On the Ball--Let's Make a Deal
We’re still weeks away from the opening kickoff of the 2012 NFL schedule, but that hasn’t stopped the off-season chatter.
Last week, the New Orleans Saints plugged some much-needed faith back into a program that’s been marred the last few months by bounty scandals and coach and player suspensions by finally agreeing on a record-setting payment plan for all-star quarterback Drew Brees.
Last year, Brees expunged any doubt he is one of the game’s elite when he set the league’s single-season record for passing yards, held previously by Dan Marino. After treading in a little bit of financial limbo, New Orleans and Brees came to a reconciled five-year contract, worth $100 million, with $60 million guaranteed. Not a bad chunk of change.
As deadline day for free agents came around this past Monday, talks of other contracts surfaced.
Highly anticipated Heisman trophy winner and rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III sealed his deal with the Washington Redskins earlier this week, signing a four-year plan for $21.1 million. Raven Nation beamed with excitement as the Baltimore franchise secured running back Ray Rice for five more years with a $40 million deal, and the Chicago Bears’ fans breathed a sigh of relief with running back Matt Forte, a 2008 second-round pick, like Rice, who will earn $32 million over the next four years in the windy city.
Still others, including New England Patriots’ wide receiver Wes Welker, Kansas City Chiefs’ wideout Dwayne Bowe and Detroit Lions’ defensive end Cliff Avril, were among the unsigned, as of Wednesday, awaiting their pigskin potential. But at least their names aren’t being thrown around for the wrong reasons.
Plenty of other NFL players have been making the news lately and will possibly be working on deals of their own, but those may come in the form of plea bargains with a judge or a fine and suspension compromise with Commissioner Roger Goodell. By statistics, this year’s NFL offseason has been strewn with more criminal activity than any of the years in the past, and just this week, plenty of big names were making unfortunate headlines.
Dez Bryant, receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, was charged with a misdemeanor after an alleged violent incident against his own mother.
The last thing Coastal Point’s technical director, Shaun Lambert, wanted to hear this week was a suspension aimed at his beloved Seattle Seahawks’ running back Marshawn Lynch, who is in the middle of an investigation involving a DUI charge.
The running back, who introduced football fans to the term “Beast Mode” after a spectacular playoff performance against the Saints two years ago, finished last year as the best running back of the season after Week 8. But considering this isn’t his first brush with the law, Lynch may be trading in the trademark celebratory Skittles that he is rewarded with for each touchdown with a slice of humble pie, pending a potential suspension. (Not the smoothest move for a franchise face that just signed a $31 million contract.)
They’re not the only ones getting face time for all the wrong reasons. Denver Broncos’ defensive end Elvis Dumervil, Lions’ D-tackle Nick Fairley and Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson have each had some run-ins with the boys in blue. Don’t be silly, Adrian Peterson.
The truth is, for every player out there that’s making a bad decision, there are dozens more who are making the right choices. But the starting quarterbacks, responsible defensive leaders and veteran blockers in the game don’t get written up for going to the gym and preseason camps six days a week, working their bodies to the bone and studying playbooks in preparation to the season.
As Voltaire (not Spiderman’s uncle Benjamin Parker, contrary to what Hollywood would have you believe) once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And whether you want to consider professional football athletes as powerful or not, they are in the limelight, and they need to realize that they are responsible for their actions.
At this year’s Rookie Symposium, back in June, the incoming group of tomorrow’s stars was addressed by Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick and Cincinnati Bengals’ cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones — both of whose wayward decisions off the field have significantly impacted their professional football careers, from suspensions, team trades and releases, and even jail time.
What professional athletes need to realize, though, is that their lives are anything but personal, especially with the explosion of social media these days. It’s up to them, and them alone, to make the smart decisions to ensure they’re working toward the right kind of deals.