It's time to end the charade

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

If the NFL ever gets around to agreeing on a new CBA with its players, isn't it time to end the joke that the silly summer season has become?

On Thursday, the Oakland Raiders became the second team this week to be sanctioned by the league for violating the rules of the organized team activity, or OTA as the players have come to loathe it.

Earlier it was the Ravens who were busted, apparently after a handful of players -- dubbed the Rat Pack in Baltimore -- squealed on coach John Harbaugh for up to 10 hours of work on what were supposed to be "voluntary" days.

There's nothing truly optional about them, of course. If players skip, they are not so subtly held in contempt by management and often pay the price. If they show up, they best do as they are told or risk the consequences later on.

The OTAs received more negative attention in Cincinnati on Thursday when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer ripped diva receiver Chad Ochocinco for not showing.

"It would be great to have our No. 1 receiver here and working him and building it around him," Palmer said.

At age 32, Ochocinco is entering the final year of his contract and has often been in the news for being less than content in Cinci.

Two years ago he asked to be traded and was denied and trails only Terrell Owens as the NFL's most annoying personality.

As for Palmer's comments, it didn't take long for Ochocinco to reply via Twitter.

"I missed what my quarterback said about me not being at (practices) they aren't even mandatory," Ochocinco wrote. "Football is second nature, living my life will always be first ... when its time to play (I) will be ready."

The NFL and NFLPA could avoid all this silliness, of course, by simply ending the charade of having the non-mandatory off-season sessions. Most teams will have mandatory mini-camps over the next two weeks. It's time to either extend them or add a second session and scrap the sham that the optional practices have become.

SO LONG SCHOBEL?

It is sounding like the feeling is mutual between both sides but one of the few bright lights on the Buffalo Bills for the past decade, defensive end Aaron Schobel, looks like he's done in Western New York.

"I'm leaning toward not playing, but I don't want to make a decision and then change my mind," Schobel told the Associated Press on Thursday.

"For the Bills, I'd just tell them to go on without me."

The nine-year pro -- who has spent all of those seasons in Buffalo -- said he has not spoken with the team in two months and will not take part in the Bills' attendance-required mini-camp in two weeks.

Schobel was a two-time Pro Bowl selection on a team that didn't make the post season once in his career.

His 78 sacks are second on the all-time franchise list behind only Bruce Smith.

BETTING BOARD

There are any number of ways bookies will take your action on the NFL but one of the most amusing is the fact you can bet Week 1 lines in the middle of June.

In the showcase game of the season-opening slate, the Saints are four-point favourites at home to reprise the NFC Championship game win over the Vikings. In Buffalo, the Bills will be two-point underdogs to the visiting Miami Dolphins. And how about this for one of two Monday nighters: The Jets are three-point picks over the visiting Ravens.

QUICK KICKS

Jets coach Rex Ryan never misses a chance at a laugh. After throwing out the first pitch at a Mets game earlier this week, Ryan showed the New York media a split-screen video of his action, comparing his form to Washington Nationals phenom Steven Strasburg ... Another day, another retirement. This time Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad is packing it in after 14 years in the league, most of those with the Panthers. "I've done everything I could possibly do in an NFL career outside of actually winning a championship ring," Muhammad said. "I've played in two Super Bowls, I have Super Bowl records. I'm full, I'm fulfilled. I'm at peace with my decision."

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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