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Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Inside the NFL's Pretty Normal Party Culture

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterOctober 25, 2017

Cleveland Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer (7) walks on the field in the fourth quarter during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Cleveland. The Jets won 17-14. (AP Photo/David Richard)
David Richard/Associated Press

Players party, and there's nothing wrong with that, most of the time. Martavis Bryant may be waiting a while to get out of Pittsburgh, and could Carson Wentz be the league's MVP? It's the prelude to Week 8 in the NFL, and the 10-Point Stance has plenty to say about it.

                        

1. Party On, Dude

If you want to understand why the story of Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer's night out is such a big deal—and not a big deal—let me take you out on a typical Friday evening in the NFL. 

Like so many other Americans, players are out on the town. In one city, they are at a club until three or four in the morning. They still make practice on time the next day. In another, they're at dinner until midnight and make practice fine too. It's date night in another city, and an offensive lineman takes his wife out and is home by 10.

Some players go out Friday night and get drunk. Some get high. Some get neither. In that way, they are like most people, especially those in their 20s, who go out on weeknights, get their party on and show up to work the next day.

Most coaches know that players party, and in interviews with players and coaches, what's clear is that few care how much players go out as long as they practice hard, compete in games and don't break any curfews.


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"Players party," one NFC assistant coach said. "Why do we expect them to be any different from anyone else?"

"The main thing is," he added, "don't get caught."

To put it another way, don't get caught on social media being out late.

In the NFL, it's always about optics.

And that's why Kizer found himself in trouble.

Before the Browns' Oct. 15 game against Houston, the team sent receivers Kenny Britt and Corey Coleman home for missing curfew, according Cleveland.com.

Then this past week, Cleveland's WOIO Channel 19 obtained video of Kizer out at a bar early Saturday morning. Coach Hue Jackson wasn't happy about it.

"It means a lot to me," Jackson said in reference to Kizer being out so late, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. 

Around the league, players have told me this is the biggest non-story they've ever heard, mainly because most teams don't have curfews Friday nights. Kizer, in their view, is being used to deflect from Cleveland's 0-7 record.

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 08: Head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns talks to quarterback DeShone Kizer #7 during a game against the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 8, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Jets defeated the Browns 17-14. (Pho
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Coaches are also baffled because the rookie QB didn't break any laws or team rules. He essentially did nothing except get taped having fun on a night when many players go out.

Indeed, it's generally understood that players stay out as late as they want, but they better make it to Saturday practice on time and play hard on game day.

Saturday evenings are a different story. Many teams have players stay at a hotel, even for home games.

No matter the day, it's impossible to overlook the fact that the NFL is filled with healthy young men with a lot of disposable income. They're going to go out. Some can handle it—Rob Gronkowski makes no secret he likes to enjoy his free time while still wreaking havoc on Sundays—and some cannot. Former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel partied a lot and finds himself out of a job. There is no pattern.

One thing that seems to be certain is that the Browns mishandled this situation. That shouldn't be a surprise.

                                             

2. Not High on His Damn Agenda

Dov Kleiman @NFL_DovKleiman

Here's a video I made of #Steelers Tomlin giving amazing answer about Martavis asking for trade. "Not because it's high on my damn agenda." https://t.co/xstX4ExG5E

Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant told ESPN's Josina Anderson he wants out of Pittsburgh, and the truth is, the Steelers don't care.

This video of coach Mike Tomlin talking about Bryant made me howl because A) I love Tomlin; B) when he gets fired up, he makes me want to play for him; and C) his comments reflect how the Steelers feel about Bryant.

They know he is talented, and they want him on the field. But several team sources tell me Pittsburgh is basically, like: whatever, dude.

The Steelers will deal with Bryant in their own sweet time. For now, they feel like they're on a roll and don't want to let anything, especially Bryant, get in the way.

                                    

3. A New Name in the MVP Race?

Michael Perez/Associated Press

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz could make this year's award race interesting.

Right now, to me, the MVP order goes Alex Smith, Tom Brady and Wentz. One scout, though, told me he thinks it's Wentz, Brady and Smith.

There's so much season left, it's hard to pick a leader now. If Brady keeps being Brady-ish, he'll win it because he's Tom Brady. In leading the Eagles to a 6-1 start, however, Wentz will make Brady and others work for it.

                              

4. Penn State's James Franklin Has Caught the NFL's Eye

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

From one general manager to B/R on Penn State coach James Franklin: "He's going to be on a lot of lists to interview after this season. Not saying he'll be hired, but a lot of teams have respect for the job he's doing at Penn State. He's been on the radar for a while. He's well-liked on the pro level."

