Wednesday Whys: Plaxico Burress

Why are teams considering talking to Plaxico Burress about playing this year after his criminal incident in New York?

The wheels of justice sometimes do not rotate quickly. Burress may be the beneficiary of delays in the court system that have postponed his trial – according to his lawyer – until at least early 2010. Thus, an alleged crime that even brought the attention of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- who remarked that Burress should be prosecuted "to the fullest extent of the law" for otherwise there could be "a sham, a mockery of the law” -- will go unpunished for the time being, a convenient delay for teams interested in the receiver (of which there are reportedly several).

In the event Commissioner Roger Goodell is true to the Personal Conduct Policy, however, the NFLwill not delay its discipline. The Burress situation represents a perfect example of the distinct manner of meting out discipline for personal conduct and behavior between the old regime of Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the present leadership of Goodell. In a case like Burress, Tagliabue would have waited until the case had wended its way through the court system before handing out punishment. As a result, due to the deference given to the judicial process, Tagliabue, an attorney, meted out far fewer discipline penalties than Goodell.

Goodell certainly can act on Burress before training camps begin, and he will not have the benefit of an outcome in court or a plea bargain. He will look at all the facts surrounding the case, with the most important evidence being the police report, and he will probably suspend Burress for a period of time. Teams interested in Burress are certainly in contact with the league trying to get a forecast on discipline, although they will have a tough time trying to get an accurate read.

As to those who believe Goodell usually waits for a judicial outcome, that is not the case. He suspended Pacman Jones for repeated misdeeds, although none of them resulted in a conviction. Indeed, I was with the Packers when we acquired Koren Robinson in 2006 following his release from the Vikings after an alleged DUI incident. Although the case was not to be heard in the Minnesota courts until after the season, Robinson was suspended for a year within two weeks of our acquiring him in the first disciplinary ruling of then-new Commissioner Goodell. There was a new sheriff, and a new Personal Conduct Policy, in town.

Burress had a contract offer from the team he was with, the New York Giants, earlier this spring. The Giants, who signed Burress to an extension a year ago despite knowing his behavior was marginal at times, were willing to keep him around under a reduced and risk-averse contract. Burress, who despite being 31 and a veteran in the league, continued to act as if nothing was wrong and that he deserved better. He turned down their offer. More than his insolence or insubordination, it was Burress’s delusion, fueled by enablers throughout his career, which led to the Giants to part ways with a valuable on-field performer.

Since his $35-million extension in September, Burress was fined repeatedly and suspended twice by the Giants, was continually chased and sued by creditors and was charged with a felony crime. Yet a delay in his case would theoretically allow him to continue to play football this fall, unless and until Roger Goodell has something to say about it.

The Personal Conduct Policy is well intentioned toward its mission of maintaining public confidence and integrity in the game. Its problem is that it continues to be mocked by high-profile offenders such as Jones, Burress, Michael Vick and others.

Why is Brandon Marshall fighting a losing battle in Denver?

Marshall is trying to follow the road map laid out by so many wide receivers in the past few years – Terrell Owens, Chad whatever his name is, Anquan Boldin, Javon Walker, etc. He is saying he wants to be traded, although that’s not really what he wants. What he wants – what all of these players want – is for the Broncos or another team to show him the money. If he can get a new contract from the Broncos, he’s fine in Denver. If he can’t, he’s hoping another team will provide him financial security. Good luck with that.

As my colleague Michael Lombardi insightfully pointed out, Marshall’s behavior has and continues to be an issue. He was suspended a year ago for an incident with a former girlfriend and somehow avoided a similar suspension this year for similar behavior. When Marshall was only punished with a fine this month, I heard comments from front office people and scouts around the league who said they were disappointed he wasn’t disciplined more harshly and that he’s someone to watch in terms of repeat behavior.

As we’ve seen from Burress, Pacman Jones and so many others, behavior doesn’t change with people like Marshall. And a new contract? That’s a certain recipe for disaster. If Marshall was/is a problem without financial security, as sure as the sun will come up tomorrow, he’ll be more of a problem with a new contract.

Marshall may also be trying to take the path of his former quarterback, Jay Cutler, who complained his way out of town after feeling “dissed” by his new coach. Marshall should know that these are not comparable situations. Cutler was made available as one of the rarest trade commodities the NFL has seen – a young, experienced and multitalented quarterback entering the prime of his career with a cannon arm and years left on a reasonable contract.

Teams cannot get a Cutler in this league through trade – all good quarterbacks are locked up for their careers by their teams or under franchise tags. Also, Josh McDaniels wanted a different type of quarterback – as evidenced by his selection of Kyle Orton over Cutler, Jason Campbell and others offered to him – to manage the game rather than take what he felt were needless risks.

Although Marshall’s agent is indicating the Broncos are open to a trade, this would set another precedent in their locker room that there’s a convenient way out the door. The best guess is that the Broncos will continue to put up with Marshall’s petulance in this, the last year of his contract. Following that, in the event of no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, they will continue to hold his rights as a Restricted Free Agent. Or, in the event of the continued cap system, they can place a franchise tag on him if they choose.

With Marshall, as with the vast majority of players and people (and unlike the stock market), past performance does predict future results.

And now, my Wednesday Pet Peeve Why….

Why are there so many discussions of who is the “best player” in a sport like football?

Isn’t it kind of irrelevant to talk about individual performance where every play of every game involves eleven people? These kinds of debates only fuel diva behavior. The “best” players in the NFL play, at most, 50 percent of the game and watch the rest from the sideline. Football is the ultimate team sport.

Coming Friday: another police blotter player, Donte’ Stallworth, and the criminal and civil deals he has made.

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