Ross Tucker
Thursday June 26th, 2008

With no football to play for the first time in 18 years, former pro Ross Tucker is passing the time reading about his favorite sport. What follows are a few links to NFL-related articles he found and his take on them.

Recent retirees Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis have made a number of outlandish statements and predictions during their short tenure in the media, especially in reference to their former teammates on the Giants and Steelers, respectively. Fox is hoping it has hit the player-turned-broadcaster jackpot with its recent signing of Michael Strahan. The former defensive lineman already seems willing to discuss his previous employer, saying it would be best if New York got rid of Jeremy Shockey and that Plaxico Burress is underpaid.

Barber, Bettis and Strahan definitely won't be the last players to make the quick transition to the booth. The NFL recently held its second annual Broadcast Boot Camp at NFL Films headquarters in Mount Laurel, N.J., in an attempt to educate aspiring broadcasters like the Vikings' Darren Sharper and the Raiders' Nnamdi Asomugha. Whether you like the jockocracy, as Howard Cosell once called it, of players heading to the booth or studio after they are done playing, it seems pretty clear the trend is going to continue.

Over 50 players applied for the recent 20-person Boot Camp program, which is an indication of how many players hope to make the transition. I somehow went from being a student in the program last year to a faculty member this year and was struck by how many players seem to have such an ardent desire to join the media. There is little doubt the next Strahan or Barber will be among us in the very near future.

Player conduct is an important issue for Commissioner Roger Goodell and he has gone to unprecedented lengths to curtail negative behavior. In fact, both the league and teams go to extraordinary measures in an attempt to prevent players from having brushes with the law. Still, you can only have so many life-skills seminars and rookie symposiums before the players simply have to live their lives and make their own decisions. It is impossible to babysit that many grown men, and at some point the league has to hope its combination of education and discipline pays off.

That is why it is especially deflating when a respected veteran like Jevon Kearse gets arrested on DUI charges, as he did last weekend. It is one thing when seemingly chronic miscreants like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry are involved in yet another incident. It is an entirely different thing when a guy like Kearse gets in trouble.

Yes, everybody makes mistakes, but that doesn't make it any better. That might even make it worse. Guys like Kearse and Lofa Tatupu of the Seahawks, who was arrested on DUI charges earlier in the offseason, should know better because they've been in the league awhile. That is why this is so disappointing. If you can't count on your perceived leaders in the locker room and community to keep their noses clean, who can you count on?

I was caught a bit off guard this week by Daunte Culpepper confirming he turned down a $1 million contract to be Aaron Rodgers backup in Green Bay. One reason the Culpepper situation is so interesting is that he represents himself and does not retain the services of an agent. There are strong-willed and intelligent players throughout the league who think about doing the same thing, but few ever do.

This is because sometimes -- who am I kidding? often -- players have an overly inflated opinion of themselves and their market value. An agent can work as a buffer to relay the reality of the situation to a player who might otherwise be unaware. Though Culpepper says he is speaking with several teams and does not seem concerned about his job status, it's hard to imagine another team that would be a better situation for him.

If he had signed with Green Bay before the draft, he would have had the chance to back up an inexperienced, unproven player on a team with legitimate Super Bowl talent everywhere else on the roster. Should Rodgers badly falter or get injured, Culpepper could have been waiting in the wings.

Culpepper declined to go into the specifics on why he declined the offer so there is no way of knowing what exactly turned him off. That being said, it will be very interesting to see how the next two months turn out for him. I think there is a very good chance that Culpepper will rue his decision or wish he had had an agent who was looking out for his best interests back in April.

Every NFL fan should have a keen interest in the financial circumstances surrounding the league in light of the owners' decision to opt-out of the CBA following the 2010 season. Though I do not think there will be a work-stoppage, it is critical that the two sides begin to engage in some meaningful dialogue sooner rather than later, especially with the potential of an uncapped season in '10 looming.

One way in which to aid the negotiations would be to open up the financial books of every team in the NFL, not just the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers. The Packers cleared $21.4 million during their fiscal-year that ended March 31. The NFLPA frequently requests to see the financials associated with the other NFL franchises but is consistently re-buffed.

If the owners want to continue to talk about their plight in regards to the latest CBA, they should at least be willing to let the facts bear out their consternation. Very few business owners want their proprietary financial information in the hands of people outside the organization, and for good reason, but it is hard to truly have a productive negotiation outlining the owners' issues without the NFLPA having the ability to see the numbers involved. Let's see how dire things really are.

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