The NFL’s Wake-Up Calls

February 17, 2014 by Peter King

Before we all get totally depressed about the NFL’s South Beach Locker Room Reality Show, something good to start your week: T.J. Oshie.

Did you notice what Oshie did Saturday, seconds after he scored his fourth goal of the shootout against Russia—in the eighth round of the shootout, against some of the best scorers on the planet—to give the United States a 3-2 victory in a game that wasn’t for a medal but had the intensity of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup? He slid the puck through Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky’s legs for the winner, whirled, raised his arms in jubilation, and then immediately pointed to his own goalie, Jonathan Quick. NBC could show that 17 more times, and I’d watch it 17 times.

“What was that about?’’ I asked Oshie on Sunday.

“Well,’’ Oshie said from Russia, “it was a two-man team there. I have to put the puck in the net, and he has to stop it from going in the net. Not only that, but he’s the guy who’s taking every shot, against some of the best players in the world, and he’s been doing it all game long, with the game on the line all the time. But I pointed to him because it was a team effort, and he did his job as well or better than any of us. We were all proud of him.”

How do you not root for Oshie and his mates? Especially on a weekend like this one, after reading the 144 pages from hell that was the Ted Wells report? Much more with Oshie, and on the hockey game, later in the column. In a me-first world, and after a disturbing couple of sports days, we can all use some good news.

* * *

What the NFL needs to do now.

It’s time for Roger Goodell to earn his $44 million—if that absurd sum is possible for anyone running any sports venture to earn. It’s time for him to professionalize professional football.

“Commissioner,” highly respected Philadelphia wide receiver Jason Avant told Goodell in a recent meeting, “we need you to set standards. We need you to make it black and white. We need standards, and if we don’t meet them, we shouldn’t be here.”

The impetus for culture change in the NFL now falls to commissioner Roger Goodell, who had his $44 million salary revealed on the same day the Ted Well report was released. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The impetus for culture change in the NFL now starts with commissioner Roger Goodell, who had his $44 million salary revealed on the same day the Ted Wells report was released. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In the past 60 days, Goodell, I’m told, has met with more than 30 players, asking them how to make the locker room a more tolerant, more professional place. Players like Avant have told Goodell what he needs to hear. (Avant confirmed to me Sunday night that he asked Goodell to set standards for the players in the league, so publicly they’re not all painted with the Incognito brush.) Vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent and the czar of human resources for the NFL, Robert Gulliver, have also been involved in the meetings. They knew bad things were coming in the Ted Wells report, and the bad things came … worse than many people in the league thought. In the end, Richie Incognito and his perverse and persistent bullying and sister-raping jokes and goonishness gone mad will do a favor for the league. All the gone-too-far frat boys in locker rooms around the league can thank Incognito now, because when the NFL adopts a locker-room and meeting-room behavior policy, it’s going to be for adults. Will veterans be able to make rookies sing their college fight songs? Yes. Will vets be able to run kangaroo courts and fine peers $100 for especially stinky farts? Yes. Beyond that, vets won’t be allowed to humiliate young players the way it happened in Miami.

A shame! The corporatization of the NFL!

I say good. And good riddance to the bad-cop stuff—or whatever disgusting crap—Incognito and John Jerry and Mike Pouncey were advocating in the past couple of years.

And while they’re at it, the NFL is going to put in a seminar for players and coaches and staff on sexual-orientation training. Call it the Michael Sam Seminar. It’s coming, and it should. Homosexuality is not going away, and there’s no reason why any gay player in any NFL locker room should be subject to one-tenth of what Jonathan Martin had to endure over the past two years.

Wells Fallout

What did we learn? It was more than just Richie Incognito harassing Jonathan Martin, punishment will be widespread and locker-room culture will never be the same, Jenny Vrentas writes. FULL STORY


The Martin-Incognito case isn’t an indictment of the NFL locker room as a whole, Greg Bedard writes, but a case study in what can happen when it’s left to operate without restraints or mature leadership. FULL STORY

The Sam declaration and the Ted Wells report came within six days of each other, and the reverberations will be felt for years. Multiple NFL committees will meet March 3 and 4 to discuss league business, and certainly a new behavior policy will discussed. When the 32 owners and coaches and their front office staff convene for the annual spring meetings in Orlando March 24-28, more discussions will be had.

