Perhaps this is nothing new for some. But I'm a little late to the work ethic party.
Scott Pioli and Todd Haley have said again and again that they want guys who eat and sleep and breathe football. They want team players, guys who exhibit leadership (see latest draft haul) and, ultimately, men they don't have to worry about. That last bit, combined with some of the latest NFL transactions, puts it all in perspective for me.
Consider two recent NFL moves:
1. The Raiders finally release JaMarcus Russell - Everyone saw this coming after the trade for Redskins QB Jason Campbell and some were calling for this long before they even had another option in house. The knock on Russell coming out of school was his questionable work ethic and yet consider this recent 'graph from Peter King:
"I remember interviewing Russell and his uncle at the Scouting Combine 38 months ago and listening to the uncle give an impassioned defense of the kid's work ethic, which some teams were openly questioning. Turns out the scouts were right. The Raiders got taken by Russell because Davis fell in love with his arm. Big mistake. Russell loved money and what it bought far, far more than he cared for football."
2. The Rams trade OT Alex Barron to Dallas for LB Bobby Carpenter. It's a dull switch of two dull players. Barron, in particular, suffers from Russell's same fate -- a high draft pick who lacked the intensity and willingness to learn and train as others in his draft class. In other words, he coasts on his talent.
More after the jump:I don't think there's a single player who can coast in the NFL on talent alone. If they can, it's an incredibly short list. Seems like every QB with the best size, a cannon for an arm, etc. ends up on the "bust" list if his "Positives" list doesn't also include "a relentless student of the game."
The NFL is just too fast. Everyone is a professional. Nearly every single player over every single week is constantly competing for his starting job (or roster spot). For the incoming rookie, there's encyclopedic playbooks to learn, schemes to take in, coaching styles to adjust to, a new lifestyle to manage and rules to follow. You have to be a student in every aspect. Todd Haley said they're even evaluating the rookies over dinner. Dinner!
Thus, working hard isn't something you have to start doing. A strong work ethic is something that should come as naturally as waking up in the morning for an NFL player. If not, the NFL will eat you alive. Anyone with a tag of "questionable" becomes a liability in a game where there's little to no margin for error. Teams win and others lose based on these kinds of things. And in the process, money is made (or lost) at the same time.
For a while, I was hoping the Chiefs would pick up certain players in the draft who might fall under some "questionable" categories. And I was hoping we might trade for one or two guys with the same label -- high talent players who lost favor with their current regime. Now? I'm realizing the healthiest thing to do is to bring in guys that you never have to worry about, since there's more than enough to pay attention to in the world of the NFL already.