Plus, Eugene Monroe speaks out in support of marijuana, the Jaguars’ mini-camp strategy, Doug Baldwin, Steve Gleason’s film, Cam Newton and Oprah, and more from around the football world
1. I think Snapchat is allowing for a new level of access into players’ personal lives. This offseason, I started following a few different players who are particularly active on Snapchat, an app that allows you to post 10-second videos and photos to your “story” to show your followers what you’re up to that day. The posts disappear after 24 hours. From a media perspective, the amount of access players give into their personal lives on this platform is shocking to me. Team PR might deny an interview request, but on Snapchat that same player gives a full tour of his house, or posts a video of a Nerf gun fight with his kids. Players share every detail of their offseason workouts, so much so that you have to wonder how they are getting any work done while holding the phone in front of their face. During a Snapchat of his workout, Antonio Brown revealed his pet name for his calves (“mangos”). Use it in a sentence: Brown calls this time of the offseason “mango season,” because he’s building up his calves.
Teammate Le’Veon Bell appears shirtless and dripping with sweat in 90 percent of his posts, and he even brings his Snapchat audience into his bedroom, posting videos of himself snuggling in bed with his Rottweilers, Beautiful and Buddy. Players have few boundaries on Snapchat; Khalil Mack often posts videos of himself rapping in the car while driving (for your own safety, hope you never end up driving in the vicinity of Mack) and videos ripping shots with pals at bars. Von Miller and Brown take Snapchat followers twirling with them at their Dancing with the Stars rehearsals. It’s an entirely new level of access available to anyone with a phone, and it’s changing the way players interact with their fans. There’s no mediator, and unlike Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it’s clear these players are the ones posting and controlling their accounts. (And because of that, I think it’s only a matter of time before one of them posts something that lands them in a sticky situation…)
2. I think Eugene Monroe’s public endorsement of medical marijuana for NFL players will have an impact. In March, the Ravens left tackle became the first active NFL player to advocate for the use of medical marijuana in the NFL. This month, he donated $80,000 to a Johns Hopkins and University of Pennsylvania research study on how cannabis affects football players. It’s interesting that a player who will be fighting for his starting spot (the Ravens used the draft’s sixth overall pick on Ronnie Stanley, their presumptive left tackle of the future) would so publicly come out in support of medical marijuana. Monroe regularly tweets out medical marijuana facts that point out the league’s failure to keep up with the current times:
It’s refreshing to hear the voice of an active player, and one who has never been suspended for a marijuana violation, urging the league to at least consider updating its archaic marijuana policy. Monroe’s personal website lists his mission statement: I’m calling for the NFL to remove marijuana from the banned substances list; fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE; and stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the Baltimore Sun that Monroe’s stance does not reflect the Ravens organization’s stance. It will be interesting to see if the stance Monroe, who has missed 15 games over the past two seasons, is taking shortens his time with the Ravens. Regardless, he is a trailblazer in this, and I’ll be following him closely as he balances his status as an active NFL player and an advocate for medical marijuana use. Currently, no other active players have joined his cause, but if his 2016 season starts smoothly, I think others will soon follow.
3. I think teams should follow Miami’s lead and eliminate on-field drills at rookie mini-camp. I know the Jaguars are unique in their unlucky streak of injuries at rookie mini-camp, but the risk of playing football in May is too great for these new pros. Because of losing 2015 first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. for the season after an injury suffered in mini-camp last spring, Jacksonville decreased the amount of on-field practice time and focused on meetings at this year’s mini-camp (rebranded “rookie orientation”). And yet, they still lost seventh-round pick Jonathan Woodard to an achilles tear, and first-round pick Jalen Ramsey needed surgery to repair a meniscus tear. I think teams should stick to walk-throughs, and avoid full physical contact drills until training camp; it’s just not worth the risk of losing a high-round pick for the season.