Vincent shared with me Sunday his ideas for professionalism in the NFL workplace. Players should have a code of conduct perhaps not identical to but certainly in the same league with other members of a football organization—scouts, marketers, administrative help, executives, coaches. “I think you’ll see workplace training conducted for the football side,’’ Vincent said. “The kind of respect-at-work training that happens on the second floor, in the business offices, needs to happen on the first floor, with the players.” Vincent said he hopes the league can establish a working group of coaches, players, club officials and league executives—men and women—to discuss issues and solutions. Vincent wants teams to begin workshop training for players and other club employees. Those workshops should included sexual orientation, diversity, domestic violence and professionalism in the workplace, among other things.

Speaking of Sam: On Friday, former NFL player Wade Davis—who came out after retiring—held a workshop of sorts for some NFL employees, including Goodell, in New York. He talked about the importance of a team atmosphere to deal with Sam and any other future gay player, because in some cases the team will be the best support group the player has.

“This is the 21st century athlete we’re dealing with now,” Vincent said. “It has been a progression over the past few years. And now we’re at a moment in time where we have to do something as a league, and we will.”

Get ready for several weeks (months?) of internal and external debate around the NFL over how to professionalize the players’ workplace. You’re going to hear a lot of that, and you should, after Sam announced he is gay and the scathing Ted Wells report told the world what a soulless place an NFL locker room can be. “Can” being the operative word, because I do not believe there are many, if any, other locker rooms or portions of locker rooms that go so over the top as the Incognito-led Miami offensive-line group went.

Quick takes on what I thought was a thorough job by Wells and the nine attorneys from his Manhattan law firm, with only one major flaw:

• Roger Goodell has to suspend Incognito, and give more than a slap on the wrist to partners-in-intimidation John Jerry and Mike Pouncey. Wells reported that Incognito was called before Goodell in August 2012 to discuss three untoward off-field incidents Incognito had been involved in. “Although Commissioner Goodell ultimately decided not to impose any additional discipline on Incognito at that time,” the report said, “it was made clear to Incognito, both in person and in follow-up correspondence, that his recent history of alleged misconduct reflected a troubling pattern. Incognito was told to ensure that his future behavior met the standards of the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, at the risk of immediate disciplinary action.” So, you’d say, isn’t half a season of keeping Incognito out of play—he missed the second half of the 2013 season, suspended by the Dolphins before the club knew everything that was in Wells’ report—enough? No. Incognito was docked only two of 17 paychecks in 2013. To me, that’s not nearly sufficient for the mayhem this story caused the Dolphins, and the sport.

If I have to choose between snitching and being driven stark mad, I’ll take snitching any day. Martin needed to be an adult and tell Philbin.

 Miami will have to fire offensive line coach Jim Turner, who the report says was complicit in the atmosphere of bullying. How can owner Steve Ross say he’s serious about a respectful work environment and keep employing a coach who went along with Incognito’s incessant bullying of two of his linemen, going so far as to give a male blow-up doll to one player whom the others chided as being gay? And who pressured Jonathan Martin, when he’d left the team, with a string of text messages to publicly exonerate his “friend,” Incognito?

• Martin should have talked to Joe Philbin. Martinmight be a fish out of water in the NFL and certainly deserves empathy for having to deal with 18 months of mental beatdowns from veterans like Incognito. But he should have told his head coach what was going on. If I have to choose between snitching and being driven stark mad, I’ll take snitching any day. Martin needed to be an adult and tell Philbin. In the report, Wells wrote: “Martin believed that going to his coaches or other authority figures meant risking ostracism or even retaliation from his fellow linemen. At the same time, we strongly believe that if Martin had reported the harassment to a coach or front office executive (or even his agent), the team might have been able to address his issues before it was too late. There is no question that the better course of action would have been for Martin to report the abuse.” Absolutely.

