The Brock and Danny Show on 710 ESPN Seattle
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 @ 10:11pm
By Brady Henderson
After the Seahawks cleared nearly $13 million in salary-cap space last week by releasing defensive end Red Bryant and wide receiver Sidney Rice, the attention has turned to another high-cost player who could be on the chopping block.
Zach Miller is scheduled to count $7 million against the salary cap in 2014, and while none of the other tight ends Seattle has under contract for next season have experience as a full-time starter, Bryant's release showed the Seahawks' willingness to part ways with a player despite not having a clear heir apparent.
Miller's uncertain future in Seattle was among the topics during the latest edition of "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil. The full transcript can be found here. Highlights are below.
Brad H asked where Miller and the Seahawks stand.
O'Neil: We don't know anything about the specifics of any discussions with Zach Miller. At least I don't. Being fully transparent: The Seahawks are very tight-lipped about players' status. It's out of respect. And especially following the Super Bowl, there is an intense focus on communicating directly to the player and his camp and no one else. I have not heard anything from Zach Miller or his agent to make me think he has been asked to take a pay cut. Most of the discussion is based on the speculation that because he had the highest salary-cap cost on the team a year ago (more than $11 million) and he is scheduled to count $7 million against it this season, the team is going to revisit that. Fiscally, it makes sense. Zach Miller came here as one of the top three receiving tight ends in the league and as valuable as he has been as a blocker, he hasn't been anywhere near the pass catcher.
TrickyNicky asked whether the Seahawks would be more inclined to find a tight end in the draft or free agency if they release Miller.
O'Neil: Both. I think they'll seek out alternatives, and if Zach Miller is gone, well, then Jermichael Finley certainly could be in play, but that's speculation on my part.
BlatantChipmunk asked if the Seahawks could re-sign Rice and/or Bryant at more team-friendly deals or if those bridges were burned by their releases.
O'Neil: I don't think it's a matter of bridges being burned so much as where those players would fit. Sidney Rice might ever be offered anything more than the vet minimum by the Seahawks. Ditto for Red Bryant when you consider the team is taking on $3 million of dead money by releasing him. I think both can get more than that on the market.
Brad H asked whether Greg Scruggs could be an option to replace Bryant, noting that the former had a strong rookie season in 2012 and has reportedly bulked up to over 300 pounds after missing last season while recovering from a torn ACL.
O'Neil: He's got a chance, but the one thing you've got to see with these Seahawks, is they don't fear the possibility of not having a clear successor. Otherwise, Red Bryant would still be on this team. You can hope Greg Scruggs fills that role. You may even believe he can. But no one can expect him to do that. Not as a seventh-round pick who has yet to start a game let alone a seventh-round pick coming off a year he missed for knee surgery.
TrickyNicky asked if the 6-foot-1 Jermaine Kearse could replace the 6-4 Rice as Seattle's big-bodied receiver.
O'Neil: He's not as tall as Sidney Rice nor as good with the jump ball, but he's got an ability to battle in traffic, and to answer your question, he's going to be a big target going forward.
Gaeleck Eylander asked if the Seahawks might extend linebacker K.J. Wright's contract, noting all the money Seattle either has committed or is expected to commit to its defensive line and secondary.
O'Neil: The salary structure at linebacker is a total freaking mystery to me. On the one hand, general manager John Schneider was in Green Bay when the Packers chose A.J. Hawk No. 5 overall and re-signed Nick Barnett back when he was a beast of a middle linebacker. On the other hand, in Seattle we have seen him cut Lofa Tatupu, trade Aaron Curry and let David Hawthorne walk in free agency, replacing them with a litany of draft picks – only one of whom was drafted in the first half of the draft. Well, two linebackers in the first half if you include Bruce Irvin, but he was drafted to be a pass rusher. I honestly don't have a great feel on whether the Seahawks are going to sign these linebackers to second contracts or try to replace through the draft.
