1. Why can't J.J. Watt become a movie star?
This past weekend, on a quiet afternoon while many people were in swimming pools or enjoying a Star Trek marathon, J.J. Watt posted a picture on his Twitter account. I thought he was going to break the internet.
It was a shirtless Watt, his abs poking out, his face looking like he could be the next James Bond. Good for him, I thought. Do your thing, homie.
Then, of course, I started to see the inevitable backlash on my own and others' Twitter timelines. The central theme of the complaints: Watt is getting too Hollywood.
Some people loved the picture, of course. But lots of haterade also splashed across the internet. Fake outrage about Watt's off-field activities aren't, though, relegated only to Twitter. I've also heard complaints about Watt recently from NFL front-office executives and even a few assistant coaches.
When Watt posted that picture, I texted one assistant coach for his thoughts.
"Is J.J. a male model or a football player?" the coach texted back. "What does he want to do? Be in movies or be the best football player possible?"
I find this argument not just absurd but borderline offensive.
I've heard players make this argument in the past, but this is the first I've heard of a coach or front-office type saying it.
I've written about jealousy and Watt before, but it bears repeating. If Watt wants to use his looks and charisma to do, well, whatever, then so be it. Watt likely posted that picture for fun, but what if it does also have something to do with a future pursuit of acting? Good for him.
Watt's NFL career will be short-lived compared to the rest of his life. He'd be lucky if it lasted 10 years. Of course he should be thinking about life after football.
Jim Brown did it. He became a movie star and prepared for it while playing. Joe Namath did it, starring in ads. One of my favorite players of all time, Ken Stabler, did it. He looked beyond football while being an excellent player. Rob Gronkowski does it. I could go on.
For whatever reason, when Watt does it, there's criticism. It's a very strange thing. I don't get it at all.
Watt has increasingly raised his off-field profile. He's pals with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He's gone on dates with Kate Hudson. He's been told numerous times he could be the next action star. He's hosting a country music awards show. He does PSAs with a former first lady. He has his own logo. He does intense commercials.
All of this attention has created a false impression that Watt cares less about football and more about being a celebrity. He's even been called a phony. This ignores the fact that all Watt does is bust his ass. In the offseason. During the season. In games. In practice. He's always bloodied, working hard, setting defensive records.
If he happens to be charming along the way, so the hell what?
In April, Watt told the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson he wasn't going to change his social media approach:
We have social media and people want to see access, they want to know what you're doing, they want day-to-day, what's going on in his life? Then every single thing you do becomes a story, whether it's a tweet, whether it's an Instagram post, whether it's a Snapchat, every single thing becomes a story so I think if people don't want to see what I'm doing they should probably stop following me. That's basically what it comes down to.
One of the problems with all the social media we have nowadays is it becomes a cynical world. I think there's a lot of people out there that want to believe that somebody's being fake, they want to believe that somebody is doing things just for attention, when in reality there's a whole lot of people out there doing good things for the world. If we could just believe in the good and we can actually spend our energy on being good people and doing good things as opposed to trying to rip other people down or trying to poke flaws in other people, I think then we can truly help make changes in the world.
What I see with Watt is the conflict of old and new football. Many of the executives and coaches I know still act like this is the 1950s, where players don't have options—like there's no such thing as the internet or off-field opportunities, and players shouldn't take advantage of those opportunities.
Not only is there a good chance that Watt will come away from the sport with debilitating injuries—not in his 70s or 80s, but in his 30s or 40s—there's unfortunately a chance he will have the brain disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
That's the risk he's taking to be the football player he is.
So if he's thinking about what to do when he stops being a football player, whether he's coaching high school football or starring in the 89th Bourne movie, I'm OK with it.
If he wants to be the next Terminator, cool. He'd be a good one, by the way.
2. NFC assistant coach: Texans could 'shock the world'
That same assistant coach, while critical of Watt in terms of what he does off the field, feels strongly that Watt and an improved offense could drastically transform the Texans almost overnight.
"They could legitimately shock the world," the coach said. "Huge fan of [Brock] Osweiler, and that defense will be improved."
You're saying this is a legitimate Super Bowl team?
"It is, yes," the coach said.
I see the Texans as greatly improved and making the postseason. But Super Bowl team?
I'd love to have what he's smoking.
3. One of the better Gruden QB Camps
Some of ESPN's Gruden QB Camp videos can be tedious, with Jon Gruden injecting himself into the mix too often. Others are excellent.
