Curran: Teams are better off without me-first players

NBA, MLB strategies won't fly in professional football

By Tom E. Curran
|  Saturday, Oct 17, 2009  |  Updated 2:15 AM CDT
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Curran: Me-first players, whether in New York or anywhere else, are impediments to team success in the NFL. Attitudes that fly in the NBA or Major League Baseball do not work in football.

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Whatever revenge Saints tight end Jeremy Shockey believes he can exact against the Giants this weekend will be hollow as a drum.

This isn’t a news flash but it bears pointing out: the Giants are a better football team without him. And without Tiki Barber. And without Plaxico Burress.

Me-first players, whether in New York or anywhere else, are impediments to team success in the NFL. Attitudes that fly in the NBA or Major League Baseball do not work in football.

And despite the fact Shockey plays with grit, passion and toughness, he also could never subjugate his personal goals for team goals. That the Giants went from an underachieving team in 2007 with him in the lineup to a Super Bowl win two months after Shockey broke his leg is the best evidence that chemistry means as much as talent.

After that, the end was near for the former first-round pick and it came in July of 2008 when he was dealt to the Saints. But a month before that trade, Shockey said, “If the team trades me. I promise you I will make them pay when they trade me. If I ever get a chance to play against a team that did trade me, it's not going to be a pretty sight.” (Watch)

The chance comes this weekend when the 5-0 Giants face the 4-0 Saints in the Superdome. Saints head coach Sean Payton’s been wringing his hands all week about how to stay ahead of any “Shockey’s Revenge” stories. On Wednesday, Shockey was reportedly hauled out of the team’s locker room by Saints staffers prior to meeting with the media and reminded not to say anything that would fuel the media in its efforts to follow the obvious storyline.

When he returned, Shockey said to reporters, “It's not about me, all right? So no more questions. It’s about two teams going against each other. I want to make that clear. There's already been some references about vendettas and stuff like that. It's about two teams. It's two great teams playing against each other."

Good. So he heard his talking points and used them. It’s still bogus. He said what he meant in an unguarded moment last June, and a player like Shockey is going to summon those emotions this week. The efforts of Payton and the Saints staffers to cram words down the tight end’s throat for regurgitation at the appropriate time are amateurish. 

As for the football, Shockey may well have a big game. Tight ends have 24 catches through five games so far against the Giants, and Shockey’s got 18 catches for 162 yards and two touchdowns. With injuries dotting the New York linebacker group, he could have a big day. But even if Shockey goes for 10 and 130 and the Saints crush New York, does anyone really think that — at any moment during the game — Giants coach Tom Coughlin or GM Jerry Reese will think, “Wow, we really screwed up trading Jeremy Shockey?”

Riggo Unleashed
Former Redskins running back John Riggins continues to take chunks out of the current Washington brass. (Watch)

This week, he carved up head coach Jim Zorn in cringeworthy fashion, saying on a YouTube broadcast, “Jim you are not a head coach in the NFL. High school? Definitely. You can coach in high school, you can coach my son in high school anytime. Ankle-biters? For sure. You’re a very compassionate guy. You’re still, ‘Gee whiz, aw, shucks” 21 games into your career. You come out of these games, crippling, mind-boggling losses, and if I didn’t know better, I’d think you won the game.”

Riggins went on to say that Zorn’s unwillingness to criticize players publicly is maddening, offering, “DeAngelo Hall? I’d have had my foot this far up his rectum after that whatever tackle you want to call it on Jake Delhomme. You’re out of your league, Jim. But I wish you luck and you are gone.”

Line of the week
Asked if he was aware of a report that the NFL’s Competition Committee would consider legislating against players begging for calls, Titans coach Jeff Fisher said he wasn’t aware of the report. Fisher was then informed, “It was a tweet.”

He deadpanned in reply, “That’s a cartoon character as far as I’m concerned.”

Not clear on the concept
Patriots safety Brandon Meriweather took a costly 15-yard penalty for taunting last week against the Denver Broncos. It was a textbook instance of the infraction — Meriweather delivered a hit, sprang to his feet, stood over the Broncos receiver and fist-pumped down into his face. Asked Thursday if he’d think twice before acting out after making a play, Meriweather answered, “I’m going to keep doing it. I’m going to keep having fun and I’m going to keep doing what I do.” That’s either selfish or stupid. Possibly both. Either way, it reminds me of an instance when former Patriots corner Ellis Hobbs gambled on a slant during a preseason game and got beaten for a touchdown. Asked after the game about the play, Hobbs said he’d do the same thing again. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was gob-smacked that a player would cost his team a touchdown then say he’d repeat the act. In response, Hobbs rotted on the bench for weeks during the regular season before getting on the field.

Last word on rush
There’s an important distinction to be made as to why the NFL was uncomfortable with Rush Limbaugh. It had more to do with his platform than it did his politics. Among 32 teams with legions of owners and minority owners, there will be a wide range of political ideologies. Who knows, there may be people with an ownership stake with opinions more extreme to the right or the left than Limbaugh’s. And there are certainly more than a few owners of a conservative bent who have muttered to themselves, “Rush is right.” The difference is that Limbaugh has a national platform on which to deliver his opinions. Stridently. Without apology. In the stark terms that are aimed to entertain, inform and incite. And while the Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, a business enterprise has the right to determine whether the people it will sell a franchise to will be a divisive force that is potentially bad for business.

Worth noting
Last month, Dolphins minority owner Serena Williams told a U.S. Open lineswoman, “I swear to God, I feel like taking this ball and shoving it down your (flocking) throat.” On national television. The NFL also approved Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas as a minority owner of the Dolphins this week. One of her great contributions to popular music in the past few years was the song, “My Humps” in which she promises to get the fellas “love drunk” off her “lovely lady lumps.” Say what you will about the nastiness of Limbaugh, even more chilling is the sight and sound of pre-teen girls blissfully singing the lyrics to that song. “My Humps” reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts in 2005. Which is worse for our society? I dunno. But neither one is good.

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