Ten-Point Stance: Mike Freeman's NFL Notebook Heading into Week 1

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2013

Every week, the Ten-Point Stance takes a look inside the NFL. This week, the insider news, notes and quotes cover what NFL scouts are saying about Johnny Manziel, RG3's knee, the goofy Raiders and more.

1. Infuriating, Amazing

If you think Johnny Manziel is a polarizing figure in college, you should hear what's being said about him by some scouts on the NFL level.

There are two interesting things happening with Manziel within the league's scouting and team personnel community. First is that opinions of him as a jerk seem to be hardening. His antics this past week only served to feed the fuel that he isn't trustworthy as an NFL quarterback and doesn't learn from his mistakes. 

It also continues to bolster the narrative that he's a spoiled brat. In fact, one scout called him a "spoiled b----."

There are definitely some teams that have such a negative view of Manziel, he won't even be on their draft boards. This is a fact.

There is, of course, hypocrisy here. While Manziel is a baby and a severely immature man-child, he hasn't robbed any banks or beaten up a bunch of women, as other past draft picks have done. In the scouting community, there is, at times, more forgiveness for the worst traits of human nature than the more banal ones, like arrogance. That's fair. 

Manziel, however, has earned this distrust. The fear is that he can't be a team guy, and that trait seems to be a bigger indictment over failing a bunch of drug tests or committing grand theft auto.

I get that. You want guys who can be good teammates. Manziel is a jerk, but does that necessarily mean he can't be a good teammate? Maybe. Maybe not. Plenty of jackasses in the sport went on to the Hall of Fame. (Lawrence Taylor is near the top of the list.)

One scout called Manziel the "Terrell Owens of college quarterbacks." But there's no real proof he doesn't get along with teammates. At least not yet. 

Perhaps the bigger issue is how the view of Manziel's play seems to be shifting. In the past, scouts told me they didn't think he would be a good NFL quarterback. As these scouts have watched him more, they aren't so sure they were right. They claim to have seen throwing accuracy from him against Rice this past Saturday that they didn't think was there.

Sure, it was Rice, but it looks as if between the partying, allegedly skipping the Manning passing camp, and the autograph signing, Manziel has worked on his throwing accuracy. At least it seems like he did. 

It sounds as if Manziel's stock, once in the toilet, is at least fluctuating right now.

Again, some teams still absolutely hate him. But if he continues to play well, teams may hold their nose and draft him possibly higher than expected.

Before, I was hearing sixth round or undrafted. Now I'm hearing scouts say that as much as they dislike him, they admit he might go in the fifth or even fourth round because a team always believes it can transform a guy into a better player and person.

Manziel hurt himself—badly—with his antics against Rice. At the same time, the belief from some teams that his play is improving might save him.

Hold your nose and draft. That might be Manziel's future NFL story.

2. 'Teddy Bradwater'

Scouts are falling in lust with Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. The amount of accolades is almost ridiculous at this point.

One scout called him "Teddy Bradwater," after Terry Bradshaw, which is all kinds of overboard. Still, I get the slurping. Scouts that have spoken to Bridgewater say his personality reminds them of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. That is quite the compliment, as Wilson is one of the most studious and professional players in the NFL.

3. A Slow Sieve

Ted Thompson, the Green Bay Packers general manager, is among the smartest men in football. I think he's second to Ozzie Newsome.

In Ted We Trust? In Ted We Trust.

I also know the Packers made some changes to their defense to make it better, but this is the bottom line: It will still get absolutely obliterated by read-option teams. It's still a slower, heavier defense built to play in the snow against the Bears.

If I'm wrong, I'll apologize to Thompson in this same spot next week after Green Bay's opener against San Francisco.

While the Packers will do well in their division, once the playoffs come, they will still get elbowed in the face by the likes of Colin Kaepernick or RG3. The Packers will have to score 35 or 40 points to have a chance.

4. The Cutler Question

I'm hearing some Bears players aren't sure which Cutler they're going to see in Sunday's opener against the Bengals. The Bad Jay or the Good Jay? They truly don't know.

They've seen both make appearances all training camp. My guess is that Cutler is the way he is and the new coaching staff won't change that. The Bears will see the Cutler with the strong arm and fearlessness and accuracy, and they will see the knuckle-headed version as well. 

