Mark Madden: Antonio Brown, Jalen Ramsey prove NFL players have the power
Antonio Brown set a standard for every star player in the NFL, however chaotically so. It had nothing to do with his talent. That might be on ice for keeps because Brown ultimately outsmarted himself.
But Brown set wheels in motion that will turn the NFL into European soccer.
Whenever a player wants to change teams in European soccer, all he has to do is say so. Then, whether by grace or petulance, that player gets his way. It happens 95 percent of the time.
Contract length doesn’t matter. What the team wants isn’t much considered. The players have the power. Most of the greats get funneled to a precious few destination teams.
Brown duplicated that act in the NFL, taking it to absurd depths. The harebrained wide receiver left decency and honesty in a mangled heap as he finagled his way from Pittsburgh to Oakland to New England inside of six months.
Ignore Brown’s bad end with the Patriots, and it’s a blueprint.
Jalen Ramsey added his own variations. But the former All-Pro cornerback got his wish to be traded this week when he exited Jacksonville for the Los Angeles Rams.
Ramsey’s trek wasn’t as bloody as Brown’s. But Ramsey only played the first three of the Jaguars’ six games, missing time through paternity leave, back and hamstring injuries and the flu.
You’d have to be an idiot to believe Ramsey had back problems, hamstring problems or the flu. As for his paternity leave excuse, well, Jaguars owner Shahid Khan should have demanded to see the baby.
Ramsey didn’t miss a paycheck. None of his teammates called him out. He got his way.
It’s going to happen again and again. The playbook is in place.
Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick did it, kind of.
Fitzpatrick made it clear he wanted out of Miami but showed up for work in the interim. His desire fitted nicely with Miami’s plan to amass lots of first-round draft picks and tank.
Le’Veon Bell didn’t do it.
The running back sat an entire season but had every right to. He was out of contract and had no obligation. Bell’s gamble didn’t pay off to the degree he hoped, but it was mostly above board and he did escape Pittsburgh — which he wanted then. Maybe not now.
Brown and Ramsey aren’t necessarily the founders of this feast, but they perfected it. Each acted like an immature jerk until his team just got tired of it. Until neither was worth the gratuitous hassle.
Teams acquiring such headaches should beware: If they did it once, they would do it again.
In fact, Brown did.
Players trying this stunt are receiving more than a modicum of support, especially from ex-players in the media.
We hear owners can terminate players’ contracts at any time. That the franchise tag isn’t fair.
Both are legit points. But the NFL Players Association agreed to those conditions in the CBA.
We hear the average career of an NFL player is only a bit over three years, and they need to maximize.
That three-year figure is correct. But players of limited caliber don’t dare try this. This is Ramsey’s fourth season. Brown played nine years prior to the current season.
This isn’t “workers of the world unite.” No need to call Cesar Chavez. This is millionaires wanting more from billionaires. This is for the stars.
There really aren’t any sympathetic figures here. But a contract is a contract. If you signed one, show up for work.
But now Brown and Ramsey have shown you don’t have to.
It’s the worst kind of inspiration.
If Khan and Jacksonville had taken a stand and waited out Ramsey, this trend might have been stopped. But now, no chance. Who’s next?