Zack Follett: When Will NFL Players Learn To Just Shut Up?

Ryan FallerAnalyst IJanuary 26, 2011

Zach Follett spent much of Tuesday virally fending off criticism and explaining his comments about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Zach Follett spent much of Tuesday virally fending off criticism and explaining his comments about Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Zack Follett and Matthew Stafford have patched things up.

Actually, if you believe Follett, there was never a problem between the two.

Follett, the second-year Detroit Lions linebacker, says there was no malicious intent behind his “china doll” comments made to a Fresno radio station Tuesday in reference Stafford’s injury-riddled first two years in the NFL.

His words misconstrued to be a jab at Stafford, Follett cleared the air somewhat on 97.1 FM in Detroit not so long after the initial interview, saying he meant only to refer to Stafford’s plight as bad luck and in no way questions the quarterback’s ability to play through pain.

But, of course, to illustrate his point, a Jay Cutler comparison was in order.

“I’m glad we have Matt Stafford instead of the Bears quarterback because [Stafford] goes out there and plays with separated shoulders and wins games,” Follett told the station’s Mike Valenti.

Continuing on, to appease the members of his social media army, Follett then published a retraction on his Twitter account not so long after the interview, writing he has “no room to talk” when it comes to injures.

Follett, a seventh-round selection from California in the 2009 NFL Draft, registered 21 tackles in five games this season as the Lions’ starting outside linebacker, but sat out the final 10 games after suffering a neck injury against the Giants on Oct. 17.

He was placed on injured reserve days later, after it was determined a disc in his back had been damaged. Now, it is feared Follett, who admitted neck and back injuries in college may have caused him to slip in the draft, may be done playing football forever.

The retraction would have been enough.

Unfortunately, like many NFL players, Follett felt the need to exhaust every electronic platform at his disposal and, in the process, has riled the beast he had hoped to quiet.

Or perhaps that never really was his intention. To be honest, it’s hard to tell.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Follett posted a video to his Vimeo account, in which he assures viewers that he and Stafford have spoken and that Stafford accepts the incident as harmless, made entirely too important and worthy of attention by the meddling media.

That takes up the first 90 seconds. The remainder of the video, well over five minutes in length, is a theological soul-searching of sorts, in which Follett reaffirms his religion, likens the back-and-forth of Tuesday’s events to a war waged between good and evil and asserts Satan would prefer he respond in kind to the “arrows” slung by his detractors, in this case the media.

For Follett, the video was nothing new. The transparent theme in each of his 27 other posts is that he is a devout Christian who is not afraid to broadcast how large a role his faith has played, and continues to play, in his life.

And certainly, kudos to him for that. Freedom to express one’s religious beliefs has become a villainous and nearly taboo practice nowadays.

But the viral nature in which Follett has addressed his comments about Stafford seems to have exasperated and inadvertently leaked what at least one writer feels were already concerns inside Lions Park about the durability of the former No. 1 draft pick, who has suffered three separate shoulder injuries and one to his knee.

Stafford, who signed a six-year contract worth $41.7 million guaranteed upon being selected from Georgia first overall, has made only 13 starts in two seasons.

Follett’s no worse than the numerous players who digitally expressed their disdain for Cutler’s perceived lack of toughness and competitive fire during the NFC Championship.

But the whole saga, from the radio interview to the Web video, only reinforces the idea that bad things happen when chatty athletes voice their opinions without pause or do so with a mouse and an unsteady click finger.

It’s almost as if putting your foot in your mouth is no longer possible.