The NFL’s Nonsense Problem

On the field and off it, players are raising the bar on ill-advised actions. From silly taunts to personal insults, it seems like players need to take a step back and think twice before they say or do something

Golden Tate admitted it was 'immature' to wave at the Rams' defense while running in a touchdown. His act led to a penalty. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Golden Tate admitted it was ‘immature’ to wave at the Rams’ defense while running in a touchdown. His act led to a penalty. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

It’s been another banner year for nonsense in the NFL but, just in recent days, so many seem to be rounding into midseason form when it comes to almost comically ill-advised thought or actions.

When Carolina safety Mike Mitchell looks right into the camera and claims he’s being targeted for fines by Roger Goodell, because the commissioner needs a little extra spending money, it’s difficult to know where to start in dissecting the absurdity of that premise.

When Washington safety Brandon Meriweather goes as tone-deaf as possible and declares he’ll be out to “end people’s careers” and “tear people’s ACLs” in reaction to the league’s emphasis on outlawing hits to the head, you just have to marvel at his powers of judgment and sense of timing.

And when Seattle receiver Golden Tate enters the taunting Hall of Fame as a first-ballot selection on Monday Night Football, Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones promises Jets receiver David Nelson he’ll “find out where you live and come get you,” and Carolina receiver Steve Smith vows to Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins, ‘If I see him on the street, I’m going to bust him in the (bleeping) mouth,” you know the NFL’s on a hot streak when it comes to the idiotic.

And that’s even if you happen to agree with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on his unknowable supposition that Deion Sanders in his prime(time) could shut down, stop, or cover—whichever the question really posed—Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, he of the four-inch and 38-pound size advantage. When Sanders himself plays the voice of reason in that debate, reminding his Twitter followers that two different eras can’t be fairly compared, Jones becomes the only guy playing on an island of sorts. (I’ll take Johnson, by the way, especially if there’s any tackling involved in that time-tripping one-on-one matchup).

Just because you have a microphone or camera aimed your way doesn’t mean you have anything particularly thoughtful to say.

Seemingly every day provides a new reminder that just because you have a microphone or camera aimed your way, and the platform that saturation coverage of the NFL provides you, doesn’t mean you have anything particularly thoughtful to say, or do, in some cases. (And, yes, that charge can have validity when aimed right back at us media types, too. Point taken.)

But I suppose we’ve been building to this nonsensical point ever since Ray Lewis first voiced his half-baked Super Bowl blackout conspiracy theory, hinting that he suspected the league’s power-brokers of pulling the plug in the half-lit Superdome, in order to slow down Baltimore’s budding third-quarter blowout. (Picture Lewis as Matt Hooper in Jaws: “This is no lighting accident!’’)

Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, playing the loyal ex-teammate, merely took the silliness a step further, claiming he even believed Goodell’s hand was involved in the blackout, citing “Vegas, parlor tricks” in a context I’m not entirely sure what to make of. I’ve only been to Vegas twice and pretty much stick to blackjack.

Whatever. Let’s not let the facts get in the way of a good mindless story. Like Mitchell’s claim that he’s being targeted for repeated league fines because he plays a physical brand of football. That sounds all well and good, and maybe even plausible. Except for the fact Mitchell’s most recent fine of $7,875 was for taunting after he shoved Rams quarterback Sam Bradford out of bounds in Week 7, then turned his back on the St. Louis sideline and spread his arms to exult in self-celebration. Nothing real physical about taunting, except that Bradford did blow out his ACL on the play and is lost for the season.

Mitchell might also care to know that Goodell has zero to do with the fine process for on-field transgressions like the one he was docked for. That’s the job of Merton Hanks, the NFL’s vice president for football operations, and a former longtime NFL defensive back. So a fellow DB nailed you, Mike. Not the commish. And the money collected by the league for fines doesn’t go “right in Roger’s pocket,’’ like Mitchell posited, with little regard for reality. It gets donated through the NFL Foundation to assist former players in need via the NFL Care Foundation and the NFLPA’s Player Assistance Trust. That’s not exactly the same as Goodell’s cash stash for poker games and nights out with the boys.

As for Meriweather, where to begin? Even if he doesn’t care how it sounds to the fans and media to be talking about ending a guy’s career or tearing people’s ACLs in reaction to your history of being fined and suspended for head-high hits, maybe he should care how it sounds to his fellow NFL players. The ones he has to go up against every week, even beyond his good friend, Chicago receiver Brandon Marshall.

