Bruschi tells rookies to avoid draft event

The NFL Players Association has been vilified for recommending prospects give next month's draft ceremony at Radio City Music Hall the ol' Heisman stiff-arm -- or act like Deion Sanders in the path of an oncoming power back.

Stay away.

Detractors assert the union -- I mean, "trade association" -- wants rookies to throw away a special moment they'll never get back. No walking across the stage. No shaking the commissioner's hand. No putting on his team's ballcap amid the flashbulbs. No holding up the No. 1 jersey.

That would be a shame.

ESPN analyst and former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi hotly disagrees with the criticism.

In a column for ESPNBoston.com, Bruschi explained his hard-line stance.

Bruschi wrote:

What these rookies have to force themselves to realize is that this year in the NFL is more important than them. The NFLPA is fighting not only for their benefit, but for future NFL players who are not even in high school yet. It's what Reggie White did and what Gene Upshaw did.

Bruschi also explained how the decisions of quarterbacks Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert will be in the spotlight even more. They are on the verge of franchise leadership positions, and Bruschi claimed their new teammates would withhold respect.

Bruschi also appeared on a recent episode of "NFL Live" and debated the topic with Darren Woodson.

Bruschi said: "It's unfortunate that they have to do this, but this is the league as it is right now. It's unfortunate that they're so young that they already have to make a statement and already sort of have to choose sides, whether it's the players' association or the NFL. Which event will they go to? But I feel it's their responsibility because of the players that were before them that laid the groundwork for the deal that they're going to have, that they have to show solidarity and be one with the players that aren't going to be there."

Woodson countered: "I look at it and say 'Shame on the NFLPA for even putting these kids in this situation.' There's no way these kids should have to make a choice on whether to go to the draft or not go to a draft or do whatever the NFLPA wants them to do. ... Allow them to go and have a good time with their friends and family and then move on from there. But right now, they are not a part of this union."