Ross Tucker
Friday July 10th, 2009

Maybe bad behavior's good for business after all.

Hear me out. As a former player, I'm typically highly critical of the few NFL players who fail to abide by the standard of conduct the league and legal system set forth, thereby casting a cloud of negativity over the league. When guys like Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Donte' Stallworth act out, the public's focus shifts to their wrongdoings, despite the vast majority of NFL players conducting themselves appropriately and providing positive services to their communities. For that reason and more, I believe the harsher the punishment commissioner Roger Goodell hands down to the league's delinquents, the better.

But writing this column and hosting a show for Sirius NFL Radio has given me new perspective. The NFL is a machine that hums 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The league likes it that way, and it should, because that non-stop humming is good for business. The more people read, listen and watch NFL-related items, the better.

The reality, however, is the transgressions and drama of a select few fuel that machine in the offseason. I can't stand most of the "me first" personalities like Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, but their antics keep the NFL in the news. When Ochocinco announces his intention to tweet during games, or to fight Solomon Wilcots and Mike Golic, we eat it up. When T.O. joins a reality TV cast, we watch just because he's involved. (He should star in a remake of Being John Malkovic. I'd love to know what's going on his brain.)

Same goes for the annual Brett Favreapalooza. Some (myself included) have come to view Favre as disingenuous and selfish. Others say he just wants to play football and wonder what's so wrong about that. Everyone has an opinion, thus the debate rages on. That keeps the NFL in the news, and that's the general idea.

And the fact is, the same goes for criminal behavior.

Lately, Burress, Stallworth and, most notably, Vick have been in the headlines. All three made poor choices. All three faced the legal and league music. But all three also kept the NFL in the news during what are otherwise the slowest months of the year.

The NFL's concerned about its image, and it should be. But people aren't paying less attention to the NFL because of questionable player behavior. They certainly won't refrain from watching their teams once the season rolls around because of a few objectionable incidents. Even the corporate sponsors haven't shied away. If anything, the boon in coverage has had a positive financial impact.

This isn't what the image-conscious league wants. This isn't what responsible, respectful players want. But it's what those like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who subscribe to the "any publicity is good publicity" school of thought, want, because when it comes to keeping the league on people's minds, even bad news is good news.

Now, onto the mail and the Tweet of the Week...

I think Jason Smith will have a much easier transition than your article expects. Not only did he play right tackle his entire second year at Baylor, but he played three different positions while at Baylor: TE, RT and LT. Do you think this experience will help him in the NFL? -- Steve, Dallas

Smith's more than equipped to make the move. He showed tremendous versatility at Baylor, but that's not the point. The point is there's no reason to move him in the first place. He played well at left tackle the last two years in college. The Rams drafted him at No. 2 and are going to have to pay him a lot of money. Why start off his career by making him uncomfortable?

Why not put the rookie symposium on DVD for undrafted rookies? -- Carter, Verona, Pa.

Not a bad thought, but the league could also take Mike Tomlin's advice and fax undrafted rookies a piece of paper that simply says "Don't be the guy." It'd save a whole lot of money.

The league wouldn't send out a DVD because the messages delivered and questions asked at the symposium aren't for public consumption. The fear that a rookie could lose or misplace his DVD would water down the content and the message, thereby minimizing the impact on everyone involved.

Great discussion about the differences between right and left tackle. I made the switch to the right side for part of my collegiate career before settling in as the starter on the left side, and couldn't believe how different it felt to play on the right side. Exactly as you said, I felt like a fish out of water.

What surprises me is that NFL teams will move young tackles to the right side to 'protect' them early in their career, when as you said they might well be better off just leaving them on the left side if that was where they played in college. I don't profess to be smarter than NFL personnel men, but it seems to me that they might be better served playing a year at left guard (which would enhance their understanding of the interior and left-side protection schemes) and then making the switch to left tackle. Thoughts? -- Andrew, Wyomissing, Pa.