Meriweather was making the point that others have made about the new rules trying to take head-level hits out of the game, namely that low hits are the new high. But to boast about his new intent, as if there’s no other option beside head shots or tearing ACLs? Brilliant. And this coming from a player who tore his ACL last November, on a non-contact play.

I get it that in-game trash talk like the type Jones and Nelson engaged in during the Bengals’ blowout of the Jets last Sunday probably happens pretty frequently. Jones called Nelson a dirty player and said the Jets receiver tried to cut block him four different times after a play. “Thank God I took my medicine today—I guess—and I didn’t go off,’’ Jones said. Unless, I suppose, you consider telling your opponent that you’re “going to find out where you live and come and get you” going off, that is.

Boys will always be boys when it comes to the conflict between defensive backs and receivers, as Smith and Jenkins illustrated the week before in the Panthers’ win over the Rams. In that game, Jenkins, according to Smith, was getting personal with information he gleaned off the internet about Smith’s wife, trying to get under the skin of the veteran Carolina receiver. Smith considered it disrespectful treatment by the second-year Ram.

So disrespectful that in response, Smith, beside making the “bust him in the (bleeping) mouth” threat, got a little personal himself the next day on the radio. Alluding to the fact that Jenkins has four children, with multiple women, at age 24, Smith added: “It sounds like he needs to wear some condoms.”

Yep, it’s midseason in the NFL, and the nonsense is hard to miss. Why, not even Deion Sanders has the time or the talent to shut it all down. 

23 comments
DonaldHall
DonaldHall

Stop the penalties, cancell the play. Replay the down, that will stop all nonsense in a hurry! 100 yd return, show boat or taunt, no play do over.

B84
B84

y'all take stuff wayyyy too seriously.

80kdot
80kdot

And yet, the NFL is suing M.I.A. for giving the finger at the Superbowl a few years back.  A real life lawsuit.  Give me a break, league.

AaronGantenbein
AaronGantenbein

I find this to be an interesting MMQB article especially since the lead column, written by Peter King has a "quote of the week" section and "tweet of the week" section. Its like your asking guys to try and come up with something they think is peofound on a weekly basis.

JPG
JPG

While the SF 49ers activate a two time DUI loser (Aldon Smith) while facing gun charges, a grand jury subpoenaed the starting center for the Miami Dolphins just days ago all relative with the gun trafficing charges and as well as several murder charges against former Patriot Aaron Hernandez and Mr. Banks is consumed with some guy waving bye bye to an opposing player?

God, some of us have their priorities assbackwords.

incogneato2010
incogneato2010

And yet, the NFL pretty much forces players to talk to the media, especially once it comes to playoff time. You can't make them talk to the media and then get all upset when they go off and spout things the league doesn't want them to say.


Belichick gets lots of grief for being non-commital and never giving out information, but isn't that what Don Banks is asking for? Just a bunch of "it is what it is" and such? Its either that or outrageous quotes. You can't have it both ways.

therantguy
therantguy

At the end of the day the reality is this. You have a number of very highly paid, very lowly educated types with careers measured in years rather than decades. Post NFL, the vast majority of these guys have zero marketable skills. So, frankly, what else would you expect? I'd be shocked if the recipe for mature adults is "Spend years being passed through school because the athletic department needs him at Strong Safety this weekend, being worshipped by the masses and ordered around by dictator college coaches". 

Is it really a surprise that these guys think like this and can't control themselves when the mic is put in their face? When was the last time you think somebody gave a crap about Ray Lewis in any form other than "can he make tackles"? 

These guys are the product of the system. You want well mannered, thoughtful football players then don't spend fifteen years caring only about how well they tackle.

XPurdue
XPurdue

Every game Johnson has had in the NFL teams have covered him better than dallas did last sunday.  I think Sanders would have done a much better job than what occurred.  The defensive back being in the right position is most of the battle, and in speed sanders was second to none.  When you dont have to worry about the guy easily getting behind you it is a lot easier to make a play on the ball and sanders was a good enough athlete to play 2 sports professionally (wouldn't surprise me if he could of played more) and while johnson would of gotten a few balls over his head, that is a mighty small window to throw every ball into.

The area where sanders might fare the worst is tackling johnson in the open field off a receiver screen (I also wouldn't put it past him jumping the screen).

