Ross Tucker
Wednesday April 8th, 2009

The news that Plaxico Burress won his recent grievance hearing against the New York Giants over unpaid bonus money has already been declared a victory by new NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. That's funny, because as a recently retired player and member of the union, it doesn't really feel like one to me.

I am sick and tired of guys like Larry Johnson, Pacman Jones, Michael Vick, Matt Jones, Terrell Owens and Burress casting a bad light on NFL players by either getting in trouble off the field or being a divisive presence on the field and in the locker room. Their actions bring unwanted negative attention to NFL players, the vast majority of whom are good teammates while in their team's facility and fine citizens in their community. The bad guys overshadow the good guys, plain and simple.

I want there to be as many deterrents to this type of behavior as possible, and if this means teams withholding bonus money, so be it. As far as commissioner Roger Goodell and his discipline is concerned, the harsher the better in my book, especially for repeat offenders. I believe in second chances but third and fourth chances can be a bit too much to stomach. Where else can you do some of these types of things repeatedly and keep your job?

On the other side of the ledger, the league office has issued a statement decrying the arbitrator's decision on Burress and making it very clear this "underscores a serious flaw in the current system," which only underscores the fact this will be a major point of contention going forward. I happen to agree with the league. I think the fact these guys can act out and still receive their money is a problem.

I am aware of the thinking that the money came in the form of a signing bonus and that Burress had already "earned" it by the letter of the law. But the fact he still got his money even though he took a loaded, unlicensed gun into a nightclub and shot himself in the thigh, ending his season, just doesn't seem right. That will not discourage similar behavior in the future. It really will only serve to encourage teams to give less money to players up front and spread more of it out over future years, a reality that no player is excited about facing.

Sure, I am happy this grievance decision gives the union a leg up on the owners and an additional card to play in the upcoming CBA talks, but this is one bargaining chip I would gladly give up, right along with the pay given to top 10 draft picks.

I'll take the "victory" but it sure seems like a hollow one to me.

Recent reports about several draft-eligible players testing positive for illegal substances set off a firestorm of rebuttals from agents that finally culminated in the league issuing a statement that the results of the combine drug testing had yet to be released to the 32 teams. The league tries as hard as it can to conceal the names of those players that test positive and prevent leaks, which inevitably spring in this era of the unnamed source. There are hefty fines if any league or team personnel are found to have released drug test results or the Wonderlic scores of the prospects.

I don't really understand the need for a shroud of secrecy with any of this information since part of being an NFL player is learning to live in and deal with the spotlight and being in the public eye, but I think I can understand the sensitivity to the drug component more than the Wonderlic. What is the thought process behind keeping those intelligence scores away from the fans and the media?

These players are so poked, prodded and scrutinized that they walk onto a stage at places like the combine in Indy and the Senior Bowl in Mobile in nothing but their underwear so that scouts can examine and take pictures of them from multiple angles. They may not be getting treated exactly like cattle, but trust me, they feel like they are. There are readily available shirtless pictures of prospects with bad bodies like Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith or sculpted physiques like USC linebacker Brian Cushing and people judge them accordingly.

There is access to any and all measure of information concerning their families, background, college statistics, and of course, physical information. From height, weight, and forty time all the way down to the size of their hand and the length of their arm. Yet their intelligence, at least based on the Wonderlic test, is strictly off limits.

But why? Why is the public allowed to evaluate the players based upon every measurement except potentially the most important one? Now, to be clear, I am not saying the Wonderlic test specifically is the most important quality but overall intelligence and in particular football intelligence very well might be. Isn't it borderline unfair to the players who excel in that area to not make that information public?

Nobody I asked about it really had a good reason why. People with whom I spoke typically talked about the embarrassment associated with a low score and what that connotes. Is there less embarrassment for the lineman who can't get 20 reps on the bench press test or the defensive back that runs a 4.8 40-yard dash? I doubt it.

As you might have guessed, I was average to below average among draft prospects in most of the physical components inherent in the evaluation process but above average in terms of the Wonderlic. Like me, I imagine there are a lot of players with high Wonderlic scores that really wish that information was made available.

People also said it is unfair to judge someone's intelligence based upon one test, but if that is the case why make the test mandatory in the first place? To me it seems a little too much like the fear associated with revealing one's SAT scores in high school when it is plainly obvious who the best athletes are on the courts, fields and gym class.

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