Geno Smith’s jaw is broken and possibly the law.
Outside linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali sucker punched the New York Jets quarterback Tuesday in an unprovoked attack on the Jets practice field which will keep Smith out of a Jets uniform the next 6-10 weeks.
Now Smith, who was looking to rebound from a disastrous 2014 season has his 2015 in as many pieces as his jaw.
Enemkpali was promptly released from the team, but that could be the least of his punishment.
Here are the 4 potential legal implications:
1. Geno Smith could pursue criminal charges vs. Enemkpali
It is highly unlikely Geno Smith would press charges against his now former teammate, but if Smith did the punch would potentially be viewed as simple assault since Enemkpali hit Smith only once unprovoked.
Smith did not retaliate, and Enemkpali apparently did not continue to hit Smith.
Enemkpali hit Smith in the state of New Jersey, which views simple assaults not as crimes per se and incur no right to indictment to a grand jury. That means it is highly unlikely Enemkpali could face any real possibility of going to jail and thus would be a fruitless exercise for Smith.
A charge of aggravated assault is indictable in the state of New Jersey, but it is far less likely Enemkpali would face such a charge seeing he hit Smith once on a football practice field where scuffles occur frequently for a variety of reasons.
In fact, most altercations face no action by the NFL or team officials.
Enempkali would have needed to go a step further in attempting to cause bodily harm to Smith, such as repeatedly hitting him or using a weapon.
2. Geno Smith could sue Enemkpali in civil court.
Geno Smith is currently on a 4 year contract paying him $3 million guaranteed. Missing 6-10 weeks obviously puts Smith in a position not to be Jets starting quarterback once he returns. Part of suing in civil court includes assessing the value of a case.
The damages are not entirely known at this point. Smith could sue Enemkpali now or determine at a future date to sue him if the impact of being out the Jets lineup becomes more detrimental to his career than originally calculated.
The fact Smith may have allegedly owed Enempkali money makes this option potentially an attractive option for Smith, if only to use such a maneuver to square the debt owed via an out of court settlement.
3. The NFL could discipline Enemkpali.
The NFL updated its personal conduct policy after the Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Greg Hardy scandals. New language called for discipline for “violent or threatening behavior among employees, whether in or outside the workplace.”
NBC Sports Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio pondered aloud on where the NFL draws the line between allowing the usual scuffles that occur during training camp and the workplace violence spelled out in the new personal conduct policy.
The NFL would first have to investigate the incident, getting cooperation from Jets personnel and players. The key part of the investigation is determining why Enemkpali punched Smith unprovoked in the first place. It has been speculated the punch was over money Smith owed Enemkpali. Just money still doesn’t tell the whole story.
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick met with the media said the Jets would “keep it in house.” If the NFL decides to investigate further, the door would be unlocked.
Right now, Enemkpali has been kicked out of the Jets house and is in street clothes.
4. Geno Smith could file a grievance vs. Jets.
The start of Geno Smith’s career has been marred by inconsistent play and a fan base who actually booed him at practice.
The Jets could at some point investigate the Enemkpali altercation, determine Smith’s involvement was more than originally reported, and decide to cut Smith, and attempt to void Smith’s contract.
Smith could eventually file a grievance against the team to collect salary owed him. Much of this last point is speculative, but the NFL has seen it’s share of strange happening on and off the field over the last 18 months.
The preseason continues as normal, Rex Grossman gets a shot to play quarterback again, and the we move on to the next story. No charges, no suit, no disciple, Geno’s back in a few weeks, life goes on in New York.
Scandals on and off the field abound in the NFL, but the league continues its historic success in spite of the many punches the shield takes.
Exavier B. Pope I, Esq. is an award winning attorney, on air legal analyst, media personality, and Fortune 500 speaker. Mr. Pope has over 200+ appearances on air, including: international television on BBC and Al Jazeera English; national television on Fox News Channel, HLN, NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera America, WGN Morning News, Fox Business Channel, and Huff Post Live; Top 3 Local Media Markets on Fox, CBS, and NBC; international radio on BBC Radio; national radio on ESPN Radio, Clear Channel Radio, NBC Sports Radio; contributed digitally to CNBC, Huffington Post, Jet, and Black Enterprise; and has appeared in other media outlets nationally and internationally. Mr. Pope is represented by top media and literary agency RLR Associates. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.
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