You're not the only one who feels that way. The Ravens played Jonathan Ogden at left guard for a year before moving him out to left tackle, where he became an all-time great. The pros of such a move are a young player could stay in pretty much the same stance and feel more comfortable. The cons are playing inside is a completely different animal, both mentally and physically. Everything happens faster inside and the guys that players have to block are much more powerful. I still think the best solution is to leave these rookies where they are and give them some schematic help if they need it early.

Ross, I'm a fellow Pa., guy and Buffalo Bills season-ticket holder. I met you several years ago in the Big Tree Inn along with Drew Bledsoe and several others. You even autographed my Bills calendar. (Thanks again by the way.) My question for you is simple. Especially with you being an ex-lineman, I'd like to know how teams such as the Bills, who employ the Tampa Two, 4-3 scheme defensively, allow the offense to practice to play the REMAINDER of the AFC East foes who employ the 3-4? -- Bob, Scranton, Pa.

Those teams use what's called a "scout" or "look" team, which is made up of the back-up defensive players and practice squad guys. Their job is to imitate the schemes and personnel of the opposition to the best of their ability. Some teams take their scout team performance more seriously than others, and it shows. It is critical that those guys give a great effort so that the starters have a good feel for what to expect on Sunday. It isn't easy for a 4-3 Tampa Two defensive tackle to pretend he's Vince Wilfork or Kris Jenkins, but that's his role during the week.

When a team runs the no-huddle offense, or establishes the run throughout the course of a game, I've always heard people say how much this "wears down the defense," especially the big fellas on the D-line. Wouldn't that principle affect O-line as well? Most of those guys aren't too light on their feet either, and it seems like it would be just as grueling to them.

Would you say O-linemen are typically better conditioned than D-linemen to prepare for this? After all, defensive players can substitute to stay fresh, while the starting O-line plays the whole game. As such, do you think there will ever be a point where O-linemen are substituted the same way defensive players are? -- Eric, Troy, Mich.

The main point of the no-huddle is to prevent the defense from substituting. That's how the offense gains its advantage. The offense can line up in different formations, but the defense has to use the personnel it has on the field. To your other point, playing defensive line is absolutely more tiring than offensive line. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to generate the force necessary to rush the passer, and the physical exertion it takes to push another 300-pound man backward is significant.

Please give us a break on Sirius from the sanctimonious McNair eulogies. The truth is he was involved in adultery against a good wife who had stood by him for many years and raised his boys when he wasn't around. He didn't even do the honorable thing and divorce first. The girl involved is only a couple years older than his son. Good -- not great -- football player, did much for the community, but what kind of a role model does he turn out to be? Sorry he's dead, but my sympathy is for the families, not McNair. -- Dave, Alexandria, Va.

There are certainly others who feel the same way you do, Dave, but I think we can all agree McNair's apparent infidelity doesn't justify murder.

As a CW Post grad (cash and a pulse got me admitted), never in my wildest dreams would I have ever believed I'd be correcting the grammar of a Princeton grad. However, I see this word (notoriety) misused a few times daily, often by prominent writers, athletes, coaches and broadcasters. Notoriety is what one achieves when his or her transgressions are made public. Publicity is what one earns when he or she achieves public acclaim for a positive act. Notoriety comes from the word notorious, which means being well known for something in the pejorative. -- Fred, Harrison, N.Y.

Thanks, Fred. But to be honest, it was probably worth making the mistake to know the famed producer of NBC's Sunday Night Football reads my column. If you hire me for your broadcasts, you can correct me all week long!

(And, yes, I had to look up pejorative because I wasn't sure what it meant.)

Now, the Tweet of the Week:

JasonNASA @SI_RossTucker you ever worry about staph when you played here in Cleveland?

I was only in Cleveland for about a month, but that was enough time to become aware of the issues the organization was having. Warning signs were posted all over the building, especially in areas players might be the most susceptible (like the training room and hot tub). I still think, however, I should have been more cautious given the team's recent history.

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