John Smallwood: Yo Lito Sheppard, it's just business in the NFL

OSTENSIBLY, NONE of the complaints Lito Sheppard had about his final season in Philadelphia was wrong.

The other day, Sheppard, the wayward cornerback who was traded to the New York Jets, blistered the Eagles organization to Newsday.

Sheppard said he felt betrayed by the Eagles , and that the issues from last season, when he was made persona non grata, happened because he dared to want to reopen negotiations on his contract.

"After my second Pro Bowl season [in 2006], it started going downhill when I addressed the fact that I felt like I wanted a new deal," Sheppard said.

Sheppard went on to say that Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown, who recently asked to be traded, should expect to go through a similar experience.

"I talked to [Brown] and told him it's the same thing I was going through . . . He ultimately won't even be playing before the end of the season," Sheppard told the newspaper.

"It's a known fact. I hope they prove me wrong."

Sheppard is probably right.

The Eagles made a draft-day trade with the New England Patriots for cornerback Ellis Hobbs and reportedly offered Brown in a trade to the Arizona Cardinals.

I don't think it would surprise anyone if Brown were slowly phased out of the Eagles' plans.

As I said earlier, I wouldn't argue with anything Sheppard said.

But if Sheppard believes this type of reaction to a complaining player is somehow exclusive to the Eagles , he is mistaken.

You would think that by now, after seven seasons in the NFL, Sheppard would understand his place in the business he chose to make his profession.

Porterhouse, filet mignon, rib eye or New York strip - ultimately, that's how Sheppard and every other player in the NFL is viewed by management.

Players are products, pieces of meat, commodities to be cherished when they are at their highest value and then quickly discarded as circumstances change.

It's not a philosophy exclusive to the Eagles , or even to the NFL.

It's not even exclusive to the world of professional sports.

What happened to Sheppard is simply the way business works.

Ask an automotive worker in Detroit who has been laid off.

Ask the businessmen and white-collar workers who are standing in unemployment lines.

Ask some of my fellow journalist who have gone to work in the morning and then gotten a phone call in the afternoon telling them they no longer had a job.

Sheppard's thinking - that because he was a good soldier and rarely complained, that because he worked hard and did what was asked, that because he was a former Pro Bowl player earned him some kind of special dispensation - was extremely naive.

And for him to think that somehow the Jets will treat him differently if his performance isn't at the level they expect is ridiculous.

If Sheppard isn't what the Jets expect him to be, he will be complaining to another newspaper in another city about how unfair things were for him in New York.

I think the most conclusive evidence that Sheppard is out of touch with reality is when he suggested the NFL should do something to make it easier for players to rework their contracts.

"I wish the league would do something," he said. "You feel like you're doing everything right, perfect teammate, working hard, doing everything you're supposed to do, but it doesn't work out in the end.

"There should be some rules of guidelines. You shouldn't be able to devalue an employee like that . . .

"Whenever a guy feels like he needs a new deal, if he addresses that, don't make it like, 'You don't tell us what to do. We have to show you who's boss.'

"That's dead wrong."

And that's exactly how management wants it - not just the Eagles , but every team in the NFL and every team in every professional sports league on the planet.

The NFL doesn't even give guaranteed contracts. What makes Sheppard think it has any interest in making it easier for players to renegotiate on demand?

I know professional sports are a fantasy world, but I can't believe Sheppard is so lost in Neverland that he doesn't understand the reality of the business.

Pieces of meat - that's how management views players.

You start out as filet mignon, but immediately begin depreciating toward being viewed as a quarter-pound burger served with medium fries and a soft drink. *

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 18, 2009