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Jets DE Sheldon Richardson skips OTAs, bashes critics

New York Jets standout defensive end Sheldon Richardson is the latest NFL player embroiled in a controversy over his absence from nominally voluntary offseason practices.

After skipping two sessions this week and returning to OTAs on Thursday, Richardson took to Twitter on Friday to remind hypercritical fans that meaningful football games won't be played for more than three months.

Players fought for a limit of 10 voluntary OTA workouts in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, but that hasn't stopped coaches from making a public push for their attendance.

Just last week Bills running backs coach Anthony Lynn expressed concern that Bryce Brown would fall behind his teammates after missing voluntary practices.

The reason for Brown's absence? The birth of his child.

Beyond the public pressure applied by coaches, there are two major reasons for NFL fans' over-the-top reactions to skipping voluntary practices.

As always, money is the driving factor. Once inflated television revenues poured in, the NFL became a year-round commitment. Whereas players often worked second jobs in the 1960s and early '70s, superstars of the 1980s and '90s realized they needed to remain at peak strength during the offseason to keep up with the competition -- in terms of bank accounts and on-field success.

That commitment increased in the 21st century, with small corporations such as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald and Ray Lewis taking nutrition, weight training, film watching and their own passing, receiving or defensive camps to an even higher level.

An underrated factor is the media's role as a watchdog, complicit in delivering the coaching staff's not-so-subtle prodding while inflaming the local fanbase's passions.

Perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh's routine absences from offseason practices dominated Lions news coverage in May and June the past few years. The Dolphins were all too happy to reward him as the highest-paid defensive player in the game.

If Richardson makes it to the open market in a couple of years, his absence from voluntary workouts will be treated as the picayune minutia that is ignored for 10 months out of every year.

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, the NFL's increasingly voracious news cycle refuses to acknowledge an offseason.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Geno Smith and the Jets' QB position and much, much more with special co-host Colleen Wolfe. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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