The day after they published another standard, relentlessy critical article to fuel your ongoing anti-Raiders media bias theories, Sports Illustrated turned to six-year NFL veteran Ross Tucker for a provoking, thoughtful Raiders article addressing a broader, emerging trend in the NFL. Players are more and more deferring to their personal doctors and second opinions over the recommendations of team doctors, leading to yet-unchartered medical disputes between players and teams.
This matter relates immediately to the Raiders as veteran receiver Javon Walker sat out this weekend's Raiders minicamps with the surprise news that he was recovering from unannounced surgery to his right knee. Walker had the unspecified knee operation without the knowledge or consent of Oakland team doctors. David White reports in the Chronicle that Walker will now be out until at least training camp.
There's a verbatim transcript of Walker's remarks to reporters at Phil Barber's Santa Rosa Press-Democrat blog. When asked why he never informed the Raiders about this surgery, Walker does hilariously try the "They had the draft and everything coming up" excuse. But some of his other remarks are resonant. "I was going to make a decision based off what was going to be beneficial for me, and it was nothing to do with the team," Walker noted. "When I was contemplating not playing football anymore, it wasn't that I didn't want to play football. I still got a love for the game. It was that I was going to retire from the pain."
The Sports Illustrated article presents Walker's situation as a landmark precedent-setter, with Ross Tucker writing that "the Raiders have to punish Javon Walker." But you know what, Mr. Tucker? No, they don't. They're the Raiders. Raider players can punch their own punter in the face and not get reprimanded, and then that punter will even sign right back on to another four-year contract.
But Tucker sees the Javon Walker affair as a moped-wreck caliber violation. "His secret surgery is virtually unprecedented and a clear violation of the standard NFL player contract, which requires the player to make the club aware of any health issues he is having or medical people he consults," Tucker writes.
At the same time, the reliability of team doctors can be legitimately questioned. Consider the case of Kellen Winslow, Jr., one of an astonishing six Cleveland Browns to contract staph infection in fewer than four years at Browns medical facilities. Including Winslow, who caught a staph infection, beat it, and then contracted it at again at another Browns facility.
That's not to say this could happen in Alameda, but if it happened to one franchise then all players for all franchises have a right to be measured and cautious in taking medical advice.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who would rather have Javon Walker taking unnecessary foot precautions than unnecessarily spraying champagne at people who will later that evening find him and rob him and beat the hell out of him.