5. Belichick-speak

Bill Belichick has become almost amusing. This exchange with reporters this week when answering questions about Rob Gronkowski's health typifies Belichick's answers to the press, especially when it comes to talking injuries.

Reporter: How fair would it be to say that Rob Gronkowski has taken a step forward?

Belichick: This is his first opportunity to be in pads so, yes, he's definitely moving forward.

Reporter: What have you seen?

Belichick: He's day-to-day.

Reporter: Does he have a shot to play on Sunday?

Belichick: He's day-to-day.

Reporter: What do you need to see from him before you're willing to put him on a game field?

Belichick: We take it day-to-day. Evaluate tomorrow based on how today goes, see how it goes. See how tomorrow goes and deal with whatever that day is, Wednesday or Thursday or whatever day it is. We'll take it day-to-day...

Got all that?

I'm going to run Belichick's quotations through the Belichick translation matrix. Please stand by.

Translation: Gronk will be playing sooner than later. There's a small chance he plays this week, but he's almost certain to play next week. 

6. Technological Transformation

Robert Griffin III will start this week against Philadelphia, not so long after he tore ligaments in his knee at the end of last season. It's actually stunning that players like him and Adrian Peterson are coming back so quickly from an injury that was once practically career-ending.

When I first started covering football regularly in the early 1990s, a torn ACL meant you were gone for at least a year. Now, we're in the four-to-six-month range. In just a few years, it will have a two to three-month recovery time. 

"A generation ago before arthroscopic surgery, a torn ACL was a career-ender," said Dr. Ben Wedro, who blogs on sports-related and other medical issues. "Repair required the surgeon to filet open the knee and reconstruct the ligament and repair any other damage. Rehabilitation took well over a year and complications were expected to occur. Recurrent pain, stiffness and arthritis were a given.

"With the advent of minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery, a torn ACL is still a devastating injury, but the ability to return to a high level of competition is now an expectation. Rehabilitation time that once almost took a year has shrunk to 4-6 months.

"The key has been improvement in surgical techniques, where the ACL is replaced instead of repaired, and there's stronger graft fixation to the bone. This has allowed more aggressive physical therapy and allowed the committed athlete the ability to accelerate the rehab process."

I can see a time where, maybe 10 years from now, this will be a four-week injury. That's how fast things are changing.

My bet is that RG3 will be like Peterson. We won't see any significant drop-off. He's going to look similar to the RG3 of old. 

7. Everyone Has Postseason Hope*

I want you to consider that stat from Jerry Sullivan of The Buffalo News as the second reason the NFL is so popular (the violence of the sport being the first). That's a 50 percent turnover rate, and that is a huge reason why football is, and will be for the foreseeable future, so popular.

Your team can make the playoffs any given season.

(*Unless you're Cleveland or Buffalo or Oakland.)

8. Typical Raiders

Raiders coach Dennis Allen refused to name a starting quarterback for Sunday's game against Indianapolis. He did this citing "competitive reasons."

There were two reasons why this strategy was laughable. First, it was only a matter of time before the news got out, and sure enough, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Terrelle Pryor would start over Matt Flynn.

The notion that such a secret could be kept for several hours, let alone a week, shows how much Allen fails to understand how the media works.

Second, the Colts weren't going to be surprised by anything. If Flynn started, the Colts knew there'd be a chance Pryor would still get some snaps, and they would prepare for that. With Pryor starting, the Colts know he could implode and Flynn would be inserted, so they'll prepare for Flynn. The Colts aren't stupid.

This is football, not the NSA spying on China. It's simple.

Amazing how some teams spend so much energy on this cloak-and-dagger nonsense when that energy could be spent on, you know, winning games.

9. Pain and Suffering

Defensive backs make the most injury claims against NFL teams, according to the Los Angeles Times. Not sure why, but this surprised me. It's some really interesting stuff.

10. Sheer Idiocy

If this is true—and I hope it's not—but if it is, this will be one of the singular defining moments for stupidity in human history. And that is no small feat considering the many dumb things human beings have done and said in sports history alone.

Talking back to a police officer and saying he can't arrest you is idiotic enough, but making fun of the officer's hair?


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