Every NFL star got to where they are by working hard and by having the talent to get them there. Some had in in their blood, Peyton Manning is proof of that. Some had to outwork their peers, James Harrison is proof of that. Some landed in the right place at the right time, Tom Brady is proof of that.
But how do you go from being one of the most feared, most respected players in the game to someone barely hanging on in the NFL. Why did it work for Matt Ryan but not Matt Leinart? Why is Terrell Owens hopping from team to team and Albert Haynesworth can't be a starter?
Sure athletes screw up their careers all the time due to injury but that is part of the game. Here are the way that the top 50 players in the NFL could see their careers go off the tracks.
No, not performance enhancers. Most recently, Brian Cushing, Shawne Merriman and at one point most of the Carolina Panthers have all dabbled with performance enhancers but the recreational drugs are the ones that really derail careers.
Teams don't want the perception that they have a team full of drug users and degenerates. What players do in their free time may be up to them but most teams don't want that perception so if a player likes his lifestyle and the city he is in he should probably stay clean.
Most recently, JaMarcus Russell is the latest high profile athlete to see his career take a complete nose dive due to drugs. You may say Russell didn't put in the effort but being on "purple drank" definitely wasn't going to motivate him.
Whether it be against others,animals or in the case of Plaxico Burress, themselves, no one wants a sports star who is a threat to society.
There have been stars who have overcome this reputation but it's rare and generally takes a huge mea culpa and some fantastic on the field performances to over come it. Michael Vick is the ultimate success story of this.
Spending two years in prison, he came out humble and did the right things to get the media and public to at least accept him. While there are still some who will never be his fan, Vick's on field play was much more a topic of discussion last season than his dog fighting scandal.
Plaxico Burress and Shawne Merriman are two others who have had similar issues with violence. Merriman's on field performance has not been the same since he was busted for performance enhancing drugs and he was injured. Burress is yet to be able to play since he was just released from prison and the NFL is in the midst of a lockout. Odds are a 34-year-old receiver who is two years out of football isn't going to have a huge impact.
It is understandable for a player to want to make as much money as possible during their short careers. Most will show more loyalty to the almighty dollar than the team that drafted them but that is not always a good thing.
There will always be stupid contracts as long as there are stupid GMs and owners but some players find the teams that habitually overspend, work with their agents to up the price and then fail to live up to the hype.
Sure, it's one thing for a players team to overspend, they already have value there but when a player jumps ship, unless he is moving home to momma, you can bet it's because of greed. When a player takes that leap it doesn't always work out because...
Ask an 4-3 defensive tackle if he cane perform in a 3-4 and he will likely tell you yes. Chances are unless he truly is a top talent that won't happen.
After a certain point a player adapts to a scheme, whether defensive of offensive, and they become a creature of habit. When the average fan thinks of a wide receiver changing teams, what's the difference other than the uniform color?
Players build chemistry and work well with their teammates, that's why football is the ultimate team sport. You have to work with those around you.
The Patriots and Steelers are examples of this. Deion Branch looked like a Pro Bowler when he was paired with Tom Brady in 2004. He went on to win the Super Bowl MVP. Then he went to the Seahawks. Sure, injuries played a part in his regression but, he never fit in with the offensive scheme.
The Steelers keep cranking out defensive star after defensive star. Chad Brown, Joey Porter and Kevin Greene are all players who did not see near the success they had with the Steelers after they left. Part of that is the Steelers knowing when to cut ties but some of it is that those guys picked the wrong place to continue their careers.
Ask Albert Haynesworth how a different scheme is working for him?
This wasn't necessarily true during the last lockout but the NBA's most recent lockout will serve as a guide.
Half a season was lost and most players chose to skip the offseason workouts. The NFL players today are showing unity and that they still care by putting on their own camps. Unfortunately, these camps will not get them in near the shape they would get in with coaches running the drills.
Shawn Kemp ended up gaining nearly 30 pounds and was never the same. With the amount of food it takes to sustain a lineman we could see some very sloppy play in the trenches this year...if it happens.