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Saturday, June 09, 2007
Daunte Culpepper: Walking Alone On and Off the Field
Yesterday was not a good day for Miami Dolphins quarterback Daunte Culpepper. The 30-year-old, who was supplanted as the team's starter earlier in the week upon the trade for Trent Green, was only allowed by Dolphins' officials to participate in individual drills during mini-camp; despite his desire to practice with his teammates, the coaching staff told him that he could not do so. Why? They thought that it would make sense to ease him back as he recovers from re-constructive knee surgery--especially as the front office tries to trade him with Green on the roster.
In response to the practice restrictions, Culpepper walked off the field, accompanied by a member of the Dolphins' security staff. Clearly, the frustration of losing his starting job, coupled with being separated from his teammates by team officials who thought he wasn't good enough to start, got to him, as it would to many players in that situation.
So how will the Dolphins and Culpepper work out their problems? A trade doesn't appear to be an option: Culpepper says that he will not report to any team that trades for him. Instead, he wants his outright release so that he can pick his next team. Aside from getting that choice, I suspect Culpepper might also want to see the Dolphins not get compensation for him. But the Dolphins don't want to release a player who has trade value. So both sides seem to lose here: Culpepper stays away from the team, perhaps looking selfish and not getting paid, while new Dolphins head coach Cam Cameron begins his coaching tenure with a much unwanted distraction, and also subject to criticism that he needlessly embarrassed Culpepper when precluding him from team practice.
Where is Culpepper's agent in this story? He's always there with Culpepper . . . . because he is Culpepper. Culpepper is one of the few NFL players who acts as his own agent. The upside to such an arrangement is momentary: Culpepper doesn't have to pay a fee to an agent, which can be as high as 3 percent of his salary.
But would he be better off with an agent? In the abstract, without knowing who that agent might be or his/her talents, it's hard to know how he/she would compare to Culpepper acting as his own agent. But it seems reasonable to conclude that an agent would be especially helpful when one finds himself angry with his team. An agent can work to diffuse the tension, acting as an intermediary or buffer between the player and team, and also develop a public relations strategy to deal with media. Those points seem particularly true considering what social psychology teaches us about how poorly we understand ourselves and the ways in which our minds work (to read further about that topic, please check out The Situationist and the Harvard Law School Project on Law and Mind Sciences)--if there is ever a time when one needs counsel, it's during crisis. While it's possible that Culpepper may have an attorney or other adviser, the press reports I've read do not indicate that he does. We'll see what happens.
Update (7:20 p.m.): Late this afternoon, Culpepper released a press release that he said he wrote. In it, he reiterated his demand for a release and insisted that he will not practice with the Dolphins. However, he said that he will still attend Dolphins' training camp to workout and lift weights. Also, in a move that would make Rick Karcher proud, Culpepper has asked for and received counsel from the NFLPA on this matter (Rick has written extensively about unions, rather than agents, representing players):