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NFL's Troubled Receivers

6-19-09

Let's have a little chat about Donte Stallworth, wide receiver of the Cleveland Browns (+900 to win the AFC North at BetUS), who killed a pedestrian in Miami while driving drunk in his Bentley. Stallworth wasn't sorry at the time, but he's sorry now, and he gets a month in jail, a thousand hours of community service (which will most consist of doing public service announcements about drunk driving) and two years of house arrest. He also gets his drivers' license taken away.

The deal was orchestrated by Katherine Fernandez Rundle, a Miami state attorney of somewhat nefarious background, who got defensive when it was suggested that Stallworth got off easy, and that as for the victim's family, "This is what they wanted." I don't know how things are in your household, but I don't think it would be what I wanted. I'm not a party to any of the negotiations, but I believe there was a lot of money changing hands.

Fernandez Rundle has two sons who have been wreaking havoc on Miami streets for years. One of them, Evan Rundle, has been arrested several times, on charges ranging from possession of drugs to assault and battery to burglary, and is still free to commit crimes essentially because of his mother's influence, as is another son, Justin Rundle, who has been arrested for drunk driving (with an blood alcohol level of .193 - twice the legal limit) in an incident that involved a car wreck, not to mention possession of pot, WHILE HE WAS WITH HER. Obviously, she doesn't appear too interested in investigating any "deals," and may in fact have been part of it. She should be ashamed of herself. This was not a civil case, it was a criminal case.

Stallworth is expected to get at least a four-game suspension this season, which would also be light, if Goodell is at all thinking about suspending Burress for the season. The Browns appear to be non-committal on whether Stallworth is in their plans. Here's offensive coordinator Brad Seely's quote: "I think it is just too early in the process. As we go along we are going to do what is best for the Browns organization. I don't think that has been decided yet and I think there is a lot of decisions to be made in that area." That guy needs an English lesson.

Stallworth won't be able to pay off Goodell, and he can't do some back room deal like he can with a shady prosecutor. We'll see what happens.....

Plaxico Burress' immediate future is still somewhat uncertain. Although his defense attorney believes that any trial involving his client wouldn't happen until sometime next year, there will be a grand jury convening next month to hear the case, and so there still exists the possibility that Burress could be indicted in time for his trial to take place at some point during the football season.

Burress is free on $100,000 bond, and is charged with two counts of possessing a semi-automatic weapon in a Manhattan nightclub. What he's really charged with is shooting himself in the leg, which to me is kind of silly. Or, at least it would be silly as long as he didn't shoot someone else.

Mayor Mike Bloomberg wanted prosecutors to throw the book at Burress, probably because the Giants don't play in New York, but New Jersey. Also because it looks like the Giants, as well as New York-Presbyterian Hospital, looked like they were trying to cover up the incident. Of course, Bloomberg doesn't want anyone to have guns except the NYPD, so I have a tendency not to take him too seriously.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could still suspend Burress for the season, but, operating on the expectation that his trial will be delayed and he'll be free to play, Burress has been gauging interest from teams around the league. There are several who would gladly explore taking a shot. One of them might be the Chicago Bears (+190 to win the NFC North at BetUS), who need some people for Jay Cutler to throw the ball to. At least Lovie Smith, when asked, would not dismiss that possibility.

Raheem Morris, coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+450 to win the NFC South at BetUS), where Burress is also interested in going, was not that keen on exploring the possibilities. “To be honest there was never really a discussion about bringing him in," said Morris. "He has close friends on our team and contacted those guys and said he’s interested himself. There is nothing wrong with that.”

Tom Coughlin is another story. The head coach of the New York Giants (+165 to win the NFC East at BetUS), when asked about Burress' situation, said "That train pulled out of the station." Tim Hasslebeck, a former Giant teammate who now works with NFL Network, ripped into Burress. "he's a disaster as a teammate," Hasselbeck said. "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."

No doubt Burress will now respond with some snide comment about Hasselbeck being a career backup, or something like that.

Not to suggest they would need that kind of headache, if indeed that's what it is (don't forget that Burress was their best receiver, and caught the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl), the Giants are rolling the dice a little when it comes to wideouts. As the season approaches, it looks like Dominik Hixon and Steve Smith are going to be the starters at wide receiver, and more is definitely expected out of Mario Manningham, who was drafted in the third round last year but had just four catches in an injury-plagued season. David Tyree (another Super Bowl hero) is still on the roster, and the Giants also picked two receivers - Hakeem Nicks and Ramses Barden - who could make something of an impact. One scout told me he thought Nicks was the best receiver in the draft. Barden has an element of the unknown about him; he caught 36 TD passes the last two years at Cal Poly, but he steps way up in caliber of opposition here.

There are a lot of guys you can throw the ball to, but none of them, at least at the moment, looms as the guy whose number you'd feel confident in calling when the game is on the line.

The sentiment about Burress is not unanimous in the team's camp. Brandon Jacobs, the Giants' standout running back, said, "With him, we had an identity from Week 1 to Week 11 when he went out. It is hard to bounce back, to find a new identity in the National Football League."

Like the Giants, let's move on. Another wide receiver, Brandon Marshall, has made it very clear that he would like to be traded by the Denver Broncos (+400 to win the AFC West at BetUS). Obviously with the arrival of coach Josh McDaniels and the departure of Jay Cutler, he sees the writing on the wall for the franchise.

He's gone so far as to write the following on his personal blog site:

"To whom it may concern. Life is filled with change, and where I am in my life now change is probably best. It’s hard leaving an organization ran by one of the best owners in all of sports, and someone who’s been there for me through my ups and downs. The hardest thing was hearing Mr. B wish me luck in the future, but we both came to the conclusion that this is probably the best thing for me to grow on and off the field. I thank the Denver fans who embraced my emotion and play on the field and showing me love every time I step outside my door."

Denver doesn't have to do anything with Marshall, who has caught 206 passes the last two years, if it doesn't want to, because the wide receiver is under contract. Of course, he's also a handful, having been arrested so many times I don't even have space to detail his "resume." And if he's unhappy, McDaniels & Co. may seek the same remedy they did with Cutler. They've already signed Brandon Lloyd, who was with the Bears last season. That doesn't leave a huge void in Chicago, although Cutler can use all the outlets he can get. Naturally, Marshall's name comes up in the discussion, but Cutler has bitten his tongue about it.

"I'm not going to speculate on whether or not we're going to go get him or not," he told reporters on Wednesday. "The guys we have right now, I'm 100 percent confident in and comfortable with. We'll just have to wait down the road and see what happens with that.''

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