Lorenzo Mauldin’s involvement in an off the field incident isn’t the first time the New York Jets have dealt with players fighting in a NYC night club.
On Wednesday morning, Lorenzo Mauldin turned himself in for his alleged role in a night club attack on April 2. Mauldin was not arrested or charged after the incident. He is also being sued in civil court. Earlier this month the Jets said they were aware of the lawsuit, but had no comment.
What did or didn’t happen people can argue night and day. The point is that when athletes go out they are targets. How they handle the attention and the fact that someone might be a jerk to them depends on many factors. Some players laugh it off, some players tease back and some overreact. However, as fans and writers it’s always best to give the players the benefit of the doubt, because they deal with attention and people I’m sure can be difficult.
Looking back in Jets history and how off the field issues can affect the team, this incident with Lorenzo Mauldin takes me back to the fall of 1983.
Back then Studio 54 was the place to go in Manhattan. Celebrities and athletes would spend many nights enjoying themselves in the New York limelight. On the night of September 30, 1983, Jets rookie QB Ken O’Brien and superstar DE Mark Gastineau wanted to enjoy an evening out among teammates. They attended the popular night club that evening.
According to witnesses at 2:20 AM, Gastineau and bartender Scott Baird decided to have an arm wrestling match. In order to put this story in perspective, one needs to understand the type of player that Gastineau was. He was fast, strong and had an ego the size of California. He was one of the most dominant pass rushers in the NFL, having been named to the Pro Bowl in 1981 and 1982 and First Team All Pro in 1982. While others gathered around to watch the match, Gastineau was embarrassed after he lost. Gastineau then told Baird he wanted another chance. However, Baird realized Gastineau was out of control and declined. Then chaos ensued.
At their trial a year later, witnesses testified that Gastineau, O’Brien and their friends started a fight. Some witnesses stated that Gastineau was already in a bad mood that night because the Jets would be moving to New Jersey in 1984 after playing in Queens, where the Jets had been since 1964. John Benson and a bystander both sustained broken noses. Benson filed an assault complaint that day which resulted in the trial. The result was O’Brien was acquitted, but Gastineau was found guilty of assaulting Benson.
Most fans don’t realize the stuff players deal with when they go out into the public, but stories like this don’t help much. The only thing most fans really care about was how this affected the team on the field. That incident in 1983 had an effect on O’Brien, who missed practice time and lost his starting job in 1984 dealing with the trial. After making consecutive playoff berths in 1981 and 1982 (they reached the AFC Championship Game in 1982), the Jets fell to 7-9 in both 1983 and 1984.
Hopefully Mauldin will learn from this and continue to improve. The Jets were one of the worst pass-rushing teams in the NFL last year, finishing the season with just 27 sacks, and only 5.5 of them coming from the team’s outside linebackers. They are depending on Mauldin to help improve those numbers in 2017 with the addition of new LB coach Kevin Greene. After collecting four sacks as a rookie in 2015, Mauldin finished with just two sacks in 2016.
Mark Kelly covers the New York Jets for ProFootballSpot.com. You can follow him on twitter @CkmagicSports. Looking for more Jets news and features? Like our Jets Facebook page and also follow @spot_jets on Twitter.