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Mike Williams' getting stabbed should not be an excuse to cut him

Mike Williams' off-field trouble this offseason is a problem, but being the victim of a violent crime is not grounds for release, as far as I know.

Yesterday, Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams was stabbed in the thigh, by his brother, with a kitchen knife. This heinous event of being the victim of a violent crime has widely been taken as evidence that the receiver attracts trouble, and now Pewter Report has gone as far as to use Mike Williams' getting stabbed as an excuse to advocate for his release.

Apparently, being at your own home with your family is putting yourself in a situation where you can expect to get stabbed, or something.

Look, I get that Mike Williams has a pattern of off-field behavior that is not ideal. He partied too much the past six-eight months, and that led to a few headlines. That's not something you want your starting wide receiver to do, and it would behoove him to stop it. Incidentally, we've seen no evidence of him partying to excess (or partying at all) since Lovie Smith became the team's head coach. And in case you missed it: he was at his own home, with a family member when this happened. Such a dangerous setting, that.

And that partying? That's about it: his only criminal offences are minor and non-violent (and he hasn't been convicted for them), and none of this suggests that getting stabbed is something he could reasonably expect to happen, nor is it rational to assume that this was his fault.

A quick and simple cost/benefit analysis of releasing Mike Williams shows some issues with this line of thinking, too.

  • Lose a starting wideout.
  • Receiver depth becomes a bigger problem.
  • Additional $4.4 million cap hit (Pewter Report's post-June 1 analysis does not work, as that rule does not apply to guaranteed salary, only to pro-rated bonuses).
  • ???

I just can't see the actual advantage of getting rid of Williams at this point. Can you?

Yes, there's a chance that the Buccaneers will be able to void the wide receiver's guaranteed salary based on broad contract language that was also present in Eric Wright's voided contract. But the argument in the latter case was that he had taken himself out of practicing and playing via a four-game suspension due to a violation of the NFL's PED policy. While I'm not privy to the exact contract language and Gil Arcia reports that the contract language is being reviewed, the NFLPA is not going to take a kind view to any attempt to void guarantees because a player was the victim of a violent crime, no matter how much that player has partied. Voiding guarantees is not a straightforward matter, and the Bucs are likely in for a lengthy legal battle if they choose that route.

There's also the personal judgment inherent in these stories and many fan reactions that bothers me. One person on Twitter told me that it must be Williams' fault, because "Aaron Rodgers isn't getting stabbed by family members." A classic case of victim blaming, if I've seen any. As far as we know, almost all of his transgressions boil down to a love for partying. And somehow, because he parties too much, getting stabbed in the leg is evidence that he has some kind of incorrigible problem that will eventually see him "enter Talib territory" (Pewter Report's words)?

How absurd is it, by the way, to equate Williams' party house and being a victim of violence with Aqib Talib's penchant for inflicting violence on others? And let's be clear here: if there's any lesson to be learned from Aqib Talib, maybe it's that people can learn, can change, and can turn into top-tier players at their position while steering clear of any trouble off the field -- even if they were repeat violent offenders before.

As far as we can tell, last night, Mike Williams was stabbed by his brother, with a kitchen knife, in the thigh. That brother is currently being sought for aggravated assault. It sounds like a tragic family event, where luckily no one was seriously injured, judging by Williams' swift release from the hospital. Tragic family events are not grounds for release, and using this event to push for punishment for the Bucs' number two receiver is ridiculous, as is the assumption that somehow, Williams must have been in the wrong. He was the victim in this case, as evidenced by the fact that he ended up with a knife in his thigh. If your first response to a crime is to try to find a way to punish the victim, that's not healthy.