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Parcells deserves criticism for risky deal; why Rams fans should worry

Bill Parcells is getting a free pass. That's my conclusion on the heels of Brandon Marshall's recent hip surgery. His right hip, mind you, not the one operated on last offseason.

The outcry over trading for damaged goods would be ruthless if the Dolphins franchise were run by a lesser accomplished football man and not the Big Tuna. If the Oakland Raiders or Detroit Lions had traded two second-round picks and given a $50 million contract to Marshall, they would be getting torched on a national level. But not Parcells.

His track record speaks for itself, and it is among the most impressive résumés in the history. He has essentially turned around five franchises from losers to winners. Pretty impressive. The two-time Super Bowl champion Giants of the 1980s are the crown jewel of course, but he also turned around the Patriots, Jets, Cowboys and most recently the Dolphins. Helping Miami go from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008 is the cherry on top of a career that has seen him leave every franchise in better shape than he found it.

But the Marshall trade looks bad in hindsight. Now that he's had surgery on both hips, how long can he be expected to play at an elite level? Combine that with all of Marshall's incidents in Denver -- ranging from domestic disputes to punting footballs on the field during practice and the infamous McDonald's bag incident -- and this is a mighty big risk Parcells is taking, no matter how much the Dolphins downplay Marshall's recent procedure.

Rams fans should be concerned about Steven Jackson. Until Jackson spoke to the media this week, the St. Louis Rams had gone out of their way to downplay the back surgery he underwent April 15, calling it a minor procedure. Sorry, but as a guy who had back surgery to repair a herniated disc in April 2005, I'm just not buying it.

If it really were so minor, he would have had the surgery shortly after the season ended in January and gotten it over with. But he didn't, which indicates to me he hoped it would heal on its own, so he could avoid surgery. It didn't, so he couldn't. Jackson essentially admitted as much.

"It was really tough," Jackson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "The pain, it was there; it was there all the way until the surgery. And it's a different type of pain. Muscle pain, I've been able to deal with that. But nerve pain, it just doesn't go away."

Anytime a team goes out of its way to talk about how minor a surgical procedure was, like the Dolphins and Rams did recently, it reminds me of the famous Shakespeare line, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Brian Cushing was trying too hard. I'm not even talking about the tumor fiasco. To the contrary, that was my first thought while watching last week's press conference in which he went out of his way to point out all of the drug tests he passed in college and in his rookie season after the one he failed in September. This seems to be a common theme among players who test positive for a banned substance -- Shawne Merriman and his handlers likewise pointed out he had passed 19 tests during his career and only failed one in 2006.

But if you are really clean and have been, why even talk about or mention all the drug tests you have passed? I never go out of my way to point out all of the drug tests I passed during my time in the league when somebody asks if I took PEDs. I just say no I didn't.

Mail time...

Mr. Tucker, you compare NFL players to hourly workers and ask if hourly workers would work extra for no pay. Bad comparison. Compare them to salaried workers -- which is what they are. A lot of salaried workers in 'regular' jobs work extra hours, and much like the NFL, these hours are expected. By the contract, such workers don't have to do it, but like the NFL, their bosses won't be happy if they aren't there. And when it comes time to let somebody go, that type of thing definitely factors in the decision. Just like in the NFL.--Mike M., Colorado Springs, Colo.

Although NFL players technically have a salary, most players consider themselves to be independent contractors. That salary is paid out entirely during the 17-week NFL season and so those game weeks serve as their contract work, along with a mandatory minicamp and training camp. And contrary to what a lot of you wrote in your e-mails, I do not think the dollar amount that a given player receives has any bearing on whether or not he should be compelled to show up for voluntary work. Right or wrong, it is the players' choice. But you're right, it could factor into the team's decision, there is no doubt.

Hi Ross, I love reading your column for the views of an insider to the NFL. My question is, is NFL football fun? I am the son of a football coach, played in high school but no further and it was always fun for me. But after reading your column it almost feels like the NFL is more of a job to be done than a game to be played. I understand getting paid, but even with the money, is it still fun?--Ken Spafford, Upper Gwynedd, Pa.

That's a great question but one that you would have to ask each man individually. I know a lot of players would tell you it was not fun at all and was simply a job. Unfortunately, the league can do that to you. I often tell young people that football is the most fun in high school, then a little less so in college and even less in the NFL. Playing in the NFL for me was a dream come true, but there are a lot of negative aspects of it that most fans never know or see. It's probably better that way.

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