DB asked if the Seahawks will bring back backup nose tackle Clinton McDonald, who was third on the team in sacks last season with 5.5.
O'Neil: Interesting question. They obviously didn't value him too highly at the beginning of the year when they released him for what amounted to be about $500,000. But he was one of the team's top pass rushers. Not sure if that changes his value in the eyes of the team.
A reader posing as Steven Hauschka asked whether the Seahawks' kicker will be back in 2014.
O'Neil: Well, depends if another team offers significant years or dollars. The fact Seattle didn't use the franchise tag would mean the Seahawks are looking to spend less than $3 million.
Friday, February 28, 2014 @ 8:34am
By Danny O'Neil
A Super Bowl team generally spends the offseason trying to avoid subtractions.
The difference in Seattle is the Seahawks appear poised to make them.
Receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant have been released while speculation continues regarding defensive end Chris Clemons and tight end Zach Miller.
The possibility that a championship team would lose key contributors is not in itself all that surprising. A year ago, the Ravens had to deal with the departures of defensive starters Ed Reed, Paul Kruger and Danell Ellerbe not to mention the retirement of Ray Lewis.
The fact Seattle's first personnel losses may be self-inflicted is a fact both a bit startling and instructive about the Seahawks' approach to their roster.
In the NFL, teams spend years trying to configure a championship roster, whether it's searching for a franchise quarterback or outfitting that franchise quarterback with sufficient offensive firepower or building a defense that is capable of wading hip deep into the playoffs. Once a team manages to find that championship concoction it does everything it can to hang on to as many core members of the group for as long as possible.
This is the "Window of Opportunity" approach, which can be boiled down to the belief that a specific nucleus of players – the quarterback being the most important component – constitutes the bedrock for a championship team. The DNA, so to speak. And once you find that specific nucleus, you hold on to as many members of it for as long as possible in an effort to win as many games and titles as possible while that nucleus is intact.
If this was the approach Seattle was taking, then Bryant wouldn't be going anywhere. He's a leader on this team, someone who has started all but one game for the Seahawks over the previous three seasons and played well in 2013 as a captain on a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league for the second consecutive year.
But Bryant is also an early-down run-stuffer on a defensive line that features frequent rotations, and his current contract would count $8.5 million against the cap. Seattle could afford a higher price the past two seasons when so much of its nucleus was on the more affordable rookie contracts. It's a little more difficult to digest that cost if Seattle wants to re-sign defensive lineman Michael Bennett – a free agent – or extend the contracts of All-Pro defensive backs Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas.
As is the case with Red Bryant at defensive end, Seattle doesn't have an heir apparent at tight end should the team release starter Zach Miller in a cost-saving move. (AP)
There's no heir apparent on hand for Bryant. Jesse Williams is a big-bodied defensive lineman, but he has yet to play a down in the NFL after being drafted by Seattle a year ago, and there's no guarantee he'll be back. Greg Scruggs was emerging at the end of his rookie season in 2012, and he's currently up to 310 pounds, but he's also coming back from a torn knee ligament that kept him out all of last season.
Seattle doesn't have any ready alternatives at tight end, either. Miller has started for three years and was the team's top paid player in 2013. He was on the field for 58 of the team's 60 offensive snaps in the Super Bowl, the leading man at one of the barest positions on Seattle's roster. Luke Willson was one of Seattle's most productive rookies last season, but as effective a receiving threat as he may be, he's not anywhere close to the blocker Miller is, and may never be. Anthony McCoy is a free agent, coming off a torn Achilles, but even when healthy, he was inconsistent during his first three seasons as a Seahawk.
So what's a championship team to do? Couldn't blame it for holding on for dear life to veteran leaders like Bryant and Miller especially given the lack of depth at those positions. And maybe that's what Seattle will do, trying to extend the window of opportunity by preserving players who have constituted the core of its rise to the top of the league.