• For Philbin not to know anything definitive about the crisis with Martin, he had to be either tone deaf or not paying enough attention to his team. Head coaches have their locker-room sources. Some I’ve known, like Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson, spent lots of time with players, making sure their fingers were on the pulse of their teams. I thought the Wells report went too easy on Philbin, saying he was unaware of the plight of Martin, an unidentified player and an assistant trainer, all of whom were being harassed. “We find that Head Coach Joe Philbin was not aware of the mistreatment of Martin, Player A or the Assistant Trainer. After interviewing Coach Philbin at length, we were impressed with his commitment to promoting integrity and accountability throughout the Dolphins organization—a point echoed by many players,” the report said. How can Philbin have been in that building 15 hours a day, at least, and not known anything? And how can Wells accept that this was a fine job by Philbin, and he was some sort of Boy Scout troop leader promoting wonderful citizenship? I do understand he asked Turner about what was going on with his players, and Turner told him everything was fine. But what caused Philbin to ask Turner? Obviously his antennae were up. Philbin, whom I find to be a good man, still should know better, and this had better be a very good lesson for him, or his time in the head coach’s chair is going to be short.

For the NFL, Sam and this report are two firecrackers designed to wake up anyone who can’t see that the league needs to have its collective head examined. It’s time, and Goodell can’t let this moment get away.

The crowd around Manti Te'o at last year's combine will be similar in size to the one Michael Sam sees in Indy this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
The crowd around Manti Te’o at last year’s combine hints at what awaits Michael Sam in Indianapolis this week. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

About those “distractions.”

A year ago, the American sports media trooped to Indianapolis for the annual NFL Scouting Combine, and the story was the distraction that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o would be for the team that drafted him, in the wake of the girlfriend hoax. The Detroit News wrote, “Draft prospect Te’o is a distraction the Lions cannot afford.’’ Said draft guru Gil Brandt: “I think some teams will say [Te’o] isn’t worth the problem.” Houston defensive lineman Antonio Smith said his teammates would chide and laugh at Te’o, and he’d better have a very thick skin.

At the combine, I’ve never seen the kind of media crowd around a player that I saw around Te’o. The sight of that horde led to more thinking that if a team takes Te’o, the circus comes to town. And maybe it pushed him down quite a bit from where he thought he’d be picked—somewhere in the bottom half of the first round. (Though his just-average speed and his getting steamrolled by Alabama in Notre Dame’s bowl game probably pushed him into the second round, really.) In the end, the Chargers drafted Te’o with the sixth pick of the second round. Think back now: What do you remember about his rookie year, on or off the field? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. He was unimpactful on the field, particularly against the run, playing 56 percent of the defensive snaps. He kept his mouth shut off the field. He’s a vanilla interview anyway, and eventually the questions about the phony girlfriend went away.

So much for the headache that drafting Te’o would bring.

Now, Sam is likely to be just as big of a story at the combine. And, unlike Te’o, Sam probably will be more of a lingering story, wherever he is drafted. But I think Sam will be a mega-story only for several days, when you might see Anderson Cooper with a CNN crew on the sidelines early in training camp. Especially after the aforementioned league-mandated “enlightenment” in the preseason, with some education about treating all teammates with respect.

That’s why I think if you’re a scout or GM, and you think Sam fits your team, you shouldn’t overthink it. If Sam can play, his teammates will accept him—maybe with a hiccup or two from a very religious teammate who disapproves of homosexuality or an unenlightened teammate who thinks it’s cool to make gay jokes. And it could be that some of those on the team will simply steer clear of Sam. No one knows. But there won’t be much of a problem, I don’t think, if Sam is contributing as a player.

* * *

America needs more Oshies.

