Photograph: Gary A Vasquez/USA Today Sports
Tragic is the only word to describe the downfall of Henry Ruggs III. The young wide receiver had dedicated his football career to Roderic Scott, his best friend who died in a car accident during high school. Ruggs honored his friend while announcing his college football commitment to Alabama in a heart-rending video partially filmed at Scott’s grave site.
For it all to end with the 22-year-old killing a young woman in an early morning car crash while driving at speeds of up to 156 mph under the influence of alcohol makes you want to scream. The NFL and his now former team, the Las Vegas Raiders, surely warned him about how easy it is to get sucked into just such a nightmare during their mandatory rookie orientation sessions.
But before the critics could pile on and spin Ruggs – who faces up to 46 years in jail –into yet another allegory of the perils of athletic entitlement, Derek Carr stepped into the firing line. Speaking to reporters at Las Vegas’ team facility, the Raiders quarterback choked up. He offered his condolences to the families involved, confessed the situation “broke my wife and I’s heart,” and blamed himself. (“I do sit back and think … did I not let him know that I’d be there for him at 3am?” he mused.) But no statement was quite as striking as Carr pledging his continued support for Ruggs. “He needs people to love him right now,” the quarterback said. “If no one else will do it, I’ll do it.”
To say the Raiders season has been star-crossed takes some spunk in a city where luck is famously fickle. Still: just days after the release of Ruggs, who was seemingly on the verge of a career breakout, a video of cornerback Damon Arnette making death threats while waving a firearm surfaced on social media, prompting the team to cut him. And of course all of this started in October after the team’s head coach, Jon Gruden, resigned after emails in which he used racist, misogynistic…