Franklin has drawn interest before, but with Penn State's rise to No. 2 in the AP rankings, his name is making the rounds again in NFL front offices. And with a number of jobs sure to open, who knows where Franklin may be next fall.

                             

5. It Can't Rain All the Time…or Can It?

David Richard/Associated Press

The Browns lost another brutal game this past week. This time, to Tennessee in overtime. The words "Browns" and "losing" have become like "pancakes" and "syrup."

But this iteration has been particularly painful, mainly because the team passed on two of the best young quarterbacks in the draft in consecutive years in Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, trading back with the Eagles in 2016 and the Texans earlier this year.

Since the last Browns front office and coaching reboot, which brought in Sashi Brown and his analytics-minded crew as well as Hue Jackson, the team is 1-22.

1-22.

Every time you think the Browns reach a certain depth, they fall deeper into a veritable Mariana Trench of NFL ineptitude.

                                      

6. Green Bay Loses Its Security Blanket

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 22:  Brett Hundley #7 of the Green Bay Packers is brought down by Cameron Jordan #94 of the New Orleans Saints during the second quarter at Lambeau Field on October 22, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Im
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers, for years, has covered up massive holes on the Packers roster: A flawed offensive line. A lack of top-notch running backs. A ho-hum defense. Poor drafts and free-agent decisions.

For years, Rodgers has covered all of these shortcomings.

Now, he's gone, and the Packers have little to cushion the blow.

How badly did they miss him last week? The leading receiver for Green Bay in a loss to New Orleans was tight end Martellus Bennett, who had two catches for 17 yards and no touchdowns.

This is what life without Rodgers will be like while he heals from a broken collarbone—all of the flaws exposed, ugly on both sides of the ball.

                                     

7. Say What, Donovan?

Golic and Wingo @GolicAndWingo

Watch @donovanjmcnabb explain how the Browns have mishandled DeShone Kizer https://t.co/5F7POnVPPB

Donovan McNabb said it for all to hear on ESPN's Mike and Mike show: Jared Goff might be the best quarterback in the NFC.

While McNabb was careful to use the word "might," that's still an outlandish statement. Goff isn't even the third-best in his own conference. He might not even make the top five.

Let's assume that Aaron Rodgers' collarbone injury didn't kill him.

Then you have Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Matt Ryan, among others.

At best, if you're highly generous, Goff barely cracks the top five. It's early in his career, and the Rams have played well this season. But let's not get too far away from reality.

                                     

8. Outnumbered at 'Home'

Ramheart @WillramWallace

Don’t let the orange stands fool you. This is a @Chargers home game. #DENvsLAC https://t.co/X85143b3gu

Look closely at this photograph. Closer. No, closer. Looks like another gorgeous home game in Denver, and...wait, that's not Denver.

That image is from the Chargers' home game against the Broncos. A home game.

That is simply humiliating. Quarterback Philip Rivers told reporters the team actually prepared for the influx of Broncos fans. Imagine having to game-plan for a crowd loudly cheering against you in your own building.

It's not totally unusual. Rabid fanbases, like those of the Raiders, have dominated the stands in San Diego. But now in L.A., Chargers fans are outnumbered at almost every home game. Not sure there's ever been anything like this—ever.

                                  

9. No Fun League No More

Pittsburgh Steelers @steelers

1️⃣ 2️⃣ 3️⃣ 4️⃣ 5️⃣ 6️⃣ 7️⃣ 8️⃣ 9️⃣ 🔟 Ready or not, here I come! https://t.co/48Pbcnucem

The NFL's decision to loosen the restrictions on celebrating, giving players more latitude to express themselves, has worked wonders for the entertainment aspect of the game.

The celebration by the Steelers against the Bengals is proof of that. It's not just perhaps the best celebration ever, but it may be more memorable than the moon landing or the debut of Star Trek.

OK, maybe that's a bit too far, but still, a hide-and-seek celebration? Who even thinks of that?

That's some out-of-the-box creativity.

Can't wait to see what's next.

                                      

10. Do Fans Really Care About the Anthem?

Mike Roemer/Associated Press

I've said this before, and it bears repeating: Many people at stadiums, as the anthem plays, ignore it. And while I've seen this for decades, I felt it was worth checking, in these political times, to see if this was still the case.

I won't name the stadium (it's not fair), but during the anthem at a recent game, I was in the concession area, and as the anthem played, there were people in line to buy food and drinks. In the bathroom, there were people doing things you do in the bathroom.

There were hundreds of people not standing, or they had their hats on, or headsets on, or were kissing significant others or getting a beer—doing things that people do at games.

It's not hard to gather that fans are doing this at every stadium in the NFL and probably at every sporting event in America.

                                

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.

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