Tuesday Question: Should Dalvin Cook Play Again For Florida State?

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You know how the NFL has this whole personal conduct policy thing it’s able to use when it wants to penalize someone for doing something wrong that they can’t really prove? Florida State, look into that when figuring out what you’re going to do about Dalvin Cook.

The star Florida State running back was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery after being accused of repeatedly punching a woman in the face. So now comes the typical hooting and hollering from the fan base fanboys – this happens no matter what the school is – with the same old talking points and the same old rhetoric about how he was cleared of all wrongdoing and everything is right with the world.

And they have a point, to a point.

Say what you will and believe what you want, but according to the legal system, Cook isn’t guilty. He went through the process, the process determined that he’s in the clear, so that should be that, right?

But here’s the thing – innocent until proven guilty is for a court of law. That doesn’t necessarily apply to the rest of the world, and that doesn’t mean Florida State can’t make a statement or a stand of some sort.

Yes, the accuser’s story turned out to be easy to pick apart by the defense lawyers, and the case against Cook fell apart in a hurry considering there wasn’t any video of the incident, but this is still tricky for Florida State.

Coming off a drama-filled Jameis Winston era, and with the dismissal of quarterback De’Andre Johnson for hitting a woman – there was video of this – and with the renewed emphasis at FSU to run a clean and spotless program on and off the field, even with the not guilty verdict it still seems tone-deaf to simply put Cook out there against Texas State as if nothing happened.

But the Ben Roethlisberger argument is still a hard one to make. He wasn’t charged with a crime back in 2010 after prosecutors didn’t pursue a sexual assault accusation, and he obviously wasn’t convicted, but that didn’t stop Roger Goodell from handing down a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. It seemed harsh and unfair, but just about everyone got it – Roethlisberger wasn’t found guilty, or even charged, but by the NFL’s standards, he was responsible.

If Cook starts against Texas State, it’ll seem like FSU is just moving on like normal, again, which it might just do considering he was found not guilty.

If he doesn’t start and doesn’t play, say, for a half, is that enough to show that the school is taking all incidents seriously?

If Cook is suspended for the first few games, is that okay in a “violation of team rules” sort of way for being involved in an incident in the first place?

As has been made clear by the higher-ups at Florida State, playing football at the school is a privilege. This is still a school, and these are still supposed to be student-athletes – Cook is still on scholarship. It’s okay if he doesn’t play football for a little while, even if it’s just used as a tone-setter by the school.

But Cook will probably be out there against the Bobcats on September 5th. There will be video of this.

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Florida State is getting its best offensive player back.

I know, I know, you desperately want me to rail on a shady legal system in Leon County that turns a blind eye to lawless individuals, provided they can help the local team win.

You’d like me to metaphorically wag my finger at RB Dalvin Cook, telling him he has no business ever playing another down at this level. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not going to do it.

You don’t need me to tell you that punching a woman, of which Cook was accused, is an inexcusable act that should nullify a kid from ever playing at Florida State or any university. But as heinous as the accusations were earlier this summer, a jury needed less than 30 minutes to decide that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the sophomore.

And, for better or worse, I have to heed the word of the jurors, because I wasn’t outside Clyde’s & Costello’s on the night of June 23. And those jurors were privy to a lot more information than I was about this case. Bottom line, I don’t feel it’s appropriate for me to convict Cook in the court of public opinion, especially if the legal system couldn’t do it in the Leon County Courthouse.

Now that Cook has been judged by his peers as innocent, this case becomes a football matter. He’ll be reinstated by Jimbo Fisher, but when? And will the coach suspend his star back for the Texas State opener, or longer, to make an example out of him?

Either way, the Seminoles will at some point get back their offensive linchpin, who’ll likely be teamed up in the backfield with Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson. The legal system has spoken. Like it or not, Cook has been found not guilty, so it’s time to resume discussing what his reinstatement will mean to FSU and the ACC title chase.


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