Ross Tucker
Thursday August 14th, 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.

Plaxico Burress recently returned to the practice field for the New York Giants, potentially in an effort to squelch the rumors permeating around the NFL. His return featured jogging through a couple of routes with the starting offense, not exactly a strenuous workout. Though there were no defenders and Burress was still clearly less than 100 percent and admitted as much, the move has to be seen as a tiny show of good faith on his part.

Burress is looking for a new contract and had not participated in practice up to this point, ostensibly because of an injured ankle. There has been rampant speculation throughout the league about his propensity for missing practice having more to do with his contract status than his health situation.

I don't know why he has been out of action as long as he has this training camp. I do know, however, his actions may soon become the template for players looking to upgrade their contracts but avoid the potential fines or repayment of signing bonus that comes along with not reporting to camp.

Yes, it is true that Burress has still yet to receive a new deal. But the hunch here is it will get done before the start of the regular season.

The Rams' Steven Jackson and the Bills' Jason Peters have racked up close to $300,000 in fines. My guess is they are not worried about fines because they anticipate the organizations will repeal them once the parties agree on a new contract. Very few players are actually held to that amount of fine money once a new deal has been done, both sides preferring to call it water under the bridge and moving forward with the ordeal finally behind them.

There has been little to no negotiation between Jackson, Peters and their respective ball clubs as the organizations appear to be sticking to their guns of declining to talk contract until the players report to camp. The players have likewise offered the organization the silent treatment and have declined to report until the talks progress. Someone needs to budge soon so the players can get some practice time in before the regular season begins.

That is where the Burress model comes in. Although Burress may have a legitimate injury, there is talk among players the best move in contract stalemates going forward may be to report but sit out practice with some sort of an injury. Football players always have something bothering them physically. Always. If the player feels his ailment is enough to necessitate sitting out, it is very hard for the team to prove he is being less than sincere.

The benefit for the player is he can continue to make his point without risking injury (or further injury as the case may be) or getting fined. Though teams will certainly be less than pleased, there may be a side benefit for them. In the cases of players like Jackson and Peters, the organizations could save face by claiming they only began the talks in earnest once the player reported, even if it is half-heartedly.

Whether it is intentional or not, Burress may have initiated a new strategy in player-club relations.

The Miami Dolphins' release of veteran kicker Jay Feely was surprising from a football standpoint given he was a career-best 21 of 23 in 2007, with both misses coming from over 45 yards.

The move, though, was not surprising to those who know Bill Parcells. An old-school football guy, Parcells is less than enthused by players with a penchant for d letting their opinions be known. Especially kickers.

Feely is one of the most media-friendly players in the league, often appearing as a guest on radio and TV shows and newspaper blogs. He is outspoken and enjoys the platform afforded to him as an NFL player. But there are coaches and front office executives weary of players who find a way to offer their opinion on a frequent basis. And it is not just Parcells.

The Dolphins will point out that undrafted rookie Dan Carpenter has performed exceedingly well during camp and in the first preseason game, and that it was purely a football decision. And maybe it was. But it is hard not to fathom that Feely's loquacious nature, or at least his history of it, created a first impression that was hard to overcome.

The Carolina Panthers were so thrilled with camp concluding that many apparently hopped right into their car without showering. Without delving into a lengthy diatribe about sanitary conditions or personal hygiene, this story allows me to introduce a new term into the popular culture, taken straight from the lexicon of NFL locker rooms.

Leaving the facility after a workout or a practice without showering is known among players as taking a "shower pill," and it is much more common than you can imagine. It is not looked upon in a favorable light, yet some players seem to wear their propensity to "take pills" after practice as a badge of honor.

Players are often chided for taking shower pills on days in which they clearly perspired enough that a shower is warranted. It is seen as being more acceptable on light days, such as the walk-thru the day before the game. I always felt it was surprising that some guys would take shower pills given that NFL locker rooms are loaded with amenities from bodywash to shaving cream, plus laundry is done by the equipment staff. Why not shower at the facility right after practice and change into clean clothes?

Either way, the thought of a mammoth defensive lineman like the Panthers' Maake Kemoeatu making the 76.4-mile drive from Spartanburg, S.C., to Charlotte sans shower is less than appealing. Martha Stewart would likely have a field day with this trend.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the "shower pill". Now take it and run with it at your own risk.

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