Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Will Knighton's Weight Keep Him from Greatness?

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 14, 2015


1. A $300,000 Pot Roast

Terrance Knighton is one of the nicest guys in football. As the Denver Broncos start to rebuild after a disastrous loss in the divisional round, there's a chance they want him to be a part of that rebuilding process. There's just one potential problem with Knighton: his appetite. 

Knighton over the past several years has been fined approximately $300,000 for weight-related issues. Mostly, the fines have been for Knighton missing weight markers, a person familiar with the situation told Bleacher Report.

In speaking with several people around the NFL, none could remember such a substantial fine amount over a weight issue. That doesn't mean it's never happened. It only means no one I spoke to can remember such a circumstance.

(One piece of good news on the fines: They are tax deductible, according to Robert Raiola, a CPA who tweets frequently on sports related tax issues.)

It's not unprecedented for a player to be fined over weight issues. Weight clauses are a tool some teams use to ensure players who traditionally can't keep the pounds off, do keep them off. Sometimes, they're not even clauses in contracts but simple team fines for being over a weight determined by the club. This is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin will fine a player $400 a day for every pound he's overweight, according to ESPN. Other teams use similar tactics.

It can't be stressed how good a dude Knighton is viewed as by, well, almost everyone. He's a leader in the locker room and in December won the Darrent Williams Good Guy Award. The award was created in the memory of former Denver player Darrent Williams, who died in 2007. The award is given to the person, according to the team, who best exemplifies Williams' "enthusiasm, cooperation and honesty while dealing with members of the press."

So any team that gets Knighton will get a good dude.

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

You will not see any fat jokes here. There is nothing but sympathy for Knighton, but the Broncos do face an interesting problem. So do other teams looking at Knighton, who will be a free agent beginning in March.

I'm told the Broncos believe that for Knighton to be effective, his weight has to be under control, but he can't quite keep it under control, thus the dilemma. If Knighton could slim down, the Broncos believe he could be the best interior defensive lineman in football.

Knighton is listed at 335 pounds, but his actual weight is more. Maybe a lot more.

The Broncos will undergo a number of changes in the coming days and weeks. John Elway won't sit back and chill. He will be aggressive in fixing the team's problems.

One of those issues he'll have to decipher is Knighton.

2. Retreads

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 07:  Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio of the Denver Broncos runs the defense against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on September 7, 2014 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Colts 31-24.  (P
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

I like Jack Del Rio, the defensive coordinator of the Broncos. Smart guy, good dude. But I'm not certain he's done enough in Denver to earn a second head-coaching stint. The Broncos invested $100 million in that defense, and it's performed…OK. Not spectacular. Not eye-opening. Just decent.

To me, a head coach candidate distinguishes himself from the pack. A Del Rio hire, like hiring Rex Ryan, is unimaginative. It's safe. It's a name that pleases fans, but it lacks any type of original thinking. This is one of the reasons the hiring process is so frustrating to some in the coaching profession, particularly candidates of color.

Retreads are fine if they demonstrate a steep learning curve. Bill Belichick did that, not just in Cleveland, but after he was fired there. Has Del Rio done that? Ryan actually regressed as a coach in his last few years in New York. It's not all Ryan's fault, but he left the New York Jets offense in shambles.

The people who do the hiring need more open minds. Some general managers and others do. Many do not.

Editor's Note: ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that Del Rio is set to be named head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

Chris Mortensen @mortreport

Raiders expected to name Jack Del Rio as their next head coach as early as today, per sources.

3. Greased up

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Vince Wilfork #75 of the New England Patriots adjusts his chin strap against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Ravens won 33-14
Elsa/Getty Images

One interesting note on the Baltimore Ravens-New England Patriots game. For years now, players have used Vaseline on their arms and face in cold-weather games. Players believe it helps to hold in heat. I'm not here to say if that's accurate or not. Just reporting that it happens often.

This is the interesting part: Players are allowed to use Vaseline on their arms but not slather it over their jersey in an attempt to make it more slick, thusly making it harder to tackle someone or grab their jersey. Just a matter of a few years ago, players used to spray silicone all over their jerseys. The league banned the practice.

What I didn't know was that the NFL still does random checks for silicone and other slippery substances on the jerseys of players. One player told me that three to four players per half are checked for it by a game official. Most of the random checks, the player said, are "bulls--t." The official just pats the chest area.

But on occasion, there will be a particularly handsy official who will do a thorough check, patting the chest, back and shoulder pad area.

4. Manning most playoff-clutch ever?

No, not that Manning, the other one. Nate Silver's column on FiveThirtyEight declaring "The Most Clutch Postseason Quarterback Of All Time Is Eli Manning" is fascinating. I don't think Eli is not the most clutch postseason quarterback of all time—that honor belongs to Joe Montana. But the argument made, backed by data, is a pretty good one. The one thing I will say: Eli's uber-cool demeanor, like Joe Flacco's, is the source of his postseason greatness.

5. The science of a limp

Since I'm a nerd and love everything medicine and science, I enjoyed this from MD Direct on the mechanics behind the limp of Aaron Rodgers.

6. 8.3 percent football

It's just one game—admittedly a small sample size—but again, the dork in me enjoys this chart from Vox's Joseph Stromberg, who kept a minute-by-minute accounting of the Cincinnati Bengals-Patriots game in October and writes, "Only 8.3 percent of the game ... was actual gameplay. Most of the telecast either showed players standing around between plays (35.5 percent), commercials (24.5 percent), or replays (10.7 percent)." Stromberg categorized 5.5 percent as "other." I'm actually afraid to ask what that includes.