T.J. Oshie (Al Bello/Getty Images)
T.J. Oshie. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The 3-2 victory by the United States hockey team over Russia on Saturday really wasn’t a significant event, if you consider that it meant nothing in the medal standings. But you couldn’t watch the game and listen to the explosions by the fans (particularly the Russians, who outnumbered the Americans so clearly) and not feel there was something riding on this. Even the players, diving to make stops, taking shots off their bodies and their hands, clearly knew something was at stake.

But that’s what great about hockey: Even in a game that’s being played for future seeding only, the players care so much. And in the first match between the countries since the USA’s Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid, it was T.J. Oshie, as unheralded a player as any who suited up in the game, who made all the difference.

Sunday, when I got to ask Oshie about it, he was still stunned about it all. “The president tweeted about you,” I said. “America went pretty nuts. The New York Post and the New York Daily News both had you on the back pages this morning, with screaming headlines. Yesterday morning, no one knew you. Now, this.”

Said Oshie: “I know. It’s very odd. I was talking to my fiancée last night on the phone and I said, ‘This just felt like a round-robin game in the tournament, just another shootout.’ But I see how big it was now. It’s awesome. Just awesome. In my mind, I thought, I know we’re not in the medal round yet, so it’s early to get really excited.”

You’ve probably seen some or all of Oshie’s goals in the shootout. In the NHL, a player gets to shoot once in the shootout, and then others on the team get to shoot if the shootout is still tied after three players from each side alternately take a shot on goal. But in Olympic play, after the first three shots are taken by a side, the coach can keep putting the same shooter out there. That’s what Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma did with Oshie. It was 1-1 after the first three rounds. Then Ilya Kovalchuk missed for the Russians, and Oshie shot it over the goal. Onto round five. Pavel Datsyuk beat Quick, and Oshie shot it through the goalie’s legs. Onto round six. Kovalchuk scored, and Oshie pinged it in off the crossbar. Round seven: Datsyuk missed, Oshie backhanded it off the goalie.

Round eight.

I asked Oshie if he’d been the kind of kid who grew up—in Washington state and Minnesota—shooting the puck into a net, imagining it was for the Stanley Cup or Olympic gold. “Yeah, I was that type of kid,” he said. “I did it a lot, playing in the backyard, playing wherever, 9 or 10 o’clock at night, just before you leave the ice, you’re alone, and you think, ‘This one’s for the Stanley Cup,’ or ‘This one’s for the gold medal.’ I thought about it a lot. But I was thinking about like it was a breakaway. Shootouts weren’t part of the game then.”

The NHL adopted shootouts in 2005.

“But that definitely started as a kid,” he said. “Every kid, when I was growing up at the end of practice, would go to the blue line or red line, one after another, go to score, even defensemen who know they’ll never shoot.”

Oshie's game-winner slipped through the legs of Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Oshie’s game-winner slipped through the legs of Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Oshie skated in deliberately, as always. “If you skate in fast, you’ve only got a chance to make one or two moves—that’s it,” he said. He swept in toward the right, the back left, then right in on goal, and he saw a little hole between the legs, and he aimed for it, and bang … right in.

Then the scrum around him, and the interviews and more interviews, and then he got taken to the NBC set. “I was nervous about that,” Oshie said. “I was actually shaking to meet Dan Patrick, Cris Collinsworth, Al Michaels.”

And then the quote America loved, about how he felt about being an American hero, in a group interview with some American writers and TV people. Oshie said to them, “The real American heroes are wearing camo. That’s not me.”

He told me: “The way the question was asked … people were asking all kinds of questions, about what I was thinking, and how big it was, and how I was blowing up on Twitter, and then, ‘How does it feel to be an American hero?’ I could never think of that. I mean, I would hope everyone would think the men and women who protect our country, those are the heroes. A hockey player, that’s not a hero. I wanted to make that correction.”

Then he talked to some of his family members. Some had tears. He went back to his room, hungry. His celebratory dinner: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The last time he looked at his phone, it was about 12:30 in the morning, maybe four hours since the game was over.