Or maybe Seattle will look at its team – and more specifically its payroll – with an eye toward the future as opposed to strictly preserving what it can from its nucleus.
Subtraction is a part of life in the NFL, especially for successful teams. The difference in Seattle's case, the Seahawks appear to be inflicting some of those losses upon themselves in the expectation it will help down the road.
Thursday, February 27, 2014 @ 9:33am
By Danny O'Neil
Rosetta Stone doesn't teach NFL free agency, which is unfortunate.
It's a language unto itself with its own vocabulary of terms like dead money and proration, which distill down what is some pretty darn complicated financial realities for NFL teams under the league's salary cap.
And if you find yourself wondering just what it means to take a cap hit, well, it has nothing to do with headwear and you're advised to keep reading for your beginner's glossary to both free agency and salary-cap accounting.
Salary cap: It has been around 20 years in the NFL, and it is an annual limit on how much a team is allowed to spend on its roster. Last year, the salary cap was at just over $123 million. The cap for 2014 has not been announced, but it's project to be more than $132 million, a significant increase.
Cap cost: This is how much a player counts against a team's salary cap in a given year. This is not the same as a player's salary. The cap cost is actually composed of the player's base salary in that given year plus any bonuses earned or paid plus the prorated portion of the signing bonus he received at the time of the contract signing. What's that you ask? We'll explain next.
Used in a sentence: Believe it or not, tight end Zach Miller had the highest cap cost of any Seahawk in 2013.
Proration: A signing bonus is just what it sounds like, a bonus paid upon the signing of the deal. However, while that bonus is paid all at once, the cap cost (see above) of the signing bonus can be averaged over the length of the contract or five years, whichever is less. The result is that while a player receives the signing bonus all at once, the cap cost is extended over as many as five years into the future. And if that player is released before the end of that contract? Well, the portion of the signing bonus that has not been counted against the salary cap must be accounted for under the salary cap, often resulting in a cap hit (keep reading).
Cap savings: The amount of money a team will save against the cap by releasing a player. This is determined by taking the cap cost and subtracting the proration.
Used in a sentence: Releasing wide receiver Sidney Rice would result in a cap savings in 2014 of $7.3 million, which is the cap cost under his current deal ($9.7 million) minus the two-year pro-rated portion of his signing bonus ($2.4 million).
Cap hit: The amount of proration that must be accounted for if a given player is released. This is the portion of the signing bonus that has already been paid to the player – sometimes years before – but has yet to be counted against the team's salary cap.
Used in a sentence: If the Seahawks do in fact release defensive end Red Bryant, it will result in a $3 million cap hit. His signing bonus was $5 million, paid in 2012. That signing bonus was prorated over the five years of the contract, meaning that $1 million of that counted against the salary cap each of the past two seasons. There's $3 million left that must be counted against the cap.
Dead money: Same thing as the cap hit only this term is used in the past tense to refer to the cap cost consumed by players who are no longer on the roster. Releasing Bryant would entail a cap hit of $3 million. Once he is released, that would become considered dead money.
Got it? Good. Let's try a new sample
Tight end Zach Miller's current contract has a cap cost of $7 million in 2014. That number is the sum of his 2014 base salary ($4.8 million salary), unspecified bonuses ($1.2 million) and the prorated amount of his $5 million signing bonus ($1 million). The cap savings of releasing Miller would be $5 million, the dead money $2 million.
Well, that covers the subtraction of roster moves. Now, here's the dictionary for additions:
Free agent: A player unsigned for the upcoming league year. Free agents come predominantly in two flavors: restricted and unrestricted.
Used in a sentence: The Seahawks have a number of unrestricted free agents, including offensive starters Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini. Doug Baldwin is the team's top restricted free agent.
Unrestricted free agent: Just like it sounds. There are no restrictions on which teams the player can negotiate with, and nothing to prevent that player from signing elsewhere in the form of a right to match or compensation.
Used in a sentence: A player must have four accrued seasons in the league to qualify for unrestricted free agency.
