hands or tell him to get wasted two days before a road game in December.

Based on court testimony, Brent had roughly 17 drinks two days before a game. That’s responsible? That’s the type of guy you want on your team?

Not a chance.

A return to the NFL won’t be easy. Any team, even the Cowboys, will wonder if this has changed his life.

"Anyone that supported my child, I appreciate it to the fullest," Brent’s mother said.

The bigger question is, will Brent appreciate the second chance 12 jurors handed him?

If he clearly does, then somebody will open the door for him. If there is any doubt, if he’s not locked up, he’ll surely be locked out.