It’s COMBINE Week, as we tick down the weeks and days until the 2015 NFL DRAFT in Chicago. As I have always maintained there are multiple pieces to the giant jigsaw puzzle that is the NFL Draft, to be found and put in place from this weeks Combine. We will all gain some important workout numbers and see how some of these names match-up with other athletes down on the field. We will not be privy to the medical reports, other than what we can glean second or third hand. Then we all will have to separate fact from fiction. Let the head games begin anew!
Let’s start with my list of players who in the words of the late DEZI ARNEZ, will have some serious “splainin'” to do with NFL team representatives in the interview rooms this week. Just remember that teams will have a whopping 15-minute time span to ask their questions of these players. That might help explain why some of the questions we do hear about can be rather blunt and seem downright impolite at times.
JAMEIS WINSTON/QB/FLORIDA STATE We heard more about WINSTON’s off-field life than what he did on-filed in 2014. No matter what he tells people this week some of the big issues are yet to be resolved. His sexual assault accuser and her lawyer are not going away any time soon. Can you say out-of-court, “cash settlement” after his first NFL contract is signed?
MICHAEL DYER/RB/LOUISVILLE My guess is any team interested in this probable ‘bargain bin special’ will have a myriad of questions for a guy who spent time at multiple schools and never earned the playing time his talents would seem to have dictated. There were more than academics involved in some of his problems.
KARLOS WILLIAMS/RB/FLORIDA STATE Even though WILLIAMS has managed to stay out of jail, and the court room, that may only be because he’s part of the almost above-the-law FSU football program. He has had several domestic issues (a current NFL hot button) with the mother of his children, and has stayed technically clean because she apparently backs out of pressing charges each time.
FRANK CLARK/DE/MICHIGAN Another, in-season domestic abuse situation, that caused immediate suspension from the Wolverine program. Being involved in this hot-button issue can be disastrous to any player, and should be, but it really impacts borderline prospects like CLARK. Why bother with the bad PR for a guy who is never likely to become a star for your team? Welcome to the real world FRANK.
LEON ORR/DT/FLORIDA Clearly ORR has had some issues with his college coaches, but most NFL teams are going to be very concerned about a guy who leaves his team, on the road, when he learns he’s lost his starting job. ORR apparently bought a bus ticket and went back to Florida while his team played a road game. Shortly after the team got back ORR was permanently suspended.
DORIAL GREEN-BECKHAM/WR/? I’m not even sure what school to list him at. He did eventually transfer to OKLAHOMA after MISSOURI dismissed him from the program, but the NCAA ruled him ineligible, and then he declared for the Draft. He had multiple violations of drug policies while at MIZZOU. I’ve only heard of MJ, but clearly enough incidents to cause dismissal from that school, and to possibly start his NFL career in the substance abuse program.
MARCUS PETERS/CB/WASHINGTON The Huskies program suspended PETERS indefinitely for multiple run-ins with the coaching staff. Its a bit unclear whether the issues were with the new staff and schemes (1 story) or if things went back further. Both sides have been quiet about details, but you can bet your boots that NFL folks will poke at this. Most teams want a cohesive/clean locker room.
JOSH SHAW/CB/SOUTHERN CAL SHAW had a great reputation at USC until he made up a heroism story to explain two ankle sprains. Then the story turned into one of potential robbery and the injuries being the result of a hasty exit out an upper floor window. It cost SHAW most of the 2014 season, and will no doubt be a prominent situation to discuss in Indy.
JERMAINE WHITEHEAD/S/AUBURN Similar reports to PETERS had this starter suspended for more than half the season. Rumor was he took a swing at a coach, but officially it was reported as repeated disrespect for coaching authority. One would think it had to be fairly serious situation to pull him off of a struggling defense for an extended period of time.
Those are the top players with issues, at the COMBINE, that come to mind for me. But I would guess my old memory is missing a few names and there are a few others that have escaped public notice up until now for most of us.
I guess I should also mention that A.J. JOHNSON/LB/TENNESSEE, who has been suspended from the VOLS program on several occasions for sexual/assault type scenarios received the kiss-of-death from the Combine officials late last week when he was uninvited from the event completely.
The sad reality is that football, like any other segment of today’s society, must deal with deviant/criminal activities as they occur in seemingly greater numbers each year. Good business dictates caution and ethics be applied to these players and their various situations. Most likely some, or all, of them will enter the League with one or more strikes on their record and be placed in watch/testing programs the moment they sign their first NFL contract. Even though, as the saying goes, a player only needs one team to luv them to find a job, the number of potential employers even willing to consider them diminishes with each transgression. Some of those mentioned above are already off some teams’ Draft Boards, and won’t even get face time to answer those tough questions about their past. Not a great way to enter the Job Fair known as the NFL Combine.