Restricted free agent: A free agent with three accrued seasons in the league, who is free to negotiate with other teams with a few caveats. His original team has the right to match the terms of his agreement with the new team, thereby retaining the player. If the original team declines to match the terms of the new team's offer, the original team is entitled to compensation from the new team. The level of that compensation will depend on the level of qualifying offer that is made.
Qualifying offer: The one-year contract offer made to a player with three accrued seasons, thereby making him a restricted free agent. This entitles the team – at the very least – to the right of first of refusal to match the contract terms a restricted free agent agrees to with another team. If the original team matches, it retains the player. If the original team declines to match, it is entitled to compensation. The level of that compensation depends on what level qualifying offer the player received. There are three different tender levels.
Original-round tender: This entails a one-year offer of $1.389 million, and entitles the team to a draft pick in the same round the player was selected.
Second-round tender: A one-year contract offer of $2.124 million entitles the original team to a second-round pick from the team that signs away a restricted free agent.
First-round tender: A one-year contract offer of $3.023 million entitles the original team to a first-round pick as compensation.
Used in a sentence: Because wide receiver Doug Baldwin was undrafted, an original-round tender would entitle Seattle to no compensation should he leave for another team. Therefore, he will almost certainly be tendered at one of the two highest levels.
Offer sheet: This is the term sheet a restricted free agent signs with another team. The original team then has seven days to decide to match the offer sheet and retain the player. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet up until May 2, after which they can not sign with anyone but the original team.
Franchise tag: This amounts to the most restrictive form of free agency. A team has the option of applying a franchise tag to one player during the two-week period from Feb. 17 to March 3. That tag entitles the player to a one-year contract that is either 110 percent of his previous year's salary or the average of the top five salaries at his position, whichever is greater. A player who is designated with a franchise tag can negotiate with other teams, however, if he signs an offer sheet, which his original team has the right to match. If it doesn't, it is entitled two first-round picks from the new team.
Used in a sentence: The Seahawks have not used their franchise tag in any of the previous three seasons and are not expected to this offseason, so don't worry about it.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014 @ 1:05pm
Brandon Browner is fighting for his NFL future whether or not that future includes the Seahawks.
In fact, it most likely won't. Browner had been benched for more than a quarter during a home game in October, and after a groin injury was passed first by Walter Thurmond and then Byron Maxwell on the depth chart.
A lawsuit is expected to be filed next week on behalf of Brandon Browner challenging the cornerback's indefinite supsension from the NFL. (AP)
Just whether – and more importantly to Browner, when – he is able to do that may be left for the courts to decide.
The NFL suspended Browner indefinitely on Dec. 18, 2013 for violating the league's policy on substance abuse. Under the league's collective bargaining agreement, he is not able to apply for reinstatement for one year, which will be the final month of the 2014 season.
It's a punishment Browner will seek to challenge in court in a lawsuit that his agent pointed to back in December when the suspension was announced. That suit is expected to be filed next week in Colorado.
The timing of the lawsuit is significant, and Peter Schaffer – Browner's agent – told ProFootballTalk.com it will include a request for a preliminary injunction to allow Browner to be considered a free agent on March 11, free to sign with any team, pending the resolution of the case.
Browner will be taking legal issue with the arbitration process under the NFL's collective-bargaining agreement, arguing the league is taking into account drug-test appointments Browner is alleged to have missed when he was not employed in the league.
Here's what we know about his case:
Browner entered the league in 2005, an undrafted rookie out of Oregon State signed by the Broncos. He spent that season on injured reserve and was released the following year before the season began. At some point in his time with the Broncos, he was entered into the league's substance-abuse program.
Browner did not play with an NFL team in 2006, and in 2007, he played the first of four seasons in the Canadian Football League. He returned to the NFL in 2011 when he was signed by the Seahawks and made the Pro Bowl that year.
