Inside Conditions…New blood

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Well, well, well boys’ and girls’ the NFL 2012 draft is in the books and all is well in the land of the pigskin. The bloodthirsty AFC North seems to have done “good.”

AubreyBruceBox

The “mechanics” of the Steelers again went shopping for spare parts for their “Lombardi” machine. The Steelers snatched offensive linemen in David DeCastro and Mike Adams. I have been preaching O-line and D-line since the awful 1-2 punch of Mendenhall and Sweed. Someone seems to be finally listening. Do I get any dough? On the defensive side Sean Spence, (inside linebacker) and Alameda Ta’amu (defensive tackle) will give the defense a boost helping to remove some of the cobwebs on “D.”

The Cincy Bengals, originally nicknamed “the Bungles” look as if they’re loaded for “Bear” and appear to be getting ready for a rumble in the “jungle” otherwise known as the AFC North. Coach Marvin Lewis seems to be drafting players that may not only survive but thrive in the brutal DMZ. The unforgiving “North” boasted not one, not two, but three 2011 playoff teams. Folks are whispering that Lewis may be Al Davis incarnate (former Oakland Raiders owner); drafting players who excel on the field but have a few moral and character issues hanging around their neck. The Bengals snatched up (cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, defensive tackle Devon Still and tight end Orson Charles in light of our concerns about their “character.” Their alleged violations are minute when compared to their collective talent and the Bengals’ as a whole drafted football players, not “Little Bo Peeps.” When you add receivers Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones plus OG Kevin Zeitler the Bengals appear to be getting ready to get busy.

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome is like “Cyclops” when it comes to identifying players drafted in any round and this draft was no different. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw, tackle Kelechi Osemele and running back Bernard Pierce appear to be able to capably blend well into the Ravens’ playbook. The Ravens also landed receiver Tommy Streeter and guard Gino Gradkowski, who are both capable of having an immediate impact on offense.

Entering a critical year in the Mike Holmgren era, the Cleveland Browns were under pressure to immediately boost an offense that was questionable in all phases of the game. The wanted running back Trent Richardson, all along but did they give up too much? Making quarterback Brandon Weeden their second pick in the first round received some scrutiny because of his age (28) and considering that Colt McCoy is still firmly in the mix. They also chose to strengthen their offensive line with tackle Mitchell Schwartz. The Browns did pretty darned good job of upgrading considering that they have to play the Steelers, the Ravens and the Bengals, twice a year!

As far as I am concerned the 2012 draft as a whole was successful but whether the players that were selected will fail or succeed will always depend on what they do on the field in an actual game; not what they do on Pro-day or at the combines in “Indy.” I must say this because if I do not I will bust wide open. There are athletes who are classified as freshmen and sophomores who should have been on the draft board last weekend; poised to get paid. But ya know what? Okay, okay you say; this is mixing apples and oranges. However, not so quick, ‘keemosabe’ Tonto see rain clouds gathering. When I see all of the parents and families giddy and filled with glee in regard to their sons’ being chosen to compete as professional football players I become both happy and sad, simultaneously. How many of our sons have been expendable after their college careers were over? How many of their degrees, if they even received one was valid? How many times have you, I and the ‘Pope’ strolled into a McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King, looked into the face of the young man waiting on us realizing only after we have exited the establishment that the young man that took our order was a former blue chip high school or college player?

We must insist on a pay for play format to insure that the system is equitable for everyone. If a college player does not have the stuff to make it as a pro at least they will have a stipend to help them make the transition back into society. They will not have to sell drugs or fast food. Almost everyone that is part of the NCAA game gets paid; from the ticket takers to the grounds keepers, the broadcasters, the printers of the game programs, the concessionaires, the ushers; you digg….

For every athlete that is chosen to compete in the NFL, a thousand are stranded and abandoned in an economic desert with not a camel in sight to transport them to the illusionary oasis of fame fortune and glory.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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