A new presidential administration creates new concerns for NFL players, combine advice all players should heed and Joe Mixon's uncertain NFL future.
1. Smoking Can Be Hazardous to Your Career Prospects
Not long ago, one of the higher-profile NFL agents contacted his clients who he knew smoked marijuana regularly. He wanted to issue a warning, and it had nothing to do with the NFL.
It was about the federal government.
"Stay away from marijuana at all costs," the agent told several of his players in a series of phone calls. "This isn't about the NFL any longer. This is about the government coming after you."
In a series of interviews with several veteran players, agents and team officials, I found there is an emerging concern that football players, and possibly many professional athletes, may face increased scrutiny from the federal government under President Donald Trump.
Those interviewed fear more than failed drug tests. They're worried marijuana use will lead to imprisonment.
Agents also said a few of their brethren have communicated their concerns to combine participants as well.
Central to this new wave of fear is the impending belief that the Trump administration will make it more difficult for states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana. Currently, eight states allow such use: Alaska, Colorado, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. That accounts for seven NFL teams.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently suggested possible upcoming federal laws could be utilized as a weapon against states that allow recreational drug use.
"There's a big difference between [medicinal marijuana] and recreational marijuana," Spicer told reporters. "I think that when you see the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country the last thing we should be doing is encouraging people. There is still a federal law we need to abide by in terms of when it comes to recreational marijuana."
One agent told B/R those comments "sent a chill down my spine. I started warning my players."
On Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions suggested states that legalized marijuana were contributing to a crime problem and risked running afoul of federal laws.
"I don't think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot," Sessions told reporters at the Department of Justice. "I believe it's an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we're seeing real violence around that."
The agent, and several veteran players, said their biggest concern was a potential crackdown on marijuana use by athletes in the NFL and NBA in particular, no matter what state they lived in. Another agent noted Sessions once expressed a strong opposition to any legalized marijuana use.
"I don't think it's crazy to think that the government would use high-profile athletes to make a statement," said one AFC veteran.
It seems far-fetched (maybe) that the government or local law enforcement would suddenly start targeting NFL and NBA players. But I've heard about this concern for weeks now.
It's also feared that a harder-line approach toward marijuana enforcement will slow cooperation between the players' union and the NFL in easing punishments for violating the league's marijuana rules. Officially, however, the union has stated it isn't concerned about how possible federal action regarding marijuana use would impact its dealings with the NFL.
To be honest, players have little to worry about when it comes to the NFL's marijuana testing. Players not in the drug program (which is the vast majority) are tested once a year in the summer, and most players have an idea of when the test is coming. It's virtually impossible to fail it.
Still, the new administration has brought with it a sense that a new age of marijuana enforcement is coming to football, both on the field and off of it.
2. Wise Words for Rookies
With the NFL Scouting Combine opening Tuesday, Bleacher Report asked three agents to offer their best advice to players in Indianapolis. They agreed, but only if we didn't use their names. It was worth the bargain…
Agent No. 1: "Use condoms. … It's not on the woman to prevent unwanted pregnancies or [STDs]. It's on you."
Agent No. 2: "Take your signing bonus and invest all of it. Buy a mid-size car for yourself and something for your mom and dad. That's it. Start to get rid of all the bloodsuckers who are friends with you for your money."
Agent No. 3: "Have fun. That's the big thing. You will be lucky if your career lasts five years. Laugh a lot. Enjoy your time."
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Will the apology tour work?
So far, based on several interviews I've had with front office executives, I'd say no. The problem is the video of the incident.
The decision teams will be making right up until the draft is whether Mixon is worth the embarrassment. With that constant reminder available to anyone with a phone, what Mixon says is almost irrelevant.
Will an owner take that risk? That will determine his draft future as much as anything he does on the field.
4. A Wise Investment
The Steelers signed wide receiver Antonio Brown to a four-year, $68 million extension on Monday, a league source confirmed to Bleacher Report. That's a lot of cash, but it's the going rate for a player of Brown's caliber.
Despite the Facebook Live fiasco, I'm told the team remained convinced Brown was not just a good player, but also a reliable and professional teammate. The Steelers still see Brown as a leader.
They should. It's hard to see someone with Brown's talent taking the money and drifting off into mediocrity. In fact, I think we'll see him get better. That's scary.
5. Is Adrian Peterson Done?
Released by the Vikings on Tuesday, Peterson doesn't excite one general manager from whom I heard:
"He's done. Burst is gone. He's serviceable now. That's the best a team could hope for."
Is this true? Who knows. Not even GMs have time machines. They just think they do.
But Peterson is 31 and coming off surgery on a torn meniscus. And historically, running backs do fall off a cliff when they get to Peterson's age.
It's the same reason the Chiefs cut Jamaal Charles. The general manager echoed his comments about Peterson in saying Charles was "done," too.
Of course, this probably means Peterson and Charles will run for 5,000 yards each next year.
6. Say What?
There are few times I'm left speechless. This is one of those times.
Polian is one of the smartest front office executives of all time, but this is easily one of the dumbest things any executive has ever uttered.
We can get into the statistical data of why they belong, but we don't need to. Moss and Owens were among the most impactful players of their eras. Not just wide receivers—players. Period.
I've made the argument before about why Owens deserves to be in, and the same applies to Moss.
This idea that they don't belong in Canton is just getting dumber and dumber.
7. It's Time to Recognize Jimmy Johnson
Jimmy Johnson and Jerry Jones are continuing to heal what was once a fairly significant rift. And while everyone should check out this story from Schuyler Dixon of the Associated Press, now is also a good time to remind everyone just how great a coach and personnel man Johnson was. Jones is in the Hall of Fame. It's time for Johnson to get in, too.
8. Ugliness Hits Home for NFL Player
One of my favorite human beings in the world is former NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz. He recently tweeted something that saddened me and should sadden all of us.
Dozens of Jewish Community Centers across the nation have been threatened with bomb attacks in recent weeks, and Schwartz saw the terror of these threats firsthand—twice.
America has to do a lot better than this.
9. No Thanks
A league source told me that every NFL team with a coaching opening contacted Alabama's Nick Saban. All were emphatically told “no thanks.” I'm not certain whether Saban told them this directly. It could have been Saban's agent or some intermediary.
No matter the source, NFL people believe Saban wasn't about to head back to the NFL, nor will he ever.
10. Rent, Don't Buy, Kirk Cousins
Washington is going to try to trade its newly franchise-tagged quarterback, no matter what it may say publicly.
Why? It almost has to.
An agent walked me through the economics, and they are stark. Cousins' exclusive franchise tag essentially translates to a one-year deal worth just under $24 million.
If Cousins plays under that deal, he would then be a free agent next season, allowing him to walk and leave Washington nothing in return.
That is, unless Washington franchised Cousins again, which would guarantee him approximately $34 million.
There is no way in hell Washington will pay him that. No. Way. In. Hell.
That means Washington either lets Cousins walk or it trades him. The franchise likely won't let him walk for nothing in return.
That leaves one option, so don't be surprised to see Cousins on another team. Maybe soon.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.