The new NFL calendar year has begun. At first glimpse at what the 2014 season has in store, a lot has changed. There have been a number of big transactions and large payouts for some of my peers.
But what really stands out to me is the lack of appreciation for what I call the tough guys: offensive guards, centers, defensive tackles and running backs.
I may be into the second half of my career, but I am concerned for the future when it comes to those positions.
As in all free markets, certain values are put into place. But what has happened this offseason is ridiculous. Not one team out of 32 sees the importance of the four positions I mentioned? Offensive guards, centers, defensive tackles and running backs define the attitude of a team. We fight in the trenches. We sacrifice. In tough games or bad weather, our role becomes that much more magnified. We do all of this to help build our teams.
Yes, we are in the 21st century, and yes, the game has changed into a 7-on-7 passing league. A quarterback is important for rallying a community around a franchise and attracting corporate sponsors. But not all teams are created equal, nor are all quarterbacks.
I’m an offensive player, and I can tell you: Defenses are hands down more athletic than their offensive counterparts. Even so, one miscue by an offensive guy, and the likelihood of that play being successful drops to zero. Don’t tell me that anyone can play offensive guard, center, defensive tackle or running back. They can’t. Let’s not discount great talent just because some coaches were successful building teams out of players they discovered on their roster.
No two teams are alike; all of them are a different mix of talent DNA. And while fantasy football and the ongoing search for finding a way to make a contact sport “safe” have changed the landscape of the NFL, the role that players at the tough guy positions play still matters significantly.
That needs to be recognized. It’s well past time that “tough guys” once again get praised for their contributions. They need to be rewarded in a way that matches their hard work, commitment and true value to their teams.