Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Post-Tunsil Panic Throughout the NFL

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterMay 11, 2016

Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil poses for photos after being selected by the Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

1. Laremy Tunsil, the NFL and social media

A little while back, a player from an NFC team posted a harmless video of himself basically doing a one-on-one drill. The problem: one-on-one drills weren't allowed by the NFL at that point in the offseason. 

The head coach of the player's team was made aware, according to a league source. He wasn't angry. He wasn't even agitated. The coach gave a simple warning to the team. His message: I get that you use social media to improve your brand. Just be smart. It was an intelligent message.

It was the kind of thing that teams do all the time. Low-key. Non-panicked. Not a big deal.

That was before Laremy Tunsil.

Based on recent interviews with players, agents and team executives in the aftermath of Tunsil's draft-day social media nightmare, there was a moment of sheer panic across the NFL.

Mike Leslie @MikeLeslieWFAA

Apparently someone hacked Laremy Tunsil's twitter account, and tweeted out this... MINUTES before the #NFLDraft https://t.co/KisLGuj2l9

Days after the Tunsil gas mask video became public, an agent said he got a call from a team front office executive asking him to remind his client—who has a highly visible social media presence—that everyone is watching.

Across the league, coaches told players to be careful. There were team meetings in a few cases, I'm told, but in many cases, a position coach simply told his players to watch out.

One AFC coach played the Tunsil video for members of his defense and said: "Don't let this be you." A strength and conditioning coach on another team told players to watch their passwords.

The NFL and individual teams, as well as agents and financial advisers, have been warning players about the dangers of the Internet since Al Gore invented it. But something about Tunsil scared teams. Not necessarily players. But teams.

What concerns them most? It was, as several explained to me, the viciousness of the crime against Tunsil. It was the belief that what happened to him wasn't isolated, that it could happen to a lot of players.

There are more than a few players who trust people close to them with vital information, like passwords, and if those relationships end—particularly badly—they don't change the passwords that were given out.

I'm also told that teams fear opponents obtaining passwords and engaging in various skullduggery, like stealing information and using it against that player or team. I'm told this has already happened at least once in the past few years. Who knows if that's true, but I believe it.

Overall, I get a sense some teams believe there are potentially a number of players like Tunsil out there—players who are highly vulnerable. And this scares the hell out of their teams.

It should.

2. Teams, players impressed with Tunsil

I cannot tell you how much I have heard teams now admire Tunsil. That's the word I'm hearing repeatedly: admiration.

Tunsil has admirers because of both his honesty and vulnerability. He told the truth about what happened and has recovered well—so well, in fact, that teams are now regretting passing him over. He hasn't even played a down yet.

Yes, it was stupid what he did, teams said, but look at how he's handled it.

Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said recently, per Alain Poupart of Dolphins.com:

When you go through kind of that whole process, I'm sure if any of us went through that on draft day, I'd be interested to see how everybody else reacted. I thought he handled it great. He did a good job last week in the press conference and I think he's just happy to be back in the building getting back to football, doing what he loves.

3. Eagles punk Sam Bradford

Michael Perez/Associated Press

This was total, complete, unmitigated surrender. A Custer-at-Bighorn type of ass whoopin'.

What happened with Sam Bradford rescinding his trade demand was fairly predictable. It was predictable because players actually have few rights under the collective bargaining agreement.

If a player wants to change his contract and the team says no, that player has no other recourse than to hold out or retire. That's it. That's all. And holding out would have subjected him to lost wages and maybe a lost job.

So his surrender was inevitable. It's a scene that's played out time and again throughout NFL history. Better players than Bradford have held out and lost. A lot better. One of the best cases was Emmitt Smith holding out the season after the '90s Cowboys won their first Super Bowl. He caved, too.

Please make sure you understand the words that are coming out of my keyboard. I don't feel sorry for Bradford. I feel sorry for NFL players who are scrambling their brains but don't have guaranteed contracts and have no real options if they want to change their contracts.

This is the life they choose. I get it. But it's something that one day the union will have to deal with—likely with the next CBA deal.

4. Still not close between Jets and Ryan Fitzpatrick

Bill Wippert/Associated Press

There's been minimal movement in solving the impasse between Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets. That could change in an instant, but two sources with knowledge of the situation say that, for now, the two sides remain far apart. Again, to be clear, that could quickly change.

