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Tyreek Hill is a rising star with Chiefs, but past domestic abuse incident still hovers

Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill played a big role in the Chiefs’ win over the Raiders Thursday night. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Tyreek Hill, whose presence in the 2016 NFL Draft was a reminder of the league’s controversial handling of abuse, knows that another violent incident in his personal life could be career-threatening under the league’s “forgive-but-don’t-forget” approach to such incidents.

It’s a situation the Kansas City Chiefs rookie understands and vows will never happen again.

As Hill continues a strong season, a 2014 incident is bringing renewed attention to changes the NFL made to its domestic-abuse policy. Two years ago, the league instituted reforms after its ham-handed handling of incidents involving Ray Rice and several others, but projected rookies are essentially in a state of limbo. An incoming player with a past arrest for or charge of violent or threatening conduct would not be subject to initial punishment. NFL players may receive a baseline suspension of six games (or more if there are aggravating factors) without pay for a first offense of violent or threatening conduct, but that applies only when the first infraction occurs while the player is in the NFL. There is no policy concerning players who enter the league with a history of domestic violence.

However — and it’s a big however — a player may be considered a repeat offender under the new policy if there is another incident while he’s in the league. There may be wiggle room in how punishment is applied, but at least incoming players have some clarity, even if changes to the NFL’s domestic violence policy may not always work properly, as the incident involving the New York Giants and Josh Brown showed this season. Brown was initially suspended one game for a domestic incident involving his ex-wife, but the Giants ended up releasing him after more information came to light and owner John Mara made a series of public-relations missteps.

Giants release embattled kicker Josh Brown over domestic violence issue

Hill knows that, as will Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, who can reportedly be seen punching a woman in a to-be-released video. A fifth-round pick by the Chiefs, Hill was an emerging star at Oklahoma State when he pleaded guilty in the summer of 2015 to domestic abuse by strangulation in a 2014 incident in which he punched his pregnant girlfriend in the stomach and choked her. Hill, now 22, was placed on three years’ probation and required to attend an anger-management course and a year-long batterer’s program and to undergo a domestic-abuse evaluation.

“I — I did something that — I did something that I shouldn’t have done that night, which was I just let my feelings take — take control of me,” Hill told the court in 2015. “I wasn’t thinking. I just — I just reacted and hit her, choked her. I’m real sorry for that.”

He finished his college career at West Alabama, and the Chiefs, with the permission of owner Clark Hunt, took a chance by using a draft pick on him.

So far, Hill has been a success story as a wide receiver who has had big moments on big stages, including “Sunday Night Football.” In an overtime victory against the Broncos on Nov. 27 in Denver, he caught nine passes for 52 yards and the game-tying touchdown. He ran around Von Miller for another TD and returned a kick for a third.

On Thursday night, he torched the Raiders for touchdowns twice on national TV. Hill has kept a low profile this season, but he did say that he is supporting the victim and his son, although he is prevented from having contact with the victim.

“I make sure I do those things in order to be a better person,” Hill said (via the Associated Press) of the classes and therapy sessions he must attend. “I’m real dedicated. I’m going to stick to it so I can be a better man, a better citizen for the community and a better father for my son.”

Hill’s past made him an unpopular pick with Chiefs fans immediately after the draft, but his behavior, comments and — let’s face it — his performance have helped him gain some acceptance.

“Those fans have every right to be mad at me, because I did something wrong. I let my emotions get the best of me, and I shouldn’t have did it. They have every right to be mad,” he told reporters (via the Kansas City Star) before his rookie minicamp. “But guess what? I’m [going] to come back and be a better man, be a better citizen, and everything will take care of itself, and let God do the rest.”

If Hill can continue to say and do the right things, he’ll be an example for other rookies and the NFL’s policy.