Browner was suspended for the final four regular-season games in 2012 under the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. In the nine days before that suspension was announced, there were reports Browner was subjected to more frequent tests because he was in the league's substance-abuse program for a violation dating back to his time with Denver.
In November 2013, it was reported on the league's official website Browner would face another suspension for violating the policy on performance-enhancing drugs. This report was later corrected to indicate that the suspension would be under the substance-abuse policy.
Then came the Dec. 18 announcement – with two regular-season games left – that Browner was suspended indefinitely under the substance-abuse program.
Generally, a first violation of the substance-abuse policy does not result in a suspension, but rather enrollment in the substance-abuse program. Once in the program, a second violation usually results in a four-game suspension with a third violation constituting an indefinite ban.
Browner received no suspension under the substance-abuse program until the indefinite ban was announced, and Browner will challenge the validity of the league's procedure in counting a missed test(s) as a violation of the substance-abuse program.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 @ 3:30pm
By Brady Henderson
Pete Carroll signed a five-year contract to be the Seahawks' head coach before the 2010 season, which would make 2014 the final year of the deal. It's hard to imagine Carroll, coming off a Super Bowl victory, entering the season as a so-called lame duck coach, which begs an obvious question that was asked during the latest edition of "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil.
"I'm sitting in great shape," Pete Carroll said when asked after the season about his contract situation. (AP)
Tory asked when the Seahawks will give Carroll an extension.
O'Neil: Great question. But that really is more of a question of how long he intends to coach more than anything else. He's not going to work anywhere else in the NFL, is he? I mean, really? He has said all along that this is about building something and seeing how far you're going to take it. And he works for the richest owner in the league? It would not surprise me if he has an extension without it ever being reported or announced or any to-do about it, much like John Schneider a year ago.
John asked why the Seahawks don't give offensive-line coach Tom Cable and other assistants enough money to deter them from leaving for other jobs, thereby ensuring continuity.
O'Neil: Coaching salaries don't cost against the cap, but you also don't want to stop a guy from getting a job elsewhere. The best way to develop a staff is to show your team, your program as a chance for an ambitious coach to further and develop his career. And if you think it's better to have the same staff stay in place year after year (locked down, so to speak), I ask you whether Mike Holmgren's coaching staffs were better in Green Bay when he had guys like Andy Reid and Jon Gruden and Mike Sherman on his staff or when he was in Seattle. That's not because the Seahawks "locked down" their assistant coaches, but because Holmgren's ambitious and able coaches had moved on.
Gantiz asked if O'Neil anticipates the Seahawks will keep tight end Zach Miller, whose contract has led some to believe he will be released in a cost-saving move.
O'Neil: Until I see otherwise. I don't want to assume he's gone. I think there are discussions taking place as to the specifics of his contract, but there's been no whisper of a take-it-or-leave-it crossroads.
John asked if tight end Anthony McCoy would be worth bringing back next season after missing 2013 with an Achilles injury.
O'Neil: Yes, he most certainly is worth bringing back, and he could be a great No. 3 tight end for the team. He's a better blocker than Luke Willson. There's nothing to lead you to believe that Anthony McCoy will become the starter.
John asked for an update on cornerback Tharold Simon, who missed his rookie season with a foot injury.
O'Neil: The word was not necessarily good. He had an issue with his foot last year, and it sounds like he may have a similar issue with his other foot now, according to coach Pete Carroll's final press conference.
kobe berg asked why O'Neil thinks former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will be a bust in the NFL.
O'Neil: Two things: I believe he's going to prove waaaaay more susceptible to turnovers when he improvises as opposed to Russell Wilson, who is able to create outside the scope of the play while still avoiding taking too many chances. The other thing is that I think that Manziel's headstrong desire to be the focal point is going to impede his ability to respond to coaching and attempts to temper his risk-taking.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 2:25pm
Wide receiver Sidney Rice and defensive end Red Bryant will reportedly be the first Seahawks to be released in cost-saving moves. They likely won't be the last.
