COLUMN: Bournes and Pittman hurt selves, team

By By Will Bardwell/staff writer
July 22, 2004
Remember that part in "The Blues Brothers" where a country music band is chasing Elwood and Jake down a dark road in the middle of the night? The cowboys' motor home eventually crashes into a police car, and when they pull themselves out of the wreckage, the cops stand in front of the musicians with pistols drawn.
So it is with Jamal Pittman and Ken Bournes. They're in big trouble.
The two Ole Miss football players were arrested late Saturday night in Memphis, Tenn. on charges ranging from unlawful possession of a weapon to reckless endangerment. Both Pittman and Bournes are, of course, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The two are apparently guilty, though, of getting themselves into a bad situation.
According to police reports, an undercover police officer spotted Pittman waving a gun at a car that eventually sped away, and the cops moved in. Allegedly, Pittman refused to put the gun down until the cops nailed him with pepper spray.
Bournes was charged with unlawful possession of a weapon, which is a misdemeanor. Pittman faces a misdemeanor of his own resisting arrest as well as felony reckless endangerment.
Both have been suspended from the Ole Miss football team. And both are lucky to be alive.
Think about it. If you were a cop, and if you were moving in on a 6-foot-2, 240-pounder like Pittman who was waving a gun around, and he suddenly started waving the gun at you, as police reports claim what would you do? I know what I'd do.
Luckily, the Memphis Police Department is staffed by men less trigger-happy than me. But that bit of luck is hardly the end of problems for Pittman and Bournes.
Both face the wrath of the legal system, and while Bournes isn't in huge legal jeopardy, Pittman is. If convicted, Pittman could go to prison for two years.
Bournes and Pittman have also thrown both their futures up in the air, as far as their football careers go. If jailed, Pittman obviously won't have much time for football. Even if Pittman doesn't end up in the slammer, misdemeanor convictions stemming from such a stupid incident could earn Pittman and Bournes their walking papers.
No matter what happens in court, Rebels coach David Cutcliffe won't waste any time booting Bournes and Pittman if he decides they put other people at risk whether they're convicted or not. Cutcliffe runs a tight ship. In fact, he released a statement announcing the players' suspensions before the story about their arrests broke.
The question on a lot of minds is what Ole Miss will look like without Bournes and Pittman.
Barring unforeseen developments in the very near future, they'll both miss two-a-day practices. That means neither will be in shape if he is reinstated during the season. And that means both players may miss the entire season. And that hurts.
Although Pittman is a fantastic running back and losing him wouldn't be easy, it wouldn't cripple the Rebels' offense. Brandon Jacobs, Alan Abrams and the rest of the Ole Miss running backs will miss Pittman, but he wasn't projected as a starter. Life will go on.
On the other hand, Bournes, a senior linebacker expected to start this year, played in all 13 games in 2003. Bournes wasn't going to win the Heisman Trophy or anything, but replacing a starter isn't easy.
The Rebels were already pretty thin at linebacker on the depth chart. There's just not much experience to go around there. Brian Lester, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound senior, started three games in 2003 and may step in if Bournes can't play. Marquis McBeath and Patrick Willis will also probably get some consideration.
Replacements will be found for Pittman and Bournes, and though the stand-ins will have six weeks to prepare, there's a good chance they won't be as capable as Pittman or Bournes would've been. But that's not their fault. The blame lies with Pittman and Bournes for putting themselves in a bad situation.
They did more than get themselves in trouble with the law. Whether or not they're convicted of anything, they've undoubtedly compromised their team's ability to perform at its best. And that's a rap neither of them can beat.

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