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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: The Real Test for NFL Players Begins

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterJune 24, 2015

Keith Srakocic/AP Images

1. Check yourself before you wreck yourself

Most players are off now and won't be back until sometime in July. There are six or so weeks of total freedom. No practices. No camps. No coaches. No structure. So, the test begins. 

Yes, this is a test of players. The smart ones will spend this time doing smart things, like sitting in a hot tub or going to a beach or using a kettlebell the right way.

The smart ones, during this extended break, won't do this. Or this. Or this. They will remember, again, that this is a test.

What is the test? It is the challenge of the offseason, where there is little to do for a bunch of players who have almost unlimited resources. The test is staying out of trouble.

After the Super Bowl, most players had a small break before minicamps started, and in that short time, there were numerous failures of the test. Now comes Phase 2 of the offseason, and in some ways, this one is more dangerous to the players than the previous one. There's more time and less structure.

One NFL player said that before his team left for their break, the coaching staff told players "basically don't get in trouble, and if you've had a few drinks, use a [designated driver]. Be smart."

Be smart. Because this is a test.

Teams always warn players about this time. They constantly tell them how dangerous the offseason can be. Still, someone will always fail the test.

So here we are again. The Dumbass Season begins anew. The tests are being passed out.

Who will pass and who will fail?

2. Will concussions in NFL lead to more black baseball players?

Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

Two things from my interview with the great Bart Scott didn't make it into Tuesday's story

First, Scott spoke of the changing nature of football and how it's becoming less physical. But despite that—and this was one of the most interesting things he said—Scott believes that increased focus on the injuries in football, particularly concussions, will lead to more blacks playing professional baseball.

"We're allowing cowards to dictate how the sport is played," he said. "When I played, it was a badge of honor to go across the middle. Now when receivers go across the middle, they can't be hit hard.

"The league says these rules are about safety, but it's not about safety when the league wants to add two games to the schedule. Is that safe? No."

So much concern over injuries, Scott continued, will lead up-and-coming black athletes who normally would go to football to instead go to baseball.

"You'll see a resurgence of African-American athletes back in baseball. Less injury concerns and guaranteed contracts."

3. Patriots won't win Super Bowl

Last thing from Scott, this one on the Patriots.

Of last season's Super Bowl win, Scott said, "[Bill] Belichick went out and got some high-priced, really talented guys." Namely, Darrelle Revis, he said.

But now that Revis is gone, Scott continued, "The Patriots won't win it this year. No way. Not talented enough. I do think a player like Revis can make that big a difference."

4. Oh, relax, this is funny

I've seen on Twitter how so many Patriots fans are upset with Cam Newton having a little fun with Brady and deflated footballs. The biggest complaint: Who is Newton to make that kind of joke when compared to the greatness of Brady?

That doesn't matter. Newton made a silly crack, and it was pretty funny. Relax, Pats fans.

5. A rookie who gets it

Jul 28, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers safety Cedric Thompson addresses the media during the Big Ten football media day at Hilton Chicago. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins rookie Cedric Thompson posted this on his blog:

Sometimes I think about how much I've been through…and I really can't believe it. Today, at one of our NFL Rookie Symposium sessions, we had a speaker talk to us about drunk driving. I have a scar on my face because my dad was drunk driving and we got into a car accident. I kind of forgot about that, and I see the scar every single day! Growing up where I come from, you learn how to dump those emotions and forget about them. And that's part of a lot of young males' problems; we push our emotions to the side and try to be hard all the time. I'm really trying to find myself by looking at who I was as a child, a teenager and the man that I am becoming now…that will give me a strong foundation to find out who I really am.

This was one of the better things I've ever heard from a rookie. There are a lot of players like Thompson. They come from backgrounds that would crush many of us, but somehow they are able to not just survive, but prosper—and make it to the NFL. 

6. And a veteran who now does, too

Paul Sancya/Associated Press

Phillip Buchanon played for five NFL teams over a span of about a decade. This week, he spoke to rookies at the NFL's rookie symposium, and then wrote this on his blog about what he said.

The first sentence reads, "When I got to the NFL, I was all dollars and no sense."

These paragraphs from Buchanon's story are key: 

If I had the right team around me back when I started playing in the league, mentors who could have helped put me on the right path and pointed me in the right direction, I would have saved a lot more money. And the reason why I focus on the financial piece is because I know that if I had that part better figured out, I would have played better on the field too. I had to deal with major family-related financial situations when I should have been focusing on football.

When I talk about this, people sometimes ask what kind of bad financial decisions I made. I'd say blowing $1.5 million in one business deal was pretty bad. I would say giving a lot of money away—$50,000 here, $20,000 there—was not a smart move. When you are a young player with new money, you feel obligated to just give your money away because of the pressure that you feel, especially from your own family.

7. Gronk isn't the idiot some think he is

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The reason is that Rob Gronkowski is saving his money. This excerpt from his upcoming book (via the MMQB) shows why you can't always judge a tight end by its cover:

To this day, I still haven't touched one dime of my signing bonus or NFL contract money. I live off my marketing money and haven't blown it on any big-money expensive cars, expensive jewelry or tattoos and still wear my favorite pair of jeans from high school. … I don't hurt anyone (except Gord with the occasional kick to the groin), I don't do drugs, I don't drive drunk, I don't break the law. … I'm a 23-year-old guy just looking to have a fun time.

8. Football in the 1980s: cocaine and more cocaine

Brett Coomer/Associated Press

This SB Nation story from Sarah Kogod on former Washington great Dexter Manley is well-done and notable, not just because it's on one of my favorite players of all time, but because it illustrates what life in the NFL was like then.

There were tons of drugs around the sport (all sports…all walks of life). That period, perhaps more than any other, led to the beginning of the NFL taking a much harsher stance on drug use.

The NFL would better its testing procedures so it was more reliable, but most importantly it would begin a hardcore effort to rid drugs—especially cocaine—from the sport.

9. Brady will likely go to court

Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Remember the end game for Tom Brady on Deflategate: to go to court.

His current appeal will likely be denied by Roger Goodell. It's just the first of several steps for Brady in the process of clearing his name. The next is leaving the NFL process and going to court.

People close to Brady have told me he doesn't want a deal. He doesn't want a reduction in games. He wants total vindication. Brady's side believes going to court is the only real way to do this.

10. If Brady suspension holds, Pats will still be good

One scout explained why, saying a version of what I've heard and stated before: "As long as that team has Bill Belichick, they will be good, because he is that good. If Brady misses four games, they'll still win at least 10."

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.

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