Ross Tucker
Thursday July 17th, 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.

As a card carrying member of the NFLPA, I was frustrated about the recent news that members of the players' executive committee held a meeting that excluded Executive Director Gene Upshaw and President Kevin Mawae. The news is so upsetting for what it means for my union that I almost don't know where to start.

How has the relationship between some of the committee members and Upshaw deteriorated to the point that they are not able to discuss their views and goals for the future in his presence? Why does Upshaw seem so opposed to the idea of finding an eventual successor? Why does the existence of these meetings and e-mails continually get leaked to members of the media? And, most importantly, how can this situation get resolved?

I don't think the resolution is very complicated. Upshaw recently negotiated a CBA with the owners that allowed player compensation to reach an all-time high by finally taking into account all of the revenue the franchises take in on an annual basis. The owners are apparently so dissatisfied with the terms of the agreement they ratified just two short years ago that they voted unanimously to opt out of the current agreement after the 2010 season, thus initiating a new round of negotiations with the union.

Upshaw has proven his mettle on this issue. His work in 2006 is proof he is the right man to handle the next round of negotiations. Though many players are disappointed at times with some of the comments he has made publicly that are unbecoming of a man with his leadership position, as well as his out of touch stance on rookie contracts, his most recent outcome with the owners was a good one. The players need to remember what Upshaw did in the latest round of negotiations and allow him to do his job this time around as well.

That should in no way preclude the union from beginning to search for his eventual successor, however. Upshaw has been clear he opposes the naming of the successor, apparently because he thinks it will weaken the union's position in negotiations.

He also appears to feel threatened by the idea of working with his eventual replacement, saying in the spring that, "There is only a No. 1 and there will not be a No. 2. Number 2 is always trying to become No.1 and never wants to wait. They can always do it better, they are like backup [quarterbacks]. There is a reason they are backups."

But it makes perfect sense to begin to find and groom Upshaw's eventual replacement now, so he can learn under Upshaw's stead and take part in what will likely be very contentious negotiations as the owners attempt to take back some of the gains the players have made. The experience Upshaw's heir would receive during the upcoming discussions would pay dividends for the union when Upshaw is no longer the man in charge.

Having offseason surgery as an NFL player is relatively common. Having that surgery take place in July is curious at best. My initial reaction whenever I hear about an established veteran having what has been called "routine" surgery this close to training camp is usually one of skepticism. Why would anyone wait until July to alleviate a problem that dates back to the previous season?

There are only three reasons: 1) the injury recently got worse; 2) the injury never got better or healed on its own as they had hoped; and 3) the wily veteran has designs on missing most of training camp and elected to wait before declaring this minor procedure was necessary.

Yes, the last one has been known to happen over the years with players getting joints "scoped" or "cleaned out" close to the reporting date. Most of the times it's a player with a tremendous amount of clout in the organization who simply does not want to wear out his body during two-a-days.

Peyton Manning is not that type of player. In fact, the realization he is going to miss most of training camp after surgery to remove an infected bursa sac is probably eating away at the Colts QB. Unlike those players who may want to miss the grind of training camp, Manning loves the preparation that goes into getting ready for a season. He is a perfectionist, obsessed with making sure he and his teammates are on the same page. For him, the fun is in the details.

My guess is that standing around watching practice, feeling like he is missing out on opportunities to improve, will be even more painful for Manning than his knee, which, for the record, didn't respond well to "conservative treatment" procedures.

I am usually all for players doing whatever they need to do so they feel mentally ready to play the game at a high level. Different players have unique pregame routines or superstitions they go through to make sure they are ready to go.

This interview with the Detroit Lions safety Dwight Smith indicates how far some players are willing to go in order to feel comfortable on Sundays. Smith, who played for the Vikings last season, notes he needs to "look good to play good" and to that end he likes when his jersey and socks are predominantly the same color.

The problem is the NFL has a very strict dress code it heavily enforces in the interest of both creating uniformity and eliminating individuality. From the league's perspective, it is all about the team and not the player when it comes to game day uniforms.

That isn't good for Smith, who admits the conflict between his preferred wardrobe and the league's policies has cost him a lot of money via the fines he has incurred. (Ed. Note: In the below photo, Smith would be subject to fine by the league for having too much white and not enough purple showing on his socks.)

Though it seems ridiculous to me and likely hard-working people all over the country that Smith would waste thousands of dollars just to have the right amount of color in his socks, at least it goes to a good cause. All of the money the NFL receives via their fine system is distributed to various charities.

I guess that's one way to give back.

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