Taking a shot at jones for expressing a muted opinion that "sanders wouldn't have given up 300 yards" is not a dumb opinion, just a rather obvious statement and a cheap shot for a writer to take.  (and no, i am not a cowboys bandwagon groupie, i rather loathe the team).

Bob69
Bob69

Sadly, in order to save this great game from being outlawed by the US Congress (seriously), changes will have to be made beyond those made in last few years.  The tackling area will probably have to go in the narrow area between the shoulders and about 5 inches above the knees.  All tackles outside that area will be penalized.  Indeed, this is extreme but the cry from those who "care" is becoming louder each week and the politicians are listening. 

WasBufNowWas
WasBufNowWas

There should be two channels showing each game.  The first should just focus on the game.  The second-- let's say, Fox-- should show all the rest of this junk.  Because obviously there is a market for it-- just look at your comments already.  There will always be a contingent of fans who think this is crap, and there will always be a contingent who turn around and style any sort of regulation as part of the "No Fun League."  In the end, it's not that anyone's right or wrong.  (No, actually, I'm right, but I digress.)  It's just that sometimes you just want to watch football, or read about football, or hear about football, and you don't give a crap about the personal lives of some of the idiots who play your favorite game.  Sigh.

DaveG
DaveG

In a movie (I'm not sure of its name)  Morgan Freeman's character said something like, "When did winning stop being enough? When did embarrassing and belittling your opponent be required as well?" 


dt
dt

Come on Banksie we all know that athletes are paid to play, not to think.

Merv
Merv

I think that the NFL needs to interview each player between plays to see if anyone had their feelings hurt.   If a player is blocked, or misses an assignment he might be too embarrassed and lose self esteem if a counselor doesn't meet with him.  Imagine the psychological damage of getting pancaked in front of your Mother.  Devastating to the psychy.

friedtoast
friedtoast

Golden Tate waved at the Rams. So what? Why don't the refs penalize all the players due to their trash talk at the line of scrimmage? Is what they say much, much worse than a little wave? Oh, that's right- the crowd can't hear what they're saying, so it's ok. *shakes head* These aren't pre-schoolers. Let 'em play. As far as I'm concerned, it's the coach's job to make the players conform to the team's standards. If someone wants to paint a bulls-eye on themselves due to flamboyant taunting during the game, let 'em! Who cares? If some of you don't like it, then don't root for that player! Easy! Classy players will play classy regardless of the rules. The young kids who don't know better will get a talking to by their coach. Unsportsmanlike conduct? Puh-leeeze. 15 yards? You've got to be kidding me. The unsportsmanlike penalty for players doing a little dance or whatever- one of the most ridiculous penalties in football, in my opinion. These are adults on the field, no? Might as well get it over with and just play flag football. That's how silly this all seems. Much ado about nothing.

EasyGoer
EasyGoer

This happens in all walks of life. Why is it so surprising that it happens in the NFL?

zkinter36
zkinter36

Why do people care so much about this?  Although I personally think that most of the antics are unnecessary and stupid, at the end of the day I consider the source and move on.  What do you expect from 20 year olds who were given physical traits that allow them to be treated differently than everyone else since they entered Middle School?  When you add on the fact that many of them came from poverty and had terrible role models as parents, it makes sense that they do these things.  I teach and coach in the ghetto, so I am exposed to these things on a daily basis.  Correcting these behaviors is amazingly difficult.  What I find interesting is that almost all of the people who complain about this are older white people who romanticize the game as something that it no longer is.  The NFL is business, strategy and entertainment.  Tradition is not really part of the modern game.  Get over it!!!

therednorth1
therednorth1

How can you possibly suggest Meriweather was being serious when he said he was "out to tear ACLs?"  Anyone with half a brain could read what he said and understand the obvious sarcasm in his statement.

RDerekP
RDerekP

Conspiracy theories are extremely popular in America, for a number of reasons. Why is it surprising that football players are part of this? They're just people like the rest of us.

NCBuffoon
NCBuffoon

@JPG If one guy is a wife beater and another is a tax cheat, they're still both turds.  

Krivka
Krivka

@Bob69 I think the NFL should also adopt the soccer yellow and red card idea. Fifteen yards and a yellow card for first offense. The second offenses against the same player makes it a safety, and player ejection.

tgm929
tgm929

@friedtoast He also moved his hand in a yapping motion at Janoris Jenkins, who seems to be the common denominator in the Steve Smith and Golden Tate issues.  Maybe the bigger problem is with him and not Smith and Tate.

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