Friday, June 18, 2004

Would you rather be rich or stupid?

Baltimore Ravens All-Pro CB, Chris McAlister makes a good point. As the Ravens wrap up minicamp, McAlister is nowhere to be found because he wants a long-term deal and as it stands, Baltimore is content with franchising McAlister for yet another season.

The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston wrote a story yesterday implying that McAlister can't get a new deal because of character issues. If that's the story (Today however in the Washington Post, head coach Brian Billick claims that character has absolutely nothing to do with the stalled contract negotiations), then McAlister has a legitimate gripe as to why he's being singled out.

As the Sun reports:
The Ravens are loaded with players with troubled pasts, so much in fact that orange jumpsuits could have replaced the new uniform that was on display yesterday. The official airline of the Ravens should be ConAir.
And the Post gets into specifics:
Several of the Ravens have, or have had, legal troubles. Linebacker Ray Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice in exchange for murder charges being dropped in 2000. Running back Jamal Lewis is awaiting trial on federal drug conspiracy charges. Cornerback Corey Fuller has been charged with running a gambling house in Tallahassee, and with using a firearm in commission of a felony. Linebacker Terrell Suggs has a Sept. 9 trial date on two counts of felony assault. The Ravens recently signed cornerback Dale Carter, a 12-year veteran who has been suspended five times for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
I'm not really interested in what the Ravens decide to do with McAlister. In fact, as a Steelers fan I would prefer they trade him to the Chargers for a 6th round pick in 2008 or something. The real reason I thought this story was interesting is because Pittsburgh is so unaccustomed to having players with off-field problems that at the slightest sign of trouble people start predicting the end of civilization as we know it.

The McAlister story is good for several reasons if you're a Steelers fan. First, maybe McAlister will sit out the year. Second, and perhaps more importantly, teams can win with players who don't all see eye-to-eye. In fact, it's seldom that you find a team that fields a bunch of boy scouts and still manages some semblance of success on the field (Of course, that team won two of the last three Super Bowls, but that's not the point). The 2000 Ravens won the Super Bowl when the Ray Lewis murder charges were fresh on everyone's mind -- and the Ravens have been pretty successful since then despite having to rebuild their team.

So Plaxico Burress missed minicamp (for more money, Mother's Day, Flag Day or whatever). Big deal. Duce Staley missed training camp last season and he proved to be a big part of their success as they made it to the division championships yet again. Hines Ward wants a new contract. Good. So does McAlister -- and so did McAlister last season, and he had a great year. The point is this: while it's important to have players on the same page in terms of game-planning, everyone doesn't have to be happy. Sometimes playing angry can be a good thing. I would want nothing more than to have the Rooney's give Hines the big contract he deserves, but even if that doesn't happen the Steelers have two mildly disgruntled stars (in Ward and Burress) and that's it. The Ravens have a team full of convicts and convicts-in waiting, and they've been pretty successful, so let's hold off judgment on the Steelers just yet -- at least wait until Plax holds out of training camp too.