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Ra’Shede Hageman’s suspension and release, explained

Buckle up, because there’s a lot to unpack here.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-Atlanta Falcons Arrival Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons announced Monday that they have released defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman. The announcement came just days after Hageman was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list during roster cuts. He was then issued an indefinite suspension by the league.

There have been plenty of questions about this situation. Let’s break it down.

What happened?

In March 2016, the mother of Hageman’s child claimed that he had pulled her hair, pushed her down in a parking lot, and taken her phone to keep her from calling 911. The alleged incident happened in front of their child.

Hageman was charged with interference with a call for emergency help, battery family violence and cruelty to children in the third degree. All three charges were misdemeanors.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Hageman pled guilty.

Why did it take so long for the Falcons to move on from Hageman?

Great question. The team, and the league, were aware of the charges against Hageman and they could have suspended him. Instead, they kept him on the roster and said they were just going to let the process play out.

"Each situation is different," Quinn said last fall when the news broke. "For us, this one, we are certainly going to allow the appropriate channels to take place."

But the Falcons didn’t have proven depth at defensive tackle. That’s the bigger issue. And let’s call this what it is: The team didn’t do anything about it because they needed Hageman on the field. Now that he’s facing an indefinite suspension and the case has been adjudicated, it’s much harder to justify keeping him on the roster. But having depth at the position makes this an easy decision.

Why didn’t the league do something sooner?

To be frank, they couldn’t. The NFL always waits for the legal process to complete in a criminal case before they even start investigating.

Some people have pointed to the difference between the Ezekiel Elliott case and Hageman’s. Elliott was never charged, but the league began its investigation as soon as the Columbus City Attorney’s office declined to charge Elliott. At that point, the legal process was done for Elliott.

In Hageman’s case, now that his court process is finished, the league can start its investigation.

Why did Hageman get an indefinite suspension instead of six games?

The current version of the personal conduct policy provides for a baseline six-game suspension for first-time offenders in domestic violence cases. That’s what the NFL handed down to Ezekiel Elliott after its investigation wrapped up.

But the NFL is inconsistent with application of this policy. Josh Brown got a one-game suspension, and then the Giants put him on the exempt list while the league investigated.

As far as I can tell, Hageman is a first-time offender and the league hasn’t finished investigating this incident. The personal conduct policy doesn’t specify, but my best guess is that it’s because Hageman pled guilty. In Elliott’s case, he wasn’t charged.

What happens now?

The NFL will investigate and will make a decision about Hageman’s suspension. Maybe he’ll land with another team once he’s reinstated and continue his career. But it’s not going to happen with the Falcons.