“Thanks,” I said when we were about to get off the phone. “Hope you bring home the gold.”

“Thank you sir,” said the 27-year-old hockey player, not hero, from Warroad, Minn. “We will sure try.”

Quotes of the Week

I

“I was a kid who made some goofball decisions. That’s been part of my journey. Maybe it’s part of the whole Johnny Football deal that I’m trying to get away from. I’m trying to show people I’ve grown up, and I’ve learned from my experiences. I feel like you’re a stupid person if you continue to make the same wrong decisions. I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, anybody in his situation would have been doing the same thing.’ I’m 100 percent responsible for my actions.”

—Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who wants to be the first pick in the draft to the Houston Texans, in an interview he clearly hopes will be image-altering with John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

II

“Bob McNair and Bill O’Brien. Those are the two guys I really want to meet.”

—Manziel, to Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star Telegram. McNair owns the Texans. O’Brien coaches them. This was in response to a question about whom the famous Manziel really wants to meet.

III

“So many paid their rubles to see the home team win. Not this game. Not tonight.”

—NBC hockey announcer Doc Emrick on Saturday, when the U.S. hockey team beat Russia, 3-2, in Sochi.

IV

“In light of the Incognito/Martin story, people would have you believe that you have to be some raving lunatic to play in the NFL, wound so tightly that the slightest spark will insight an insatiable inferno. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m 48 years old now and about the least confrontational person you’ll ever meet. My fists have never found purchase on the flesh of another man’s face. I’ve never been in a fight. Yet I succeeded for many years in the trenches of the NFL, in which there are several confrontations on every play. It can be done—through focus, effort and discipline, not through unbridled rage and hair-trigger emotional outbursts. I’m left with this conclusion about the Dolphins organization from the coaching staff on down: They were either complicit, incompetent or, worse, both.”

—Former NFL guard Mark Schlereth, in an excellent column written for ESPN.com about how, from his experience, he feels what happened in Miami is more of an outlier than common. 

Stats of the Week

I

Combined compensation for commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Network czar Steve Bornstein in fiscal year 2013: $70,244,000.

Combined compensation for Super Bowl quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson in 2013: $25,526,217.

II

Florida State closer Jameis Winston’s first outing of the baseball season Saturday in Tallahassee, in a 4-1 victory over Niagara University:

  IP H R ER BB SO Pitches
Winston, S1 2 0 0 0 0 1 20

Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me

So now that LA-loving Steve Bornstein is leaving NFL Network this year, isn’t it time for NFL Network and NFL.com to leave the city that has no team and might never have one, Los Angeles, and come east?

I am still trying to figure out why NFL Network and NFL.com are based in Culver City, Calif., and not in either Mount Laurel, N.J. (home of NFL Films) or Manhattan (home of the league office).

I don’t buy the it’s-good-for-business-to-have-a-West Coast-presence thing. You mean it’s good for business to be 3,000 miles away from the capital of the capitalism world, New York? Let’s say the whole operation was moved to One Sabol Way in Mount Laurel (yes, that’s the address of the huge office park that contains NFL Films). On a Monday after a big weekend, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles or Giants receiver Victor Cruz could be in studio to dissect big wins on the set, and they could cycle through NFL.com to be grilled by one or two of the writers on site. Let’s say the Ravens are the hottest team in football, with the best defense. On Tuesday, the entire Haloti Ngata-led defensive front comes in to do the car wash on TV and the website.

This would be possible because of the proximity of the players to Mount Laurel, as opposed to the proximity of Culver City to the rest of the NFL. Take a look.

Culver City to:
San Diego 129 miles
Santa Clara, Calif. (S.F.) 345 miles
Oakland 371 miles
Tempe, Ariz. (Cardinals) 393 miles
Denver 1,028 miles
Seattle 1,137 miles

Mount Laurel to:
Philadelphia 17 miles
New York City 83 miles
East Rutherford, N.J. (Giants) 83 miles
Florham Park, N.J. (Jets) 88 miles
Baltimore 119 miles
Asburn, Va. (Wash.) 179 miles
Foxboro, Mass. (N.E.) 282 miles
Pittsburgh 321 miles

So: seven teams and the league office are within 330 miles of Mount Laurel. One team is within 330 miles of Culver City.

