‘He Did What?!’ True Tales from the NFL Dead Month
Angry wives throwing clothes in the driveway. Clandestine boating accidents in Mexico. Vengeful voiding in dorm closets. It's all on the table during the last bit of down time for free and rich football players before the season's grind begins
We are nearing the end of the “dead month” on the NFL calendar. From approximately June 20 until July 20, players, coaches and most of the front office is on vacation. There are no practices, no workouts, no coaches meetings, no scouting meetings and now with the new CBA’s predetermined wage scale, no rookie contract negotiations. I always compared football players and coaches to submarine workers doing six-month stints: They are now drawing their last breaths as civilians before going back inside the sub for six months.
As the front office person dealing with player issues and as a former agent, however, I could never relax during this time. Players, with the combustible mix of free time and money, know this is their last time to party, their last freedom before the grind begins.
I would cringe at phone calls coming during this time of year from different area codes bringing unpredictable news, making for some anxious moments during an otherwise relaxed time on the calendar. The Browns and Ravens got those calls in the past couple of weeks, regarding Josh Gordon and Jimmy Smith. Those incidents were serious, but they can be amusing as well. Here are a few experiences I had during the dead month:
He Did What?
One July morning I received a call from a number with a Miami area code, never a good sign knowing many of our players spent time in South Florida. A Miami Shores police detective informed me that one of our players—who had listed the Packers as his employer and given my name as a contact—was being arrested. Naturally, I asked why. I will never forget the next line from the detective, said in a completely matter-of-fact manner:
“He broke into a woman’s dormitory room and defecated in her closet.”
I was not sure I heard him correctly or, if I did, was not sure he actually said what I thought he said.
“He did what?”
The detective repeated, with remarkable restraint: “He broke into a young lady’s dorm room and voided into her laundry hamper.”
Um, okay. Nowhere in my Stanford or Georgetown Law School education was there a section on handling this set of facts.
I thanked the detective for calling, then informed the necessary people in the organization, all of whom responded, “He did what?” Then, as I always did with any player misbehavior, I contacted the agent and we stayed on task working through it. And when it hit the news later that day, I dusted off the obligatory, We are aware of the situation… statement.
The call set off an interesting couple of days during the dead month. The player was new to the team yet handled the inevitable ribbing well. I later found him to be an interesting and articulate guy and popular in the locker room, despite his messy (sorry) start.
Mike from New Jersey
One midsummer morning while virtually alone in our offices in Green Bay, the receptionist transferred a call from someone who identified himself as Mike from New Jersey (I felt like I was hosting a sports talk radio show). Mike said that while on vacation in Cancun he noticed a flipped Jet Ski and its rider, one of our star players, being loaded onto a lifeguard boat. Mike said, “I thought you should know; he was bloody and pretty banged up.”
I thanked Mike for the call; I was not sure it was legitimate, but had to check it out.
I called the player’s agent who—also on vacation—had no idea what I was talking about but assured me he would find out. He then confirmed that the player had indeed had a Jet Ski accident, but downplayed its seriousness. “He says he’s fine,” the agent said, although admitting the player had hospital treatment. “Do you believe him?” I trusted this agent more than many others. He said he did.
For a brief period there I thought we were in serious jeopardy of losing one of our top players to boating in Cancun. Thankfully, he was fine, but it could have been (much) worse. And we would have never known, but for Mike from New Jersey.
Clothes in the Driveway
Late one midsummer night I received a call from a local Green Bay policeman about an incident at one of our player’s homes. The player was not in town but his wife was, and she had learned of his infidelity during his time away. She became enraged and left quite a trail of destruction, smashing trophies and other memorabilia, and throwing his clothing in the driveway, some of it cut up and spilling into the street. Neighbors had called to complain about the mess.
I went to the house—everything in Green Bay was less than 10 minutes away—and joined the police in unsuccessfully trying to calm his wife. I called the agent, who was not surprised, and he assured me the player was on his way home to, literally, clean up the mess.
That was not the first time I dealt with that volatile marriage, nor the last, but I will always remember the sight of clothes spilling down that driveway.
Contracts By Rick
In the pre-2011 days when first-round draft pick negotiations were more complicated, it was rare to reach agreement prior to the week of training camp. One year, however, I reached a tentative agreement with our top pick in early July and, as luck would have it, the player was in Green Bay for a couple of days. I pushed to firm up the contract so he could sign in person while in town, as it is always cleaner to do in person rather than deal with faxes and overnight packages (see Dumervil, Elvis).
When we finalized the deal, I tried to get the player to come in and sign before he left town. He said he was at an appointment and then catching a flight, but I pushed for a meeting, saying I would meet him wherever he was. Although reluctant, he finally agreed.
I drove to the address he gave me which was, wait for it, a tattoo parlor. Thus, our first-round pick signed his multi-million dollar contract while getting ink on his back—a Japanese inscription, as I recall—at Tattoos By Rick in Green Bay, Wisc.
You do what you have to do to get the deal done.