Cortland Finnegan is no dummy. Guys who make it in the NFL after being drafted in the seventh round don’t do so on athletic ability alone.
Finnegan definitely has made it. In five seasons since he was selected 215th overall, he has played in all but three games and has been a starter for more than three-quarters of his career. He has been to the Pro Bowl and intercepted at least one pass in four straight seasons — twice he’s picked off five.
So there’s no reason to think he hasn’t put that mind to good use in recent months.
Take his efforts to keep Tennessee Titans players organized while NFL owners have them locked out, as they have been for nearly 100 days now. On the surface, it looks like a veteran guy doing his part to try to make the team competitive. No doubt he has been successful, given the number of players who showed up recently for two days of workouts — a number that surprised even most of those who took part. Heck, he got Chris Johnson to show. Even Jeff Fisher couldn’t make that happen.
Look a little deeper, though.
Finnegan has one year remaining on his current contract, and barring some really unlikely resolution to the lockout, he’ll be a free agent after the 2011 season, whenever it starts or ends. Virtually everyone agrees that the new collective bargaining agreement will include some kind of cap on rookie salaries and more money for veteran players.
In other words, Finnegan is in line for a big payday, provided he can convince the Titans — or some other team, if need be — of his value.
What’s more valuable than a productive player who not only is willing to work hard to stay in shape while on his own, but he’s also putting in the effort to see that others are doing the same?
There are times when Finnegan’s mind gets him into trouble. Sometimes on the field, he thinks too much and guesses what’s going to happen rather than just reacting to what he sees. That results in the occasional big play for the opposition.
Off the field, he tends to read too much into media coverage and takes offense to slights that are not actually there. At one point last season, his anger led him to boycott most media for weeks, but he was smart enough to start talking again days before details of his charity event were released.
This was not a charity event.
At a time when seemingly everybody — players, owners, you name it — is looking out for themselves, Finnegan is no different. He simply has done it better than most. Finnegan has not acted simply out of the goodness of his heart in recent weeks. He’s created a scenario where a new coaching staff likely will feel indebted to him for his efforts.
In other words, Finnegan has played the game throughout this most unusual of offseasons, one in which many fear that some regular season games will be lost to the work stoppage.
Give the guy credit. He was smart enough to seize an opportunity where most probably never even thought to look for one. If it works the way he hopes, those smarts will serve him well as he counts all his money.