I just don’t get it. Never have.

Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week

Worst part about going someplace warm for three days and flying back into New York in February: When you return, you fly low over inlets and small fingers of water that are either frozen or ice-capped, and you get off the plane and walk back into the freezer and think there is no way spring is coming. Ever.

Tweets of the Week

I

“According to Dolphins OL ‘fine book,’ being subpoenaed by the FBI carries same $ penalty as a failure to bring candy & is equal to 10 farts”

@brian_mcintyre, the NFL reporter.

II

“Greg Cosell: Sammy Watkins best WR prospect since A.J. Green, Julio Jones.”

@caplannfl, NFL analyst Adam Caplan, on the universally respected Cosell’s opinion of the Clemson wide receiver.

III

“Dempster is a real character. Wore a t-shirt around the clubhouse with a picture of Shakespeare. ‘This **** writes itself’ it said.”

@peteabe, Boston Globe Red Sox beat man Pete Abraham, on pitcher Ryan Dempster, who announced Sunday he was walking away from a contract that would pay him $13 million in 2014 for physical and family reasons.

IV

“Without a space program that discovers, tracks & deflects killer asteroids, our extinction is assured by one. Have a nice day”

@neiltyson, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Ten Things I Think I Think

1. I think after getting ripped to shreds on Twitter Friday, and ultimately deleting his Twitter account, maybe Richie Incognito knows how he made Jonathan Martin feel.

2. I think I really hope one team—the Saints or Ravens—challenges the idiotic tight end franchise-tag designation, a $4.8 million difference between the tight end and wide receiver positions. My feeling on this is simple: If Jimmy Graham and Dennis Pitta are drafted as tight ends and used as tight ends and voted to the Pro Bowl as tight ends, then their team’s salary caps should not be punished by having them shown as wide receivers. Being placed in the slot or split wide on multiple occasions per game should not change their designation.

3. I think, if I had to guess, the quarterback Cleveland GM Ray Farmer was referring to when he told Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he knows which QB he’d take if the draft was today is one of two: Johnny Manziel or Blake Bortles. Manziel, obviously, with a very high pick, and maybe Bortles lower if Farmer feels he could safely trade down and still get the Central Florida kid.

4. I think many of you have rightfully asked me, and others who work in NFL locker rooms, how surprised we are about what was in the Wells report, and might think it’s disingenuous for me to say, “I’m surprised.” I am—because, and you need to understand this, the Incognitos and Pounceys aren’t going to show us the truly real world when the doors are open and we walk into the locker room. If they’re not going to show coaches the sometimes vile stuff they do, why would you think they’d be open to be truly real around the media? Now, I know lots of untoward stuff goes on, because it always has, and there’s an Animal House element to every locker room. But I just don’t believe what happened in Miami is common to every NFL locker room.

The 31-year-old Suggs is re-doing his contract with the intent of retiring as a Raven. (David Banks/Getty Images)
The 31-year-old Suggs is redoing his contract with the intent of retiring as a Raven. (David Banks/Getty Images)

5. I think Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald had a great take on why the Dolphins unconditionally supported Incognito and not Martin: “We can all moralize about this now from the outside, choosing sides, but this wasn’t about morality and immorality to the people on the inside. It was about strength and weakness. The players in that locker room think Martin is a soft, whining quitter who caused all this because he wasn’t tough enough for their survival-of-the-fittest workplace.’’

6. I think with the news that Terrell Suggs will commit to a deal to remain a Raven for the rest of his career, we now know who will take the mantle long-term as the heir to Ray Lewis as the Baltimore defensive leader. It should be Suggs. He’s got the respect of his locker room and his coaches to continue the tradition Lewis and Ed Reed made so strong.

