Philadelphia Eagles News

WRs: Divas Or A Product Of The Game?

The news keeps rolling along, and one day after another a wide receiver makes headlines. One is looking to be traded. Another needs a new contract. Still another star wide receiver expresses his unhappiness over A) Salary; B) Playing time; C) The weather. This has been the off-season of the Unhappy Wide Receiver, accentuating the theme that players at wide receiver in the NFL are a different breed.

High strung, maybe.

Hard to manage, it seems.

Divas, indeed.

"Whoa, whoa, you're separating wide receivers from other players in this league, and that's not fair," said Mike Quick, former Pro Bowl wide receiver here and currently the color analyst on the team's Eagles Radio Network. "I don't think it is just the wide receivers. Once free agency came to the NFL, and once this salary-cap picture changed so much, the league has had players from every position with similar stories.

"Why are you picking on the wide receivers."

Quick is right, to a degree. But it sure seems like wide receivers have been in the headlines way more in this off-season than in recent years. Anquan Boldin was going to be traded from Arizona prior to the draft, right? That's all we heard for weeks and weeks and weeks. Terrell Owens was cut by the Cowboys. Torry Holt by the Rams. Marvin Harrison by Indianapolis. Braylon Edwards and the Browns have had their headlines. Now Brandon Marshall is asking to get out of Denver.

The Plaxico Burress story has been simmering for months since the Giants suspended him last season and then released him in April. ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck, a teammate in New York, blasted Burress the other day.

"When you're looking at Plaxico Burress, there's no doubt that he can be a dominant receiver at times on Sundays. We've seen it," said Hasselbeck on ESPN's NFL Live. "But with that being said, I played with the guy. I was in the locker room with him for two years. He's a disaster as a teammate. He's a disaster as a guy that you have to coach. And what do I mean by that?

"If you want to wait for a guy to show up to meetings, if you want to have to beg a guy to run full-speed in practice, if you want a guy that would disappear in games because he doesn't get the ball early – then look, Plaxico Burress is your guy. But if you don't want those distractions, and you don't want to deal with the other headaches that come along with Plaxico Burress, then you better stay away from him."

Strong stuff. Very harsh. And another wart on the reputation of the wide receiver position.

We know the story, of course. We lived it up close and personal when Owens was an Eagle. Now the Eagles have, for the most part, a very young group of wide receivers. The veterans like Kevin Curtis, Jason Avant, Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett are quiet guys, humble men, very hard workers and great teammates. They aren't as accomplished as the super, superstar wide receivers making the news these days, true, but it doesn't seem to be in their personalities to act in such a "me" way.

Young receivers like DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin haven't done enough to create national, star names for themselves, but they certainly have that kind of standout ability. Jackson, who had the reputation as a bit of a problem child coming out of college, has been anything but that in his year-plus with the Eagles. Jackson works his butt off. He is a joy in the locker room. He plays the game the way it should be played. After 62 catches as a rookie, Jackson wants to be the best player in the National Football League this season.

That's the goal. Be great and help the Eagles win the Super Bowl.

"It's about winning games and doing what it takes to win games," said Jackson. "That's my focus. I had a taste of it last year. It was mentally and physically challenging. If I do my part and work as hard as I can, good things are going to happen. I am surrounded by great players and great coaches, these fans are great ... I'm as excited as I can be."

Maclin doesn't even enter the conversation. He's a rookie. He is the low man on the totem pole. Certainly, though, Maclin's profile is one of a mature, thoughtful, hard-working young man. He hasn't caught a pass in the NFL. Heck, he hasn't even made a team.

You wonder how he sees all of these stories about wide receivers and about the attention they receive for complaining and demanding and causing problems around the league. Has there ever been an off-season where so many high-profile wide receivers have been shipped out, or made headlines for all the wrong reasons?

"It's a position where everybody pays attention," said Harold Carmichael, a pretty fair wide receiver in his day and now the team's Director of Player Programs. "It's a glamour spot in this league. Some guys handle the attention very well and some guys don't. A lot of guys really want to strut because they are so visible on the football field. I think the media enjoys labeling these receivers. Why not label other positions? Sure, I agree, that receivers can be babies. They are high-strung personalities.

"The media creates stars out of wide receivers and then the receivers feel they have to put on a show and it goes round and round."

Carmichael is in the ear of the team's receivers -- and every player on the roster -- in his job. He knows the pressures players face. He understands the climate of the game, and how money has changed things in this league. Carmichael made his dollars, and he worked hard to rise from a seventh-round draft pick to one of the best receivers in franchise history and someone who deserves recognition for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

But the money now is out of the world from Carmichael's day. The media exposure has increased incredibly. It is a different life than the one Carmichael played for 13 years in Philadelphia.

"I tell the guys to be humble. Always be humble. They can take this game away from you very quickly," he said. "Have a short memory, because whether you make a great play or drop a pass, you always have to look ahead to the next play.

"Wide receivers are something different, though. When they played back in Pop Warner, they were special players and they were put on pedestals by coaches, by parents, their teammates. Back when I played, we didn't have web sites that published our rankings when we were in high school, or keep our statistics, or compare us to players in the NFL. You see what happens now? Kids just want to play football, but it is such a big deal that they come with an ego because they are rated when they are middle-school players. I never even knew many catches I had in high school, and I'm not even sure I knew how many I had in college.

"These kids today are told how good they are from the time they are pre-teenagers, and it swells their heads up. Some players just don't know how to deal with it."

No question that this is the Year Of The Wide Receiver's Discontent throughout the NFL. Agents are tweeting about their wide receiver clients, promising this and that and the other thing. The media is picking up on the feeding frenzy and having a ball. And the grand reputation of wide receivers -- always flamboyant, yes, but generally respectful -- takes a hit.

"Your pointing us out, and it's not right," insists Quick. "It's the nature of the game today. How many other players who are not wide receivers want more money? A lot. That's the answer. Players want to move and make more money. It's all a lot of b.s. that you're hearing about, and it is not all wide receivers. Stop pointing us out. I think you're pointing us out.

"Already we stand out there away from everybody else waiting for a play to be called. We're not part of the crowd, anyway. Other players are causing a fuss, too. I can't point it at just receivers.

"I know there are some receivers how have their issues. No doubt about that. But there are standout guys at the position who are doing it right. Let's focus on them from time to time."

Would love to Quick Six, but the headlines aren't about the good guys. The news is about the bad boys in the NFL, the wide receivers, a position that has been turbulent, to say the least, these last few months.

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