Questions on hot topics including Josh Freeman's fall from grace, long working hours for coaches, an NFL double standard and the varied uses of service dogs
ABOUT JOSH FREEMAN.Something seems to be missing here. Is it all about work ethic? Does Freeman really have such a bad reputation that no other team will take a chance on him, and if so, why did the Giants sign him at all when they just drafted a promising QB, Ryan Nassib, last year? I think it's an interesting contrast to Mark Sanchez, who seems to be slipping right into the backup role in Philly, despite several poor years and never having really proven himself, at least no more than Freeman in my opinion. Besides work ethic, is some of this due to the very different ways these two have reacted to adversity, Sanchez showing nothing but complete class, and Freeman maybe a little less so?
—Baruch, Beit Shemesh, Israel
I don’t think it really has much to do with class. I think it has much more to do with work ethic and performance. There is no way that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with a relatively new coach and in desperate need of a long-term quarterback, are going to give up on a young player less than a year removed from throwing for more than 4,000 yards unless they have serious concerns about his long-term performance. Now, in the span of eight months, three teams have given up on Freeman. You’re right. It is a very interesting story and there’s no question right now that Freeman is at the crossroads of even having a career.
ABOUT SERVICE DOGS. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass this along to Mr. Law based on his commentary regading the not-so-creatively named "poopgate." While he may believe that dog was "serving no purpose" and the owner was '"walking fine,'" he (and you) may want to consider that appearances are not necessarily what they seem. Not all service dogs are there to assist with physical ailments, and while I didn't see the woman and can't attest to her condition, an assumption that because she appeared to be mobile therefore doesn't require a service dog is an extremely flawed one and frankly disappointing coming from someone working in a production job on a network that claims to break news. For instance, there are many organizations (a list can be found here) that provide service dogs to military veterans who may outwardly appear to be "fine" as Mr. Law may attest, but in reality suffer from PTSD and that service dog is a vital aid in helping them cope. My guess: The laugh track that Mr. Law seems to have been running in his head may not have been so funny to the woman experiencing it. It sounds as if she was extremely apologetic to the point of offering to purchase a gift card for affected passengers out of her own pocket, and your complete lack of empathy for the sake of comedy in running that "piece" was disappointing. I have come to expect better from you than to entertain "poop" jokes.
—Jason, Weston, Fla.
Many people posted similar opinions today on this topic—both in emails and on Twitter. I understand the frustration of those who would say that Chris Law doesn’t understand the wide variety of reasons why service dogs may be necessary. All he was doing was making an observation that the woman seemed fine and having no need for a service dog. Now he understands, and my readers do too, that service dogs can also be used by people who appear perfectly fine, but have some sort of hidden malady that makes a service dog a necessity.
WHY DO COACHES WORK OVERTIME? A friend and I were just talking about coaches and the crazy hours they keep. I was hoping you could give some insight on that. What do these guys do for 14-16 (or more!) hours a day? Isn't there only so much film you can watch before your brain just turns to fudge? Bud Grant had a lot of success back in the 60's and 70's and I've read that he was home by 5 or 6 every night. Position coaches working 14-hour days? I honestly don't get that. Not saying they need to be 9-5 but again, there's only so much that needs to be done in a day. It's no wonder these guys face burnout after a while.
This is an interesting question and topic. I believe coaches have gotten caught up in an arms race. If San Diego coach Mike McCoy knows that Andy Reid in Kansas City is sleeping on the couch in his office and pulling all-nighters twice a week, he’s going to be more inclined to burn the midnight oil in the office. Football is such a complicated game to figure out sometimes that most people (I believe) are interested in making sure that they look at every last possibility that could come up in a game no matter how long it takes them. In Bud Grant’s day, two generations ago, coaches were home for dinner. But I don’t think there was an arms race then among coaches as there is now.
BLAMING WASHINGTON. There has been a ton of commentary on whether the NFL should be suspending players for marijuana. Do people not get that the issue here is not about marijuana? It is about a rule set by the NFL, and agreed to by the NFLPA, and the player choosing to repeatedly ignore it. I'm a Cardinals fan and I blame no one but Daryl Washington for his suspension; for being immature and selfish and not realizing he is part of something bigger than himself. Players like Washington and free agency are the reasons I do not have a favorite player; I am a Cardinals fan and that's where my loyalty lies. Obviously, Washington's loyalties are to the $2.5 million joint he smoked.
