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So many times we hear about off the field issues with athletes. The headlines too often go like this: “Pacman Jones Questioned in Triple Shooting”, “Another Bengal Gets Locked Up”, “Dominic Rhodes Arrested For DUI”, etc., etc.  It’s as though the news isn’t really just the news.  The news may as well be called “bad news” because apparently bad news is what most are interested in.
Bad news sells.
But what about the good things that athletes do in the community?  Why don’t we hear more about those? Are those things expected and/or taken for granted and therefore they really don’t qualify as “news?”
Did you know that Derrick Mason established a foundation in his name to provide at-risk children and families in the Nashville area with opportunities to pursue their dreams? The foundation also provides interactive programs and events that directly benefit children who face serious challenges in their lives.
Did you know that Ed Reed established the Eye of the Hurricane Foundation to give back to his community?  He holds football camps at Destrehan (LA) High School and assists youth programs in his hometown.  Locally Reed adopted Booker T. Washington Middle School in Baltimore. He visits the school regularly and provides tickets to students for Ravens home games.
Yet instead of learning more about how these players give back, our collective attention too often gravitates towards the negative. Many will instead opt to gripe about Derrick Mason’s voiced frustrations with the Ravens’ offense and the lack of activity he experienced within it in ’06.  We will look at Ed Reed as being less than appreciative of an organization that made him a wealthy man when he inferred that the Ravens have been “shady” in their dealings with Adalius Thomas.
I guess that when things are as they are supposed to be or expected to be, there’s little to discuss.  Together we just sit back and admire and say very little.  But when things go awry, let the debate begin.
One debate that has already begun but will surely hit a feverish pitch by midnight tomorrow is the debate over whether or not to tag Adalius Thomas.  As an organization the Ravens have philosophical issues when it comes to the franchise tag as it relates to players like AD.
Let’s face it – AD is one of a kind. 
He’s a physiological freak; he redefines the meaning of versatility; he is extremely humble; a great teammate; a leader who is intelligent, selfless and a family man who genuinely enjoys giving back to his community.  What team in their right mind wouldn’t want an AD?
The answer is none. 
The question is, “Who can afford him?”
And the answer to that question unfortunately is, “Not the Ravens.”
Realistically, can the Ravens defense play much better than it did last season?  Can they stay as healthy as they did in ’06 in ’07?  Chances are they probably can’t and if that is your reasonable conclusion then what evidence is there to suggest that the Ravens can be any better than a one and done playoff team in ’07?
The only way for the team to go deeper into the playoffs is to get better on offense and hope that the other players on the defensive roster together with Rex Ryan can scheme and perform in such away to offset the likely loss of AD.  If the team invests the dollars it will take to retain AD, how can it measurably improve the offense?
And who can blame AD for seeking his big pay day?  He’s given so much and now he wants to cash in on his hard work and dedication for the long-term betterment of his family.  Who among us wouldn’t want to do that?
And the reality is the Ravens don’t really want to deny this man of that opportunity.  It was different with Chris McAlister who lacked the emotional maturity that AD has mastered.
We’re all about to experience the sobering aspect of the NFL’s salary cap era.  While it is certainly the straw that stirs competitive balance and adds to the game’s overall appeal, the collateral damage of the salary cap often includes players with whom we have emotional ties as fans.  The 49er fans felt it with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Ronnie Lott; the Cowboys’ with Emmitt Smith; the Chargers’ with Junior Seau.
Yet with AD, he seems to have a bit more life and a bit more fuel in his career tank than the aforementioned players did upon their departures which makes AD’s expected exodus that much more frustrating. 
Business is business.
But even so, one has to wonder why the Ravens wouldn’t pull out the franchise tag trump card on AD, trade him to a team of his choosing and then soften the blow of his loss with a high end draft pick, much like the Jets did with John Abraham last year.
They could.
Perhaps they should but apparently they won’t.
Maybe this is the Ravens way of being selfless for a player who redefines the meaning of selflessness.
Sometimes the right thing to do is often the hardest thing to do.
It won’t be the same in 2007 AD.

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Tony Lombardi

About Tony Lombardi

Tony is 24×7 Networks, LLC’s founder (the parent of EutawStreetReport.com and RussellStreetReport.com) His work has been featured on various sports websites and he is a regular guest on 105.7 The Fan and he hosts “The Fanimal” also heard on 105.7 The Fan, Saturdays from 8-9AM. Among his favorite things in life are his wife, kids, family, friends, The Beatles, Breaking Bad, Gladiator, The Godfather, Guinness, orange crushes, meatballs and Key West, not necessarily in that order. Follow Tony on Twitter @RSRLombardi.

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