Respect for the NBA players in America, grow year on year. For these top athletes to drag their body through a 70 game season and then four rounds of the playoffs is quite remarkable given the degree of intensity, the velocity and pace of play and these are not normal shaped bodies - they are men who are in height all over 6' 6" and weigh 18 stone of muscle and brawn.
The other thing they have to contend with is the recognition of their abilities, they play in sleeveless shirts, shorts and Nikes. They cannot be invisible when they leave the court.
NFL players are luckier, they play for four months of the year, five if they make the Super Bowl. Admittedly, they do play in the coldest months of the calendar, yet they can hid behind helmets and shoulder pads, distinguishable by the large numbers on their chest and broad backs. For many defensive and offensive linemen, they are anonymous, if you passed them in a shopping mall or they were out walking their dog, you would think he was a big lump.
The lucky few are photogenic and marketable, these are mostly the quarterbacks the young All-American WASPs who are protected by league rules to not be roughed up, while the dirty work at the line of scrimmage is rarely policed. The NFL attempt to keep the young and gifted, fit and healthy for as long as possible - while running backs fall by the wayside with new blood leaving College every year in the draft.
For all the anti-NBA jive talk about responsibility and behaviour, it is few and far between the number of incidents involving NBA players away from the court. Players on the hard court use their down time effectively to recuperate and rest, they have foundations and clinics to put on for children in summer classes, they always want to give back to the community they came from.
NFL players seemingly have a lot of downtime, two thirds of the year in fact to let their hair down and due to the big pay cheques they may encounter some unsavoury characters. Yet the number of misdemeanors and crimes being committed by young affluent NFL players are high in comparison to other major American sport stars - drink driving, assault and battery, actual bodily harm, drug possession, fights with police.
There can be an argument that the NFL Draft is to blame, you have young underprivileged men leaving college who use their first pay cheque to live large and by giving young men too much money too soon can lead to problems. English soccer has this problem for some time now, when 17-18 year olds are paid far too much at an early age, without having to earn it. The NFL teams pay all this money to players based on the idea of potential and possibility, rather than earning it through performance and credibility. In years past there has been faux pas' like Ryan Leaf and JaMarcus Russell; but yet you still can have Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III; two gifted young men who the ideal NFL franchise player - intelligent and mature. Is it any surprise they both stayed for the full four years in college and did not jump to the draft when immediately eligible.
This may explain the Aaron Hernandez saga currently being played out on back pages and radio shows across America. It now comes out that the reason Number 81 fell to the Patriots in the 4th round is due to character issues. This has never stopped Bill Belichick before as he has signed Randy Moss and Chad Johnson (OchoCinco) before and they both played well but eventually tailed off. Most NFL teams would say they can offer a large support network to any troubled soul, yet sometimes you never know what a player is capable of. Did anyone imagine Michael Vick would actually host dog fighting in his luxurious mansions?
Aaron Hernandez is involved in a murder investigation involving a semi-pro 31 year old, Hernandez has done himself no favours by smashing up his security system and destroying his phone - evidence which is a federal offence, and may lead to him incriminating himself. Hernandez could have done with going to the Patriots and telling them what happened. Instead he thought he was doing what was right, instead of doing what was correct.
Hernandez can probably expect such charges as perverting the course of justice, failure to report a crime and most definitely expect at least a four game suspension from the NFL for bringing the game into disrepute and poor off-field conduct.
As for the Patriots, with both exemplar tight ends either injured or in custody, it gives Tom Brady and the AFC East champions a rather lacklustre roster line-up of receivers to boast about whilst the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills attempt to gain ground on the Boston dynasty.
New England have let go of Wes Welker (Denver), Danny Woodhead (San Diego) and released Brandon Lloyd who is still a free agent, and could be re-signed. They picked up Danny Amendola, tight end Ballard from the New York Giants and have acquired Aaron Dobson in the draft - they still have the running back combo of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen to get yards if the receiving core does not fire on all cylinders.
With all the Gronkowski injury news, the Patriots were probably hoping for a quiet remainder of the off-season, now they have to contend with the possibility of going into the season opener at Buffalo on September 8th without two of their most potent offensive weapons.
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