Last week, I wrote about my massive man-crush on Chris Polk. For over a year now I expected him to be drafted in the first two or three rounds of the 2012 NFL draft. I watched the announcement of every pick live on the Thursday and Friday of the draft only to see his name never be called. Not once in my wildest dreams did I think Saturday would pass too without a team drafting him. It was sad, deflating and puzzling. I had the look of a dad whose talented hard working kid didn’t quite make a cut. It made no sense.
Internet scuttlebutt has it that all 32 teams had injury concerns about Polk. They apparently don’t think he can survive for very long in the NFL. His shoulder, hip and legs were all considered to be weak/damaged and there were even rumors of a degenerative condition. General managers and personnel men have to do what they think is right and find the right value for their owners’ dollars. So if they made the call that their precious draft picks and salary cap dollars were not worth the risk that Chris Polk would produce in the NFL, I understand that. It maybe a bad decision but is not something I find innately unfair. What I do find unfair is the NFL rule that states that a player should be at least three years removed from high school to be eligible for the NFL draft.
Whatever condition Chris Polk is suspected of suffering from, likely came from one of the 769 time he carried the ball for the University of Washington. Chris Polk looked ready to carry the ball for an NFL team in 2009. He could have carried the ball 700 odd times for an NFL team and a million fantasy football rosters while making some money for himself and his family. He was restricted from doing so by a rule that while sometimes well-intentioned (protecting teenage bodies from contact and collisions with much heavier adults), acts as an arbitrary obstacle to some people’s pursuit of a job and happiness. Pundits feign outrage on the college athlete who turns pro too soon. The NBA’s one-and-done rule is spoken of like a huge boon to society and welfare and there is often talk that the rule/restriction needs to be extended to two years. I am amused and saddened that there isn’t as much outrage over restricting the rights of NFL-ready top caliber athletes.
NFL players have incredibly short career spans. A mounting volume of concussion research suggests that a large, continuous number of collisions can cause as much or more damage to the brain as blows considered concussions. For running backs, the odds of a career ending injury are really high considering the number of collisions and contact plays they are a part of. If a running back thinks he is ready for contact and collisions with NFL-caliber players and a team deems him worthy as well, why not let him? Why should he continue to risk career and limb in the NFL’s ‘farm system’ for no pay?
Chris Polk was a victim of taking on more responsibility while in college and being a successful running back. Chris Polk is a victim of a stupid rule that would raise the ire of millions if it was employed in domains such as movies, music and technology? A 17-year-old who creates a killer app or an 18-year-old who belts out a smash single will be glorified by the media and cheered on by adoring millions. Any attempts to cap earnings in these situations would be treated with the sort of scorn reserved for birthers and truthers. Somehow though the NFL gets by with this. A complicit media plays along and a talented running back who did all that was asked for him thru three years in school on the field and off it, has his big payday delayed.
Polk was eventually picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent. Odds are slim but there is still a decent chance that Polk will make the roster and be a productive back in the NFL. When Fall 2012 rolls around, I will be checking the Eagles’ box score every Sunday. Here’s hoping Chris Polk gets the last laugh!
Go Polk, Go!