The recent episode with Carson Wentz falls in the latter category. It's worth watching if you haven't seen it:
The video illustrates what I've heard about Wentz from scouts for months: that he has a quick mind and a powerful personality. Who knows if that's enough to make him successful as a pro—for what it's worth, Matt Lombardo of NJ Advance Media reported Wentz is ahead of Sam Bradford in learning the Eagles' new offense—but Gruden does a nice job of showing why NFL teams were so enamored with him.
4. Patriots have taken note of Rob Ryan's boast
Publicly, the Patriots downplay any knowledge of what people say about them. Bill Belichick is the best at this. I didn't see nutin. I didn't hear nutin. Just focusing on us, dudes of the press.
Privately, it's always been different. They notice everything said about them. That includes, I'm told by a Patriots source, the latest piece of stupidity to emerge from the mouth of a Ryan.
This time, it wasn't Rex Ryan. It was his brother and new defensive assistant, Rob. This part of the brothers' interview with The MMQB's Jenny Vrentas, referring to the 2000-03 period in which Rob Ryan was New England's assistant coach, is what the Patriots took note of:
All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick. That was fantastic training working for him for four years, and I learned a ton. Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it's not just Rex. Now, I think if you ask their offensive staff, the worst they ever play is against Rex. People say, "Well, he hasn't beat them [nine out of the last 10] tries." Yeah, well, he has beat the hell out of that offense. I am sure the respect is mutual. But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we're going to beat the best. It's two against one. Him one on one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he's also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.
There are a lot of compliments there about Belichick, but the Patriots have duly noted the "we are going to beat them" remark. I can say that for certain.
By the way: Rex is 4-11 against the Patriots, including the playoffs, since 2009.
5. Weirdest Deflategate twist of all time
I don't want to spoil it for you. Read the second note in this story. Just read it. Read it. Read. It.
Just when you think things could not get stranger, the guy from Half Baked shows up…
6. NFL watching Johnny Manziel closely
First, it was reported Johnny Manziel was missing.
Unless he wasn't:
Whatever the hell happened, there are people all across football, a team front-office executive told me, watching to see what happens. I know that at least one team—and I suspect many more—are using Manziel as a cautionary tale when they speak to their rookies.
He's being used as an example by this team of what not to be. He's one of the best examples of what not to be the league has ever seen.
7. Not enough 'no' votes to keep Raiders in Oakland
I continue to hear from sources around the league that there aren't enough votes to stop a Raiders move. I hear that if they wanted to move to Las Vegas, there are, maximum, five "no" votes. Nine would be required to stop the move.
Many things could still stop a Raiders move, but it continues to look like if Vegas comes up with the cash, the Raiders are gone. It's not certain, but things keep moving in that direction.
8. Former NFL players to talk marijuana at expo
This press release found its way from the fancy intertubes into my mailbox. Former professional athletes, including ex-NFL players, will have a panel discussion about how marijuana use can benefit athletes. What caught my attention were some of the names on it. Part of the release read:
Pro athletes from the NFL and NHL will provide frank insight on how legally using cannabis has helped them manage pain, become less reliant on prescription painkillers, and not affect their playing performance. This thought-leadership panel "CTE, Concussions and CBD" will feature:
• Charlie Adams, NFL wide receiver who played for the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans
• Eben Britton, a NFL guard and tackle has played for Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears and currently is a free agent.
• Riley D. Cote is former professional ice hockey player (NHL) with the Philadelphia Flyers and is currently an assistant coach with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
• Nathan Ross "Nate" Jackson a former NFL wide receiver who played six seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Leonard Marshall, a longtime NFL player who played on two Super Bowl teams, will be a keynote speaker.
I'm not saying those players have the same name recognition as Montana and Rice, but that's a lot of playing experience. Not a bad panel at all.
9. This could get interesting
A former employee for the city of Inglewood, California, the future home of the Rams, says the city cooked its books to mask financial issues and lure the Rams, according to the Los Angeles Times' Angel Jennings.
Here is where the story could get problematic: the email trail. There's always an email trail.
10. Wes Welker compares NFL to mafia
I was slightly stunned by this interview. Wes Welker, who has suffered from concussions and other head trauma, explained he only recently saw the Concussion movie and said the NFL was like a "legalized mafia." It's worth a quick listen and will get you thinking.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.