Releasing Zach Miller would clear up a significant amount of salary-cap space while leaving Seattle thin at tight end. (AP)
Clemons, Miller on the chopping block? Clayton expects defensive end Chris Clemons and tight end Zach Miller – if he doesn't agree to a reduced salary – to also be released, which combined with the releases of Rice and Bryant would clear around $24 million of salary-cap space in 2014. Clayton thinks Seattle could then give defensive lineman Michael Bennett, a pending unrestricted free agent, a new deal averaging $7 million or $8 million a season.
Bryant could be back. Bryant just completed the second year of a five-year, $35 million deal he signed before the 2012 season. Clayton thinks the good will Seattle engendered by giving Bryant an above-market deal could help him get over the hard feelings of being released, potentially allowing him to return on a reduced deal that pays him around $4 million per season.
Replacing Miller. No other Seahawks tight end who is under contract for next season has much – if any – starting experience, so releasing Miller would likely put Seattle in the market for a starter. One name Clayton mentioned was Jermichael Finley assuming he makes a full recovery from the season-ending neck injury he suffered in 2013. Finley, 26, has spent all six of his NFL seasons with Green Bay.
Cap increasing? Clayton said some projections have the 2014 salary cap increasing to $132 million, about $9 million more than it was in 2013. While that would give Seattle more flexibility to re-sign Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate, might it also be a double-edged sword in that it increases the price tag free agents place on themselves knowing teams have more money to spend?
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 1:06pm
Bruce Irvin's 2013 season produced glimpses of his potential as an outside linebacker but also some uncertainty about whether he'll stay there.
From the sounds of it, he will.
Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn says he likes Bruce Irvin's potential at strong-side linebacker. (AP)
Irvin sure looked like it during the Seahawks' Week-8 win over St. Louis when he finished with an interception and a strip sack to go along with nine tackles, the second most on the team. He had switched from defensive end and then served a suspension at the beginning of the season, and what was only his fourth game as a strong-side linebacker showed the type of impact he can have when his athleticism is put to use in the open field.
The rest of the season wasn't as encouraging, though, as Irvin didn't record another sack or an interception and finished with more than four tackles only once over the final eight regular-season games. By the end of the season he was playing mainly on early downs and leaving the field when Seattle subbed in its nickel defense. He was drafted 15th overall for his ability to rush the passer, and he went so long without recording a sack that merely sniffing one in the NFC title game made him feel like he had – in his words – a newborn child.
Irvin, despite some concern about his ability to hold up against bigger offensive tackles, did lead all rookies in sacks with eight in 2012 – and that was in a situational role in which he didn't even start. And with the futures of Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons uncertain, that led to some speculation that a move back to defensive end could be in Irvin's future.
But Quinn said it isn't and cited the room for improvement from Irvin, who after all has only spent three-quarters of a season at the position.
"He's got all the stuff that we look for in our outside 'backer with speed and length and he can set the edge, he can rush," Quinn said. "So I thought for his first time playing linebacker he did a terrific job, and you know that it's only going to get better from here. So we feel like he's in the right spot and we couldn't be more excited to see how far we can take him."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.
Monday, February 24, 2014 @ 8:09am
By Danny O'Neil
INDIANPOLIS – Michael Sam did not become a gay football player earlier this month.
He became known as a gay football player, and the fact he played last season after telling his Missouri teammates he is gay is worth remembering as everyone wonders how he will be accepted within an NFL locker room.
Because he has already been accepted in what turned out to be a remarkably successful season for the Tigers, who lost only one game with Sam being named the co-Defensive Player of the Year in the SEC, which is only considered the country's top conference.
The difference next season? It won't be just Sam's teammates who know he's gay. And that fact – more than Sam's sexual orientation – is the biggest variable, according to one of the league's top personnel evaluators.
"He has been a good player," said Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' general manager. "He has been in a locker room. It's what you – the media – what are you all going to do with it.
