Wide-ranging problems: Recent activity furthers diva stereotype
Brandon Marshall, Donte Stallworth, Plaxico Burress are just the latest
AFC personnel exec: 'It comes down to receiver being such an ESPN position'
The answer? Tougher coaches who make it clear the WR is just one of 53
It's hard to say what exactly constitutes a typical week in the NFL any more, but with Plaxico Burress, Brandon Marshall and Donte' Stallworth once again in the news for all the wrong reasons, it's pretty obvious that receivers continue to dominate the headlines as much as they do most NFL offenses.
What gives with the guys who play at the NFL's "diva'' position? Take the past year or so, place the storylines side by side, and it's an astounding array of collateral damage on the image front for the league's pass-catching set. It sent me to league sources this week asking one fundamental question: Is it even worth a team's trouble to have a star receiver these days, when so many of them seem to wind up as poster children for how to derail a career?
"It comes down to receiver being such an ESPN position,'' one veteran AFC personnel executive said. "It's a position based on stats. Their yards, catches, and touchdowns. That's how those guys measure themselves. That's how they get paid. It's not necessarily a team position. It can be. But it's not necessarily one. It's an individual position. So there's a selfishness that goes with that position.
"I've always said that receiver is the closest thing in the NFL to being a basketball player. It's a 'me' position. Basketball players can try to win a game by themselves. But you really can't do that much in football. It's really a different phenomena, and you get a different type of personality that plays the position.''
What an NFL club is liable to get these days from one of the game's elite receivers is the kind of unwanted attention and headaches that have become commonplace since last offseason. Just to refresh your memory, here are just some of the recent highlights of receivers in the news:
Cleveland's Stallworth is suspended indefinitely by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell two days after pleading guilty to a DUI manslaughter charge. In an early morning accident in Miami in March, Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk. He began a 30-day jail sentence Tuesday and will be on house arrest for two years after being released.
Ex-Giant Burress has been charged with two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a weapon after shooting himself in the leg with an illegal gun in a Manhattan night club last November. The Giants eventually suspended Burress, before releasing him.
Jacksonville's Matt Jones was charged with cocaine possession last July, and then this spring was jailed in Arkansas for violating a plea agreement stemming from that charge. The Jaguars cut ties to their former 2005 first-round pick in March.
Dallas finally released the always radioactive Terrell Owens earlier this offseason after he was fingered as the source of the Cowboys' well-chronicled team chemistry issues last season. Buffalo quickly became the next team to try its hand at staying on the bucking bronco ride that is T.O.
Cincinnati's Chad "Ochocinco'' Johnson tried in vain to talk and balk his way out of the Bengals organization last offseason in an ongoing drama that plumbed new depths.
Indianapolis Colts great Marvin Harrison endured a rare instance of having his name sullied when Philadelphia police questioned him in connection to a shooting that occurred in his neighborhood. Though no weapons charges were filed, police reportedly determined that bullet casings found at the scene came from a gun owned by Harrison. The Colts later released Harrison, though not in a reaction to any off-field incident.
Arizona's Anquan Boldin mounted a rather vocal year-long campaign to get the Cardinals to either trade him or sign him to a long-term contract extension. Neither option has yet come to pass.
Cleveland seemingly has tired of Braylon Edwards' case of the dropsies and his questionable maturity level and this offseason investigated trading its former first-round pick.
Denver's Marshall is the latest Bronco to try to force a trade. Unhappy with his 2009 salary, he wants out of Denver, but any potential deal might be complicated by the fact Marshall comes with some off-field baggage resulting from his involvement in two separate domestic violence incidents and various maturity issues.
To that lineup you can add the lesser headlines created by Laveranues Coles' public unhappiness with the Jets' starting quarterback change last preseason; the high-profile first-season flops of big-money free-agent receivers Jerry Porter in Jacksonville and Javon Walker in Oakland; and the midseason blockbuster trade of underachieving Roy Williams from Detroit to Dallas. Newsy, newsy tidbits, one and all.
Sure, there's some generalization being conducted here in lumping all those situations under one unattractive umbrella. Some of those examples involve far more serious issues than mere trade requests or team chemistry problems. But overall, it's a tough case to make that there aren't more problems at receiver than any other position on the field. More and more, NFL team sources say, there's a growing realization that you shop in the elite receiver market at your own risk.
"Everything's great if you have an Andre Johnson or a Calvin Johnson,'' said the AFC personnel man. "But for a lot of these guys, it comes down to how do you weigh the character, the selflessness, the good teammate factor and the coachability against the on-field ability? We're not going to sacrifice all the intangibles we're looking for just to have a star receiver. It's tough, because it's easy to take a bite out of the poison apple. But I know teams that have done it and regretted it.
"Very, very seldom does a guy change his personality in a new environment. It's happened a few times. The Cris Carter's and Randy Moss' of the world. But for every one of those guys, you've got the Terrell Owens' of the world. They just don't change. It comes down to what do you want in your players? What are you trying to accomplish? If you're firm in your beliefs, don't compromise. Don't deviate from that.''
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