7. I think retired standout safety and suspended NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper better have a very good lawyer. A Los Angeles court filing contends he is a suspect in seven alleged rapes in five different cities, and he is alleged to have used drug-laced alcohol to incapacitate the women. 

8. I think, with franchise tags able to be used beginning today, I would be stunned if defensive end Greg Hardy isn’t tagged by the Panthers—who have the moderate sum of about $8 million in cap space and will have to shed some contract in order to tag him. But Hardy, 25, is the kind of player teams develop and keep, not develop and let walk.

9. I think the University of Missouri must be a great place these days. A great journalism school, obviously, from the alums who work all over our business … but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the loyalty to Michael Sam. An AP dispatch out of Columbia over the weekend quoted the student body president, Mason Schara, thusly: “The majority of us knew [Sam was gay] and we just didn’t think anything of it because that’s just who we are here.” And a large group of students, hearing there would be a protest Sunday on campus opposing Sam’s declaration, linked arms in solidarity as a protest to the protest. Surely, that respect for Sam has to say something to the NFL teams that will consider whether to draft him in May.

Talk Back

Have a question or comment for Peter? Email him at talkback@themmqb.com and it might be included in Tuesday’s mailbag.

10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:

a. A fond farewell tour is my hope for Derek Jeter. And that, to him, would mean a 162-game regular season and playing well enough to lead the Yankees deep into the playoffs. As I’ve written, I believe he’s the best all-around baseball player and leader I’ve seen play a complete career. I know his stats don’t say it, and he wasn’t the equal of Ozzie Smith or Omar Vizquel in the field to be sure, but it’s amazing to me how he not only played at such a high level, but led at the highest level as well—and never the hint of a scandal, playing on the team with the highest profile in American professional sports.

b. Johnny Weir is good on TV. I like his analysis, because he’s emotional but also analytical—in plain English—about a sport I know so little about, figure skating.

c. I loved that Russia-USA hockey game, by the way. Hockey is the only game in which guys can leave their pro teams, travel across the globe, and six days later, with precious little practice, play the kind of game at full speed and with abandon that we’ll be talking about for a long time.

d. Hey Pierre McGuire: Great call on the heretofore unknown T.J. Oshie being one of the U.S. shooters in the shootout as everyone debated who would get the call for the Americans.

e. Can someone please explain how Maxwell, the Geico pig with cloven hooves, can get his smartphone to work by pressing the screen with hard cloven hooves instead of with fingers?

f. See the things you think of sitting home and watching the Olympics night after night?

g. Really liked the Al Michaels interview with 1980 Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak.

h. “God is saying, ‘Enough skating, Evgeni,’ ” said Evgeni Plushenko, the 31-year-old Russian master of a figure skater. He retired when his back wouldn’t allow him to skate the men’s short program, and he deserves tremendous respect. He’s probably the most recognizable men’s figure skater of the generation.

i. Coffeenerdness: I’ve crossed over to the darker side now. Four shots of espresso in a medium drink at Starbucks now. Someone has to stop me before it’s too late.

j. Beernerdness: Lucky for me, Whole Foods in New York is stocking Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale (Comstock, Mich.), and dating back to the time I was treated to Bell’s Oberon Ale, I’ve got a thing for these Bell’s beers. The Two Hearted Ale, an IPA apparently brewed and bottled just two weeks prior to me tasting it, is sufficiently bitter and extremely tasty. I’ll be back for more.

k. I saw The Monuments Men, and though it had its share of clichéd dialog and scenes, I liked the story a lot. Cate Blanchett’s really good in it.

l. And I read a book: Sycamore Row, by John Grisham. Read it in three days, as is my Grisham custom. It’s not the time of year for a beach book, but let’s call it a Snow Day book. If you’re home on a snow day, you’ll devour this one. As usual with Grisham, all the pieces fit, superbly.

The Adieu Haiku

The combine’s this week.
Hearty welcome, Michael Sam.
Welcome to mayhem.

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