7. Belichick is historic

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sideline late in the second half against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoffs game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxbor
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Recently, Don Shula called Bill Belichick "Beli-cheat" (via the Sun-Sentinel [subscription required]). No matter what you think of Belichick—and I think he's the best of all time—you have to acknowledge that what he's doing is atmospheric. A few notes, provided by the Patriots:

• Belichick reached 20 playoff wins, which tied him with Tom Landry and puts him ahead of Shula (19), Joe Gibbs (17) and Chuck Noll (16).

• His 20-9 playoff record is sixth-best of all time. Vince Lombardi has the best record at 9-1.

• He is third in history with 29 total playoff games, behind Landry and Shula's 36 and ahead of Noll, Mike Holmgren and Gibbs' 24.

• Belichick is in his ninth conference championship game, just one behind Landry, and ahead of Shula (seven), Noll (seven), John Madden (six) and Bill Cowher (six).

8. Scout on Cardale Jones

"The problem in evaluating him is obviously the limited body of work. But I really like what I see. Now when he gets to the pros, he won't be running over people. Those (defensive backs) for Oregon were scared to tackle him. In our league, he'll get killed running like that. … A lot of talent there. Very intriguing, and I think I'd be a little nervous to make him a high-round pick, but I think a team will. Some team will roll the dice and take him in the second or third round because of that raw talent. I think that would be foolish, but I bet someone does it because people are so desperate to fill that position."

9. Urban Meyer to the NFL?

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

In speaking to people around the NFL, Meyer's name has yet to come up. Doesn't mean it won't. Doesn't mean it hasn't in some capacity. But for whatever reason, the best coach in college football isn't drawing massive interest. The best explanation I've received is that no one in the NFL believes he will leave Ohio State.

10. Halbritter on Washington team nickname issue

Louis Lanzano/Associated Press

Ray Halbritter, the Oneida Indian Nation representative and CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, has been bravely fighting Washington owner Dan Snyder and the NFL on the nickname issue. He recently wrote me this letter, which I found inspiring and well done:

A Change Will Come

From one perspective, the campaign to force the Washington football team to stop promoting a dictionary-defined racial slur has already won its most significant battles. The campaign has sparked national discussion concerning the NFL and the Washington team’s refusal to openly confront the issue.

In the past two years alone, the campaign to change the Washington team name has garnered support from a broad coalition of civil rights groups, sports figures, media organizations and political leaders, including a majority of the U.S. Senate and the President of the United States. Tens of thousands of [sic] joined our campaign, and the United States government has rescinded trademark protections for the team’s continued use of the racial slur. Polls show a sharp rise in the number of Americans who now say they oppose the NFL’s continued use of the R-word, which was the term screamed at Native Americans as we were dragged at gunpoint from our lands.

As an educational effort for the hearts and minds of a fast-changing America, this campaign has been an unmitigated success. With Washington team owner Dan Snyder now ranked as one of the most loathed figures in professional sports, the NFL’s intransigence has become a stain on the league’s history - one that future generations will look back upon with disbelief and disgust.

However, it is clear that the campaign has yet to fully succeed. The Washington franchise is still using the slur, and the NFL has so far refused to take any action to right this historic wrong. In his stadium, Mr. Snyder still proudly honors the memory of George Preston Marshall, the infamous segregationist who originally gave the team the name.

The obvious question this raises, then, is why have all of the aforementioned successes still not brought about the ultimate objective of seeing the team end its use of a racial slur as its mascot? What accounts for the gap between the remarkable and indisputable progress and the continued use of this offensive moniker? The answer lies with fans.

While Americans like to ascribe all sorts of emotional and moral meaning to their favorite teams, the NFL has proven itself to be an emotionless, amoral corporation. The league seems to react only when it fears fan revolts may jeopardize its $9 billion annual revenue. So far such a revolt has not happened. Indeed, while many fans have expressed their displeasure with the league’s use of the R-word, not enough have been willing to match that displeasure with actions that put a real price tag on the league for its continued bigotry.

The good news, of course, is that a league so singularly focused on profit probably does not need much of an economic nudge from fans to finally do the right thing. A few Washington games with diminished attendance might be all that is required (and let’s be frank: that’s not so far-fetched a possibility considering how consistently horrible and mismanaged a football team Mr. Snyder has put on the field over the last many years).

The bad news, though, is that many fans still want to see sports not as a modifiable reflection of reality, but as a frivolous escape from reality - one that should not be disturbed, even by the most moral of causes.

That impulse is certainly understandable - at a moment of economic, political and environmental crises, we all need a periodic escape. But there is a difference between a rejuvenating escape into entertainment and a destructive retreat from a moral imperative. The campaign to get Roger Goodell and the other owners to support ending the continued to use its power to denigrate people of color is most certainly the latter [sic].

No doubt, the NFL does not want fans to see it that way. The billionaire owners and their minions want fans to continue reflexively forking over their money to be entertained, and to do so without any thought about the league’s inaction on domestic violence, player suicides, astoundingly high rates of traumatic brain injuries, racism or other catastrophes in its midst. In other words, the NFL wants football enthusiasts to believe that being a loyal fan means joining the league in turning a blind eye to moral crises.

The moment more fans reject that paradigm and hold the league accountable will be the moment things will finally change for the better. In a more diverse and tolerant America that increasingly rejects for-profit bigotry, that moment is coming sooner rather than later - but it cannot come soon enough.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. 


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