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Published: Tuesday, February 28, 2012, 8:39 p.m.

Commentary: Has Hill's career as a Seahawk come to an end?

  • Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, who will become a free agent later this month, was arrested in Atlanta on Saturday and charged with marijuana possessi...

    Associated Press

    Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill, who will become a free agent later this month, was arrested in Atlanta on Saturday and charged with marijuana possession.

SEATTLE -- Only six months ago, Leroy Hill was certain that he was done screwing up. He had learned his lesson after two arrests and received what he called a "wakeup call" in the form of a meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell the previous summer.
"Obviously I got in trouble, but that's over with and behind me," Hill said before the start of last season. "I don't plan on getting in trouble ever again."
Only Hill did get in trouble again. It wasn't over with and behind him. according to a police report, Hill and a woman were arrested early Saturday morning in Atlanta for marijuana possession after officers received a complaint of "a strong odor of marijuana" coming from a condominium and obtained a search warrant to enter the residence.
Now before we go any further, let's remember that Hill hasn't been convicted of anything yet in this case. He deserves every chance to argue his innocence just like everyone in this country who is accused of a crime.
But even if he is never convicted in a court of law, the damage has already been done to Hill's NFL career. In case you haven't noticed, the league has no problem punishing an athlete who has not been convicted of a crime, especially if that player has been in trouble before.
Hill, a starter as a rookie on Seattle's Super Bowl team, signed a six-year $36 million contract in 2009. But after a marijuana arrest that year and a domestic violence arrest in 2010 -- which, by the way, happened days after he reached a plea deal in the marijuana case -- Hill had his contract restructured, cutting his 2010 base pay from $6 million to $2.15 million and eliminating the remaining years on the deal.
Last year, he toiled under a one-year, veteran-minimum deal, and after playing all 16 games and recording 89 tackles and four sacks, the 29-year-old Hill figured to have one more good payday in his future when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next month. Hill was by no means a star, but he was a productive enough player that somebody, whether it was the Seahawks or another team, was going to give him a multi-year deal worth millions.
Don't look for that to happen now. Hill likely will be playing on another minimum contract after sitting out multiple games to start the season. He almost will certainly be facing a suspension from the league, which already suspended him a game in 2010 for the marijuana arrest and later fined him two game checks following the domestic violence arrest.
By his own admission, Hill was surprised to be one of the longest-tenured Seahawks on last year's roster after all he had been through. Once Marcus Trufant went down with a season ending injury, Hill was the only player on the active roster remaining from the Super Bowl team. But he owned up to past mistakes, and seemed incredibly sincere in doing so, saying: "The restructuring of my contract was my own fault."
And after sitting down with Goodell following his second arrest, Hill vowed to never be back in that situation.
"I had seen on TV guys having to go to the commissioner, and I was like, 'Man, these guys are tripping, getting in trouble like this,'" Hill said before the season. "Then boom, it's me sitting in that office looking at the commissioner face-to-face, telling him my story.
"It was a wakeup call. I knew I was headed down the wrong path, doing the wrong things in my life. I got past all of that and I'm ready to go."
And I wanted to believe him. Hill's remorse seemed real, and he spent the season relishing in the role of veteran leader on a young defense that by the end of the season was the team's strength. Until last weekend's arrest, Hill's 2011 season looked like a great redemption story.
What's frustrating about this wasn't Hill's alleged crime. It's that he, like plenty of other athletes before him, didn't seem to care about the consequences. We'll save the debate about marijuana use for somewhere other than the sports section -- according to a 2011 Gallup poll, 50 percent of Americans are now in favor of legalizing the drug -- but it is unfortunate to see someone with so much to lose still taking chances with his career. Sure, he was arrested for doing something millions of American have done, but the vast majority of those people haven't been arrested twice before, nor do they stand to lose of millions of dollars if they get caught.
Hill's time in Seattle is almost certainly over. There was already a chance the Seahawks would have decided to move on with a younger option at weakside linebacker, but now there is little doubt that Pete Carroll and John Schneider will cut ties with Hill. Hopefully, Saturday's arrest and his subsequent punishment will serve as the real wakeup call that finally sets Hill straight, allowing him to make good use out of a fourth chance that most people wouldn't get. He won't likely be getting that chance in Seattle, however, because despite what he said six months ago, Hill wasn't done getting in trouble.
Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » Seahawks

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