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A few bad apples ruin the image of NFL players

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Photo Credit:  Gail Burton/AP Photo Credit: Gail Burton/AP
Are you sick of Vick? Up to here with Pac Man? Do you start looking for missing sections when your morning paper (hey, some people still read them) contain no mention of an NFL player being in a compromising situation?

Chris Draft is sick of it too. The difference between Draft and you: he's in the league.

Draft, a nine-year NFL veteran who joined the Rams this off-season, is trying to mobilize NFL players who live on the right side of the law to call attention to their behavior.

Gail Burton/APFormer Panther and current Ram Chris Draft wants to tackle the image problem NFL players face."We've got a lot of good men and it's important that we make sure people don't just see the three, four or five people responsible for all the negative stories all the time," Draft said. "You and I both know that, out of 1,600 guys, the ones who are having problems are the ones that get the press."

No doubt. Player misbehavior is so rampant the diabolically entertaining web site Profootballtalk.com has an arrest counter on its home page documenting the days elapsed since the last arrest of an NFL player.

Draft was so bothered by this trend that he talked to Ed Reynolds, a top lieutenant of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell involved in league security.

"Ed said to me, 'Just call Roger.' I was like, 'Is that cool?' So I did and when he got back from the owners meetings in May, he called me."

The jist of the conversation, according to Draft, was this: "Every team has guys doing good work. There are plenty of guys like me who are passionate about this. It's important to recognize guys who are doing the right things. We shouldn't allow the negative to dominate the positive. There's one guy doing bad for every 10 guys doing good."

Draft's vision is to put together a character campaign. It's in its nascent stages, but the aim is simple.

"I will simply ask, 'What is it to be a good man?'" Draft said. "We are continually measuring from the bottom up instead of from the top down. There is a fixed standard of what it means to be a good man. You can easily measure yourself against that standard by how you live your life, what you do."

Three's a crowd

There's an old NFL saying that, if you have two quarterbacks who could start, you really don't have any. The point? You need a guy who is the crown prince of your quarterback class and if you don't have that, well, then you've got a problem.

The Jacksonville Jaguars already have two guys who could make a case for deserving the starting job -- Byron Leftwich and David Garrard -- and they've since been playing footsie with estranged Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper.

And while Jags coach Jack Del Rio did the right thing this off-season by declaring Leftwich the starter (did the right thing shouldn't be confused with making the right decision), what does the reported Culpepper dalliance mean?

Can the Jags reasonably expect to bring Culpepper in on the eve of training camp on a repaired knee and have him get enough reps to satisfy him? Or Garrard? Or Leftwich? And we're not even getting into learning the offense.

What ends up happening in Jacksonville -- and there's a strong likelihood that Culpepper will resist going there -- the larger issue is that teams seem more willing than ever to plunge their quarterback situations into chaos.

Take the Falcons. Shouldn't someone in their organization have been vaguely aware that the guy they sank $130 million into might be involved in dog fighting? Wouldn't that have been handy information for Atlanta to have before it dealt Matt Schaub to the Texans?

Or check out the Chiefs. During their abysmal playoff performance against the Colts in January, head coach Herm Edwards was asked at halftime if he might lift starter Trent Green in the second half in favor of Damon Huard. Edwards acted as if NBC sideline reporter Bob Neumeier had just asked him if he planned to coach the second half in a leotard. Yet less than 100 days later, the Chiefs hung a 'For Sale' sign around Green's neck and plan to let Huard and Brodie Croyle duke it out for the starting job.

Franchises are more willing than ever to bolster their quarterbacking bullpens -- check out the Eagles drafting Kevin Kolb, the Panthers signing David Carr and the Bucs signing Jeff Garcia -- because either injury or ineffectiveness is just a snap or a start away.

Ya don't say

"It seems the longer he's been in the league, the more trouble and controversies he's become involved in. It seems like when you're more mature, you should understand your role better. Sometimes the young guys are a product of their environment. It's a tough thing for young guys to turn their backs on their homeboys, so to speak." -- Warren Moon on Atlanta quarterback Mike Vick

"There's a couple of nice cars I'd like to get for that money. I could buy a nice vacation home or at least go half on one with someone else. (The number) is slimming. It's faster. It was working. Oh well." -- Jerry Porter, Raiders receiver, when told that changing his number to 81 would cost him $210,000.

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