"Once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback and he can get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate. But the biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with it."
The results Saturday weren't all that encouraging in that regard during a 15-minute interview that drew the kind of crowd usually reserved for top quarterbacks or linebackers with imaginary girlfriends.
The attention was not a surprise. The mid-round prospect has become a de facto pioneer after he came out earlier this month in interviews with The New York Times and ESPN. Saturday's interview at the scouting combine was his first full-fledged press conference, and it attracted the largest crowd at an event with more than 900 credentialed media members.
The questions Sam was asked proved to be more telling than his answers, the interview making it clear just how awkward his introduction to the NFL will be. Not for Sam, mind you. He was incredibly composed, occasionally humorous and unbelievably gracious considering some of the questions he was asked, which merited cringes more than responses.
Like this one: "When you told your team about your sexuality, were there jokes about it? Did you tell them, 'I can take jokes?' And if so, how did it go?"
Seriously. That was the question transcribed verbatim. In a best-case scenario, it was an attempt to determine whether Sam would insist on inoffensive language within the locker room. At worst, the question sought to determine whether he would be OK with hearing homophobic jokes or being slurred.
Sam's response: "Everyone could be normal around me. If they wanted to, we'd joke because that's a brotherhood, that's a family. We don't draw blood, it's all fun and games."
"I wish you would just see me as Michael Sam the football player," Sam said. (AP)
Even Sam balked at that one.
"Am I going to fight?" he said. "No. If someone calls me a name, I will have a conversation with that guy and hopefully it won't lead to nothing else."
He is banking on the ability of fellow NFL players to behave like adults. The same should be expected of the media.
Dumb questions aren't going to stifle his career. Neither are 15-minute press conferences. But the size and nature of the media coverage of Sam's career – something which he no longer can control – can make teams reluctant to draft him or future teammates resentful.
It amounts to a second hurdle Sam may face. Not only is there the possibility that anti-gay sentiments will impact his career in a league that has never had an active player who is openly gay, but there's also the possibility that the attention and scrutiny now being trained on him will turn teams off.
Having a gay teammate may not be a distraction, but being repeatedly asked about having a gay teammate could be. That's just the beginning, though. We're talking about sexuality here, which means there's a whole tier of sensational approaches journalists could take.
Will reporters go to each member of his new team and ask about showering with a gay teammate? If so, why?
That's not a rhetorical question. Why ask about showering? Is it really about making sure Sam doesn't face discrimination? Is it truly an attempt to expose homophobia? Or is it about trying to ask the most pointed question in the effort to get the most salacious response that will in turn draw the most attention?
Why was Sam asked Saturday – as he was – whether he thought teams might feel more obligated to prove they weren't prejudiced? It wasn't quite asking Sam if his decision to come out was done with an eye toward improving his professional prospects, but it wasn't all that far off, either.
Sam simply pointed out he could not answer that question.
"I am not a GM," he said. "I do not have control over my draft status. All I can control is me, preparing myself to get the best scores out there."
The story is out of Sam's hands now, not just in terms of where he gets picked in the draft, but how he is covered.
I don't have all the answers for how to cover this story. Reporters do have a responsibility to see if Sam's career is impacted by his decision not to hide his sexual orientation. On the other hand, there's also a possibility the coverage of Sam's integration into the NFL could become something that actually negatively impacts his integration into the NFL.
In a league in which teams routinely seek to avoid any extra attention, it's not hard to imagine a team choosing a player roughly as talented as Sam ahead of him because it would avoid the added scrutiny that was on display Saturday.
That would be sad not just because journalists aren't supposed to be part of the story, but because this is ultimately about Michael Sam and what he's trying to achieve.
He wants to be a pro football player. He has made that clear. The question now isn't only whether one of the NFL's 32 teams will let him, but if the people covering the country's most popular sport can, too.
"I wish you would just see me as Michael Sam the football player," he said, "instead of Michael Sam, the gay football player."
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