Josh Brent can't fumble this chance

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Josh Brent now is eligible to return to the Dallas Cowboys this season, and they apparently want him on the roster. You know what? That's OK. Really, it is.

The man spent six months in jail -- the last 45 days at a drug and alcohol treatment facility -- and received 10 years of probation after being convicted of intoxication vehicular manslaughter.

Brent's actions in December 2012 resulted in the death of his best friend, Jerry Brown Jr., who was a Cowboys practice squad linebacker. Brent will probably never really get over his role in Brown's death. The memories will linger; he'll just learn to manage it a little better each year.

He's going to be reminded of some aspect of that horrible night every time he looks into Stacey Jackson's eyes, because he took her son away forever. And each time he visits Brown's little girl, he'll be reminded of his role in his friend's death.

This is, for Brent, a life sentence with no possibility of parole.

So what is a man supposed to do after he has been punished by the judicial system? He's supposed to return to society and reclaim his life. For Brent, that means returning to the NFL, creating a life for himself and providing financially for Brown's child.

Some of you don't want Brent playing in the NFL because you believe it's a privilege to play a kids' game for a living. The NFL you're referring to has little in common with the football played in parks throughout our country by youngsters on Saturdays.

There are no painkillers. No ammonia pills. No players with eight-digit contracts.

The NFL is a multibillion-dollar business, where aching joints, mangled digits and the prospect of a shortened lifespan is an unwritten addendum to the million-dollar contracts players sign. And we haven't even discussed the increased odds of NFL players getting early-onset dementia.

More important, what makes playing in the NFL any more of a privilege than being a doctor, a Wal-Mart clerk, a lawyer, a teacher or a barber? Is it just about the money? Is it the fame? The adulation? Are we really that shallow?

Please don't use the argument that being an elite athlete is a God-given gift and that you can learn to be a doctor, plumber or mechanic.

Poppycock.

You could certainly argue that athletes go to college to learn to play their sports better. Besides, different folks have different aptitudes. Some people could study a lifetime and never pass calculus.

Yes, there are a multitude of jobs in which you can get fired if you don't adhere to the standards and guidelines set forth by your employer. That, however, usually doesn't prevent another company form hiring you. Lawyers can get disbarred and doctors lose their licenses, but those aren't always lifetime bans.

Hey, we all have addictions, whether it's food, nicotine, work, sex, drugs, gambling, shopping, alcohol or something else. You just hope your addiction isn't illegal. Or it doesn't ruin your life. It's amazing how we can live in a country founded on Christian principles yet remain so judgmental and unforgiving. If Brown's mama can forgive Brent, who are we to say Brent hasn't been punished enough?

If Jerry Jones wants to give Brent a roster spot, who are we to say he's unworthy, since he has paid his debt to society and the NFL. Leonard Little and Donte Stallworth returned to the NFL after committing similar crimes.

Understand, none of this means Brent makes the Cowboys' roster. Much can change in the weeks before he's allowed to return to the team.

Brent is OK'd to return for Week 11. He will not have played in nearly two years. That could be a lifetime in the NFL.

No guarantee exists he will be a factor this season. Or next.

It's not like Brent has been a great player. In 39 games, he has 1.5 sacks and five starts.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett already has figured out what he'll say to Brent the first time he sees him.

"We're here for you. Line 1 for you is simply get your life back together and get acclimated," Garrett said early last month. "I know football is big part of his life. His football family is a big part of his life. And we'll be there to support him.

"Take it one day at a time and make sure you're doing the right things in your life every day and make sure you're doing the right things in your football life every day -- and know that we're here for you."

This is all on Brent now. He's going to get yet another opportunity to play the game he loves. He should expect this to be his last.

Hopefully, he'll take advantage of it. If not, he'll have to ask Jerry Brown's mom to forgive him once again.

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