Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thoughts on NFL Rookies

Rookies in the National Football League have it made. Think about yourself for a moment, when you started your first job did you get to walk in and negotiate your starting salary? And then, when your employer didn't meet your demands, did you get to get up from the table and refuse to work until they met your demands or presented an acceptable alternative? Did you get to do all of this before you had even proven anything to your employer?

No? Of course not! See, in the real world when people start off their careers they get offered a job that has a set salary. Of course they do have the right to refuse that salary, but they will most likely lose any chance of ever working for that employer again. Take it or leave it.

Assuming you take the job, you then work your way up by proving your abilities. In the NFL though it is different. Sure, as a college player you prove your skills and as a result you get drafted by an NFL franchise. If you are one of the best, you get drafted early, and you get offered a very large sum of money. (More than most of us will ever make.) Some take that offer, but more make counter-offers and some even refuse it entirely by holding out.

Here is the problem though. Yes, you proved your worth in college, but the NFL isn't college, it is much faster, much harder hitting, and more complicated. We hear that all the time on ESPN and NFL network, rookies are amazed at how much different the pro game is compared to the college game. This is proven time and time again by the big first rounder who proceeds to bust completely and finds himself out of football in just a couple short years. The majority of players don't start right out of college either and it is fair to say that most take a bit of time to acclimate themselves to the NFL and actually start performing for their employers.

So, why should a rookie, who hasn't proven he is capable of performing at the pro level, who likely won't start and contribute much his first year, and who will probably take a few years to get going, get paid top dollar and even have the right to hold out if he doesn't think he is being offered enough? It is truly ridiculous.

This is a phrase we have heard a lot recently, "It is a privilege to play in the NFL, not a right." This was used to describe the situations a few NFL players have found themselves in after run ins with the law and violations of league policies. Michael Vick, Donte Stallworth, Plaxico Burress, and Marshawn Lynch are just a few examples. These guys have done wrong and will serve their sentences (federal, state, or just league) and then be allowed to play again. In Vick's case, once the league has determined he is indeed sorry and is indeed changing, he will be fully reinstated. Until then, he hasn't proven he is worthy of playing.

So how is a rookie any different? Ok, maybe they haven't committed terrible crimes and been suspended from the league, but they are making big bucks when their talents (or lack of) have yet to be shown on the field. Vick can play, we all know that. As can any of the other guys mentioned above. They have proven their worth, and if they make amends, they'll make the money the market deems their services are worth.

To wrap up this thought, the Pelican would like to make a modest proposal. Instead of giving rookies the opportunity to call the shots even before they take the field, all rookies should be given a set salary. Of course the salary will vary based on where you were selected in the draft. A 1st rounder clearly out-performed a 5th rounder in college and deserves to start higher, just like a Cornell graduate will start out making more than a community college grad. Continuing to allow rookies to come in and demand millions of dollars before they even suit up is madness and when they hold out they only hurt the very teams that drafted them because they believed they could help their organization.

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