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4. Another Jaguars note: I think more teams should replicate Jacksonville’s three-day camp in England to develop amateur European players. In July, Jacksonville coaches and some alumni players like All-Pro tackle Tony Boselli will travel to Loughborough, England to hold the team’s first-ever developmental camp for 200 players, age 18-24. An amateur Swedish player who is registered for the camp posted a sincere thank you note to the Jags on NFL Reddit. With their large U.K. fan base, the Jaguars are the perfect team to test this concept first. Who knows, they just might discover the next Moritz Boehringer.
5. Last week I got a chance to attend a screening of Gleason, the documentary that follows former Saint Steve Gleason’s life with ALS. Although I didn’t cry as often as Peter King (six times, when he saw the film at Sundance earlier this year), the film makes you feel things you usually try to avoid feeling. I think America is going to love Gleason, and though I can’t write much about it right now, I can say I was shocked by the raw vulnerability Gleason and his family showed the cameras. There were no limits. One scene in particular that stuck with me was one of the many video diaries for Steve’s son Rivers: Steve looks straight into the camera and confesses that he’s had a bad day. By this point, Steve is desperately holding on to his ability to speak, but losing control of it each day. Slowly, he forces out his words; he’s miserable and because of that he’s mean to the people who love him and are trying to care for him. His mouth twists up and begins to cry as he explains his fear of losing his ability to talk. He details the frustration of not being able to satisfy the feeling of wanting to punch something. At the close of the video diary, Gleason says, “All I can do is scream!” And then he lets out a loud wail as the tears stream down his face.
6. I think it’s powerful when players use Twitter to call out the league. Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin tweeted this on Monday, in response to the congressional report that said the NFL “improperly attempted to influence” concussion research.
In her comprehensive look at the issue, Jenny Vrentas wrote that the congressional report “further erodes an already thin player and public trust in the arena of health and safety.” I think Baldwin’s tweet proves that point about player trust in the NFL. Although Jenny’s story points out this isn’t a black and white issue, Baldwin is right to publicly question the NFL for a lack of transparency. And when I see players take to Twitter to publicly call out the league, I always wonder what the private conversations amongst themselves must be like...
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7. I think that the Bills’ new media policy for OTAs, prohibiting reporters from doing the most basic part of the job (reporting!), is absurd. The new media policy prohibits writing about nearly every detail in any practice. No reporting on who is on the first team, second team, or who is “rushing the passer, dropped passes, INT's, QB completion percentage, etc." Here are excerpts from the new policy:
By this point, all NFL writers are totally unfazed by weirdly restrictive media policies (I was told by several teams last season that selfie sticks would be prohibited at training camp practices...) but this one from the Bills is on another level. I love this tweet from Bills ESPN.com writer Mike Rodak, mocking the new rules:
The last pass of day by a quarterback not named Taylor or Jones was intercepted by a player wearing a jersey with the absolute value of -50.— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) May 24, 2016
8. I think I don’t understand the hesitancy to allow plays to be studied via video on tablets on the sideline. The NFL tabled the proposal for the 2016 season at the spring league meeting Tuesday in Charlotte. Under current rules, teams can only view still images on the sideline. Every team would have the same access to this technology, with the ability to review the game as it is happening. What’s not to like?
9. I think there’s no chance Johnny Manziel will play in NFL again. TMZ’s Manziel beat team must be putting in for a lot of overtime lately. Last week the website reported Manziel was kicked out of a Vegas nightclub for throwing a punch after getting shoved from behind. Recent photos of the former Browns quarterback show him looking really skinny and tatted up, reminiscent of an early 2000s Kevin Federline. In other words, nowhere near playing shape. My prediction: In two years, he’s a Las Vegas Raiders season ticket holder.
10. Lastly, I think it was very nice of Cam Newton to lend Oprah’s partner, Stedman Graham, a shoe. The night before Oprah’s commencement speech at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, Graham realized he forgot one of his size 15 shoes. Oprah revealed in her speech that they couldn’t find anyone in the hotel with Graham’s unusual size. So they called up Cam Newton, and Superman came through late that night to lend Graham a size 14 shoe.
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