Football

Omar Kelly: More NFL players should follow Dolphins safety Reshad Jones’ ‘selfish’ lead

One of the most annoying aspects of covering the NFL is dealing with the league's hypocrisy, which often surfaces during this time of year, when the "voluntary" – but really mandatory – offseason workouts begin.

This mentality that any player thinking for themselves, or acting in their own best interest is being "selfish" in a team sport is lazy.

You routinely get wind of this group-think mentality when a player reminds their coaches, and management that the team's "voluntary workouts" are just that – voluntary.

Yet, there's a typical attempt at shaming players like Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones for skipping walkthroughs of how practice is supposed to be conducted, which is exactly what the Dolphins are doing this week according to new head coach Brian Flores.

Does a nine-year veteran, an eight-year starter need to be there for that?

Say whatever you want about Jones, a fifth-round pick who has had a phenomenal career with the Dolphins, amassing 749 tackles, 21 interceptions, 10.5 sacks and scoring four touchdowns during the 124 games he's played for Miami.

He quit on his team last season to protest his coaches replacing him with Minkah Fitzpatrick, the hotshot first-round pick.

Forgive Jones for seeing what's coming considering his emergence back 2011 pushed out another Pro Bowl safety, Yeremiah Bell, prompting his release.

Jones called out his defensive coordinator for changing his role at midseason, and pulled himself out of the season finale against the Bills after producing a pick-six in the first half of a blowout loss.

His iron-clad $60 million contract, which was a victory in itself, is bloated considering it pays him $13.1 million, and guarantees him $4 million this season. But whose fault is that? And nobody called him "selfish" when he restructured his contract last season to give the Dolphins cap room.

It's true, Jones looks out for himself.

That has been his reputation since his days at the University of Georgia. A reputation that led to his draft-day slide, but he's spent nine-years proving he's one of the best at his position despite being a late-round pick.

That's why Jones is the example of an NFL success story, and a reminder that more players need to be "selfish" about their business because the truth is the NFL views them as replaceable.

Players learn too late that this professional league is about business more than it's about sports, or team.

The only time the NFL preaches team is when it benefits them.

Jones played most of last season with a separated shoulder that needed to be surgically repaired this offseason, and did it for his teammates. Was that selfish?

More established veterans should skip these "voluntary" workouts and organized team activity sessions, especially those who the franchise haven't taken care of financially.

Take Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard's situation, for instance. Howard has spent the last two seasons establishing himself as one of the NFL's best at his position. He's a young, elite talent the Dolphins used to shadow the opposition's best receiver each game, but he's slated to make $1.28 million this season, which is less than what Walt Aikens, a special team's ace being paid $1.4 million, will earn.

Howard and his agent have been pushing for a new contract all offseason. The Dolphins say he's the team's top priority, but still haven't given him the raise and extension he's earned by doing the right thing.

"My agent will handle that business," Howard said Tuesday. "I'm just here to take care of my business on the field."

But that's just it. The business of football only becomes inconvenient, a distraction or insignificant when it benefits the team.

When the Dolphins were cutting veterans left and right, purging the roster of starters with respectable contracts and replacing them with AAF players this offseason, and draft picks to be named next week that was just the business of football.

The Dolphins "voluntarily" created what appears to be the worst roster in the NFL because of the organization's ulterior motives, and now that a veteran would rather train on his own, he's painted as selfish.

Well, I commend Jones for continuing to take a stance against the NFL's "shut-up-and-take-it" mentality, and hope Howard wises up and "voluntarily" decides to train on his own until his financial future is secured with a new deal.

The hypocrisy of the NFL has to come to an end, and I don't mind if it's "selfish" players like Jones leading the way, because if each and every player doesn't look out for themselves and their own best interest, especially in the offseason, who will?

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