On Tuesday, TMZ Sports released a video from February 1 that shows Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. standing by as two women are involved in an all-out brawl. It is reported that the women are Fowler’s current girlfriend and the mother of his child. Fowler was drafted out of Florida 3rd overall in last year’s draft, but tore his ACL during his first day at the Jaguars’ rookie minicamp.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy briefly stated, “These are disturbing images, and we will review the matter.”
The Jaguars and Fowler were a little more vocal. The team released in a statement, “Dante brought the incident to our attention prior to the video being released and was embarrassed and remorseful. Violence of this type against others is unacceptable in our society and to our organization.” Fowler reiterated these sentiments in a statement of his own, and the Jaguars stated they will also be investigating the incident.
The last thing Jacksonville wants to hear this year is another of their top picks being involved in off-field incidents. While Jacksonville has not drafted terribly in recent memory, with players such as Allen Robinson and T.J. Yeldon, they have struggled with first-round selections the past five years. Their picks: 2015-Fowler, 2014-QB Blake Bortles, 2013-T Luke Joeckel, 2012-WR Justin Blackmon, 2011-QB Blaine Gabbert. Gabbert was the lowest selection at 10th overall, while the others were all top five.
Last season, Fowler sat out, Bortles showed some nice improvement with 35 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, and Joeckel was O.K., but not great, in the 14 games he played on the offensive line. Gabbert backed up Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco and Blackmon has been suspended indefinitely since the 2013 season for multiple violations of the league’s substance abuse policy.
With their top five selection in 2016, the Jaguars have set a record for the most consecutive seasons with a top five pick. As such a record demonstrates sustained futility, the Jaguars are desperate for a quick turnaround, and Fowler could be a huge factor. The ability to generate a pass-rush has become more and more valuable in a quarterback dominated league, as Von Miller and the Denver Broncos demonstrated in early February.
This particular incident could result in a suspension if it is deemed as an infraction of the league’s personal conduct policy. It is slightly encouraging that Fowler came forward about the incident before the video’s release and that he was not actually involved in the violent acts. However, the incident speaks to Fowler’s character and maturity, and it is not saying positive things. Hopefully this is the last time Fowler finds himself in such a situation, but if it isn’t, his time in the league could be cut short. And if the Jaguars do not start winning soon (and attracting more fans), a departure from Jacksonville may become a very real option.