Quotes of the Week
“I just wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player.”
—Michael Sam, to an overflow crowd of about 350 media people at the combine Saturday
“I think it’s widely known that every locker room has a number of gay individuals. Quite honestly, it speaks to the evolution of acceptance in our society. I really believe the NFL is quite evolved. It continues to be very progressive and out on the front end of the curve in many ways.”
—Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff
I did not know that.
“The report? Reeee-diculous! Ridiculous. No. Ridiculous.”
—San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh, to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area at the combine. Harbaugh was denying a Pro Football Talk report that the Browns and 49ers discussed a trade for Harbaugh last month before Cleveland hired Mike Pettine as coach.
“And this, children, is why one should never count one’s dynasties before they have actually been crowned. People have a tendency to turn into people, and more often than not, people end up being the biggest impediment to the greater achievements of other people.”
—Ray Ratto of CSN Bay Area, in a profoundly true statement from his column on the Harbaugh/Browns story
Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me
I am on record as being opposed to the absurdity of having the NFL draft in May. Teams do not need 95 days after the Super Bowl to scout the players they’ve already been scouting through an entire college football season. But you can’t fight city hall. The NFL buys two more weeks of free hype by pushing back the combine, and the draft now fills some of the spring dead time that the NFL wants to control on the sporting calendar. As it is now, there’s the Super Bowl … and the combine three weeks later … and the start of free agency two weeks after that … and then three weeks of heavy free agency coverage at the same time as pro days at colleges coast to coast … and then six weeks of draft hype … and then the draft … and then offseason workout camps for much of May and early June. Good deal for the NFL. There’s only a month of down time on the calendar—approximately June 20 to July 20.
But I digress. Here’s the Factoid:
The Buffalo Bills are doing something very nice, and smart, for their scouts and officials who work the draft: They’re giving them Easter week (the week before April 20) off. “We want our guys to be fresh,” GM Doug Whaley told me. “There’s only so long you can study guys.”
Stats of the Week
Everywhere you turned in Indianapolis, you saw front-office men chatting with agents. Drew Rosenhaus tweeted he met with all 32 teams here. That’s because the start of free agency is 15 days away, and the crop could be very good … and the average NFL team is about $17.8 million under the projected $130 million cap number. That should mean that after three years of an essentially flatlined NFL salary cap (2011: $120.4 million; 2012: $120.6 million; 2013: $123 million), teams will be tempted to spend like they haven’t in the past couple springs.
It’s basically a time of implicit tampering, when agents are taking the temperature on their potential free-market players. No deals are supposed to be made before the March 11 opening of the market, but it’s naïve to think deals aren’t discussed. Not by every team, but certainly some.
The heightened activity this year is also because the meter is running on the salary cap in every NFL front office. There was a provision in the 2011 collective bargaining agreement that most in the public have forgotten but that’s soon going to come into significant play. In the four cap years 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, each NFL team must spend a minimum of 89 percent of its cap money. And the league must spend a collective minimum of 95 percent of its cap money. That was put in to stop teams from hoarding money and not spending it. Oakland, for instance, has a substantial amount of cap money available—about $70 million—and the Raiders will be almost forced to spend a large amount of it or deal with onerous league sanctions at the end of the four-year period, in 2017.
There’s an estimated $470 million in cap money available to teams to spend this contract season, and GMs know they can’t hoard that money for long.
In 2013, 62 percent of the collective money in all NFL player contracts was guaranteed.
Mr. Starwood Preferred Member Travel Note of the Week
Checking in at the downtown Marriott the other day for the combine, and a woman next to me was doing the same with another front-desk person. She asked the woman checking her in: “What is the scouting combine?” The Marriott attendant said it was the NFL bringing college players in for workouts and interviews with teams, and it comes to Indianapolis every February.
“I don’t get the name,” the Marriott guest said. “The combine … it’s a combination of something?”
Tweets of the Week
—@TonyGrossi of ESPNCleveland, after vaunted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash and limped off Sunday, saying he strained a hamstring.
“Ha Ha Clinton Dix just said the worst thing about his nickname is ‘the whole Clinton/Lewinsky’ thing.’
—@NFLCharean, Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star Telegram, reporting from the combine about the Alabama safety prospect.
“Michael Sam benched 225 pounds 17 times, second-worst among defensive lineman. Seven WRs did more.”
—@MichaelDavSmith, Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, after Sam lifted at the combine on Sunday.
“Hey Marvin Lewis, don’t try turning in a St. Elmo’s receipt this week. Because Mike Brown is standing in line @SteaknShake”
—@daringantt, reporting from the Steak n Shake in downtown Indianapolis Saturday afternoon.
Who wouldn’t like the vanilla shakes there?
“Things 16 year old me never thought I’d say: ‘Excuse me, could you turn on the NBA? My gay friend is playing tonight.’ ”
—@BurkieYCP, Patrick Burke, NHL Player Safety Director and president of You Can Play Team, the organization that aims to end homophobia in sports, shortly before Jason Collins—the first openly gay player in the four major American pro team sports—took the court as a member of the Brooklyn Nets for a game against the Lakers.