—Shane, Warner-Robins, Ga.
Well said. What is mind-boggling to me is that Washington signed a contract that called for him to get a $10 million bonus this year and he was either too addicted or too stupid to follow the tenets of the NFL’s drug program. I just simply can’t believe that a guy would put that much money at risk unless he has such severe demons at play and is such an addict that he cannot stop.
THE NFL'S DOUBLE STANDARD. I love your work and enjoyed reading your article on the NFL locker room challenge and had a question about it. There is an ongoing investigation with the Minnesota Vikings regarding Mike Priefer’s comments about gay people. This investigation has taken over 150 days and counting while the Jonathan Martin investigation was wrapped up in 100 days during a season. While the investigation is ongoing Mike Priefer has been retained as a coach during the formation of Mike Zimmer’s staff, participated in preparing the team for a draft where the Vikings passed on the first openly gay player, and is now instructing players during OTAs. Richie Incognito was suspended from the team during the investigation and was not allowed contact while the investigation went on. How can we take the NFL’s emphasis on proper locker room behavior in regards to gay people seriously when the Priefer investigation seems to be given a lower standard of treatment then the Incognito investigation. This sure seems like a double standard.
—Jesse H., Apple Valley, Minn.
You think it has been given a back seat in terms of urgency and relevance by the NFL. But you don’t know. Neither do I. I was in Minnesota in late March, and I was told the investigation is still ongoing. By the way your question was termed, you seem to think that it is a certainty that Chris Kluwe’s charges against Priefer are true. They may well be. But until the end of the investigation, I’ll choose to keep an open mind about who is telling the truth in this case. Now, I’ve had good interaction with Kluwe and I believe he is an extremely intelligent person and a good punter. But I think it’s only fair in this case that we let the investigation play out. If it turns out that Priefer is the guilty party here, then your questions are going to have significant validity. But again, I’m going to wait before I indict.
WARHAWK PRIDE. I encourage you to consider a shout-out to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for accomplishing a feat that no other team has achieved in NCAA history (as I understand it). UW-Whitewater just won the NCAA Division III College World Series, which gives them NCAA championships (Division III) in football, basketball and baseball all in the same school year.
Wow. I was totally unaware. And you’re right. Hats off to the Warhawks. That is a tremendous achievement.
ORTIZ INSENSITIVITY. I think it is more than a little ironic that in a column about changing locker room culture and making players more respectful and accountable for their behavior toward others you skim over Ortiz's childish and sexist comment regarding David Price. It's of the same order as Incognito, if not of the same magnitude. Why not just say Price is cheap, or reckless, or a very poor sportsman? You get my point. Other than that, I love your work, it's a highlight of Mondays, and sincere congratulations on your 25 years.
Thank you, I appreciate that. I heard from a lot of people today saying that I should not have given Ortiz a pass for what he said. With all due respect, it is ludicrous to compare the continued hazing of another human being on your team, doing things like telling that human being that you want to arrange group sex with his sister against her will, with a comment from David Ortiz that called David Price a little girl. I understand that I may have been a bit insensitive about the “little girl" and “little b----" comment by Ortiz. Thinking about it now, I probably just wouldn’t have used it. But the treatment of Martin and the comments by Ortiz are not comparable.
SONS AND FATHERS. I'm a sports broadcaster out here in San Francisco for 95.7 The Game. I was reading your piece & was suddenly overcome with emotion. You expressed your regret that your father never saw your accomplishments. I always knew I would be successful in this business. While my father was an enthusiast of following your dreams, he was very big on hard work and had his doubts. He believed in me though and I was always looking forward to the day I would validate that belief. He passed tragically exactly 800 days before my first time on-air and it kills me everyday. Just wanted to say that you're not alone and while your piece brought me to tears I'm thankful for the emotional outlet.
That’s really nice of you. I appreciate it. I go weeks without thinking of that, and then, when I think about it, suddenly I get emotional too. It’s probably the biggest sadness in my life, how early my father and my two brothers were taken from the Earth. We all have sadness that we must deal with, and that to me is as tough as it gets. Thanks a lot for your empathy.