The Jets still believe Fitzpatrick will be their quarterback next season. I agree. There is, however, a small chance that because Fitzpatrick is a different sort of dude, he just retires from football. But that's a small chance.

5. Peyton Manning and the Volunteers

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

I keep hearing that Peyton Manning wants to coach his alma mater. Over and over, I hear it from NFL people I trust. I don't know if it's accurate. It seems too neat and tidy to be true.

One thing is certain: Manning doesn't seem to be in too big a hurry to be a television analyst. Maybe he's not in a hurry to do anything except Netflix and chill. And if he's not going to join an NFL front office (which doesn't seem on the horizon) or a network (which also doesn't seem imminent), then what is Manning's plan?

He's not the type of dude who sits and relaxes. At least not for long.

6. Stan Kroenke's sudden chattiness is not good for Rams

Nick Ut/Associated Press

When Rams owner Stan Kroenke recently decided to pop off about Kurt Warner—apparently erroneously so, as Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio detailed—it didn't go unnoticed by some in the league. They sort of laughed about it. They also said Kroenke's words symbolized something else.

They believe Kroenke's suddenly talkative nature after years of being in the background in St. Louis means he not only wants to be more visible, but that he also wants to be involved in football decisions in a way he wasn't in the past.

This is not a good thing for the Rams. Kroenke isn't a football guy. Not even close. If he suddenly thinks he's Jerry Jones, well, that would be a disaster for the franchise.

7. Nicely done by the Colts

One of the tweets of the month by any team or anyone:

Indianapolis Colts @Colts

*Opens up Twitter* https://t.co/bpDllC3XFO

Love how it pokes fun at something totally asinine: the idea that somehow Andrew Luck now stinks.

He had one bad season. Yes, he threw a ton of picks and had a bunch of turnovers—like, one trillion of them—but Luck will once again be the brilliant player he's always been. Nothing's changed.

8. ESPN's moves are brilliant

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

The network continues to make major changes and, actually, they are rather incredible. The main additions, per the Big Lead's Ryan Glasspiegel, are Randy Moss, Matt Hasselbeck and Charles Woodson.

Moss and Hasselbeck are two of the best storytellers I've ever been around. I once interviewed Hasselbeck at his locker for 20 minutes and was mesmerized. Moss could be tough to interview—he could be a total jerk—but he's become one of the best analysts and football truth-tellers. He's no longer a jerk, though I'm sure he still uses "straight cash, homey."

The problem with Ray Lewis—who was let go by the network—was that half of what he said made no sense. Maybe even three-quarters. This was not a shock. Whenever I interviewed Lewis, I'd walk away from a 20-minute conversation with three minutes of usable material.

That won't be the case with Woodson. He's easily, without question, one of the most intelligent human beings I've ever known. Not players. People. Dude is just flat-out smart and is also entertaining.

9. Go home, CFL; you're drunk

The general manager of the Edmonton Eskimos, Ed Hervey, recently lamented the loss of Canadian talent to the NFL. From the Edmonton Journal's Gerry Moddejonge:

This is what's most frustrating for me, when dealing with the draft. Our pool of players is not as [deep]. There are good players in this draft, but when our elite players are being taken and given an opportunity—and I've said it before: Personally, I don't think our players, the Canadian player, really wants to play in the CFL if given the opportunity to play in the NFL.

And we're kind of held hostage, to a point, waiting to see what happens and then it kind of throws off our draft.

This is what makes that quote so rich: The NFL's minimum salary is $450,000; the minimum salary in the CFL is $52,000.

That says it all. If you want more talent to stay in the CFL, pay players better, and they'll stay.

10. Another scary head trauma story

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

This is the brutality of playing in the NFL (or the fighting sports): one hit can change everything. That's all it takes. That was the case with Colts running back Tyler Varga. One concussion lasted four months.

I've heard of concussions lasting a week or weeks or even a month. But not four. (In the NFL, that is. I do know that in hockey, Sidney Crosby's lasted over a year. In baseball, Justin Morneau's concussion was also long-lasting. There are other examples—just not many in football.) That's unbelievably brutal.

What happened to Varga shows we still don't fully understand what the violence of the sport does to the mind. That's the scariest part of all.

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.


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