Those Lyin’ Eyes … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Don Henley and Glenn Frey are not football coaches. Not even close. They are the founding members of the iconic musical group the Eagles. They wrote one of the group’s most popular songs, Lyin’ Eyes:

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes, and your smile is a thin disguise.
I thought by now you’d realize there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”

That’s the song of the moment in the NFL, and it’s not related at all to the continuing labor battle playing out this week with court ordered mediation.

It is all about the NFL Draft, because we’ve entered the Lyin’ Zone, the time of year when every comment about a potential draft choice must be taken with a grain of salt, and a good dose of pepper as well.

There’s an old line used often in football – and probably a few other sports and businesses as well – if you aren’t lying, you aren’t trying. Nowhere is that a greater part of the NFL landscape than the days before the annual Draft. Every team is trying, thus they are lying.

Most NFL teams have long ago lined up their draft boards and have an idea of who they would like to select, and who they are not interested in. They’ve spent the better part of April fishing around the country for information on what the other teams are going to do.

So you’ve got 32 teams, lying to 32 teams and why anybody would believe anything that comes down the grapevine at this time of the year is beyond comprehension. But that doesn’t stop the misinformation and outright fibs that league folks live for each spring.

Understand that while it’s hardly limited to the NFL, internal gossip is huge in the game. It’s passed among assistant coaches, scouts and executives and is part of the pro football lifestyle. Give an assistant coach a few hours with a phone, and he’ll burn up the lines (or cells) talking to compadres and getting the skinny.

Throw in the scramble for 250 or so bodies of young talent and the gossip levels goes through the roof.

And, so does the smoke and mirrors and lies.

Right now, the biggest cloud of smoke in the NFL Draft involves Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers. He’s coming off an injury and surgery on his right knee. Before the injury/surgery, Bowers was considered among the most elite players in this draft class. Completely healthy, he would have been in the discussion for the first choice.

But on January 4, Bowers underwent an arthroscopic procedure on the knee, involving the meniscus. That kept him from participating in the NFL Combine at the end of February, pushing back that necessary workout for NFL types to April 1. That happened and Bowers was able to show the league he was recovering from the problem.

Over last weekend, the NFL sent players with various physical questions to Indianapolis for a medical re-check. This happens every year, and usually involves anywhere from a half-dozen to a dozen players. Interested teams can send their doctors to take part in exams, or they can receive a report on the player and his injury.

Early Monday in his Monday-Morning Quarterback column on sportsillustrated.com, Peter King reported that a team doctor who recommended Bowers come off the draft board said the player might need microfracture surgery to fix his knee.

Later Monday, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that Bowers’ re-check had gone well. Bowers did not have to undergo another X-ray or MRI because the physical exam showed good stability and no swelling in the knee. The Browns were especially interested because they were hosting Bowers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

About 12 hours later smoke started blowing from another direction. One of NFL.com‘s writers reported that the re-check of Bowers knee showed weakness and signs of potential arthritis. Pro Football Weekly then reported the re-check “raised flags.” Anonymous NFL sources were quoted and a number of teams supposedly have taken Bowers off their draft boards because of the injury question.

That led Bowers agent Joe Flanagan to release on Tuesday a statement on his client’s medical status, a very unusual move in this draft dance. Flanagan outlined the history of the right knee and reported there was no evidence in any of the testing of arthritis or a weakening of the knee. He added:

“Obviously, sources and opinions on any prospect with a medical history will vary from team to team, doctor to doctor, trainer to trainer and GM to GM. We have received no reports of “arthritis” being present. We have received no indications that Da’Quan will need another surgery. No team has even remotely suggested to us that he’s a risk in year one or will need a redshirt year. Clearly there are both objective and subjective sides to every medical issue. Given that context, we understand that comfort-levels will vary team by team.”

So after the two days Bowers has been in the spotlight we’ve not heard a single word from the player, any team that’s considering drafting him, any team that’s not considering him, or any medical-type that’s familiar with his knee. In fact, the only person willing to put his name on his public statements was Bowers’ agent.

This is what the days before the Draft are all about. Whispers, asides, words unspoken … it always comes down to motive, and all words both public and private must be filtered. As we sift through the Bowers case to find motives, it’s easy to spot what the agent’s motivation might be – every spot that Bowers falls in the first round is going to cost him money. That means it’s going to cost the agent money.

Without the surgery, Bowers would have been a top five pick. With successful surgery and healing, he should be a top 10 pick. But now the rumors abound that he’s headed for the middle of the first round. That’s a major, major loss of money.

How much? Check out these numbers on the contracts signed by the players selected in last year’s draft at the No. 5, 10, 15 and 20 spots in the first round.

Pick# Player

Pos.

Team Contract
5 Eric Berry

S

Chiefs 6-year, $60 million with $34 million guaranteed.
10 Tyson Alualu

DL

JAX 5-year, $28 million with $17.5 million guaranteed.
15 Jason Paul-Pierre

DE

NYG 5-year, $20 million with $11.6 million guaranteed.
20 Kareem Jackson

CB

HOU 5-year, $13.1 million with $10.4 million guaranteed.

The agent’s motivation is dollars, not only for his client, but himself. Normally, the agent gets 3% of his client’s deal; that was the maximum percentage allowed under the rules of the NFL Players Association.

So last year Berry’s agent if he was working for 3% would hit for around $1.8 million on that deal. Jackson’s agent on the No. 20 pick would see just less than $400,000.

The agent has in some cases millions of reasons to blow his smoke.

But why would teams be willing to talk about a player’s physical status, whether positive or negative? Where did the positive news on Bowers come from? Cleveland. The Browns have the sixth pick in the round. Are they interested in Bowers? He wouldn’t be spending two days there if they weren’t. Maybe.

When you hear that an NFL team has used one of its 30 invitations to bring a player to their facility before the draft does not always mean they are interested in that player. They may be throwing up a smoke screen, because they want another team ahead or behind them in the draft order to react. They may actually have their eye on another player, maybe a guy who plays the same position. They hope the smoke obscures whatever move they plan to make.

If the Browns were really interested in Bowers and felt he was healthy, then wouldn’t they be spreading news of problems with his knee? Welcome to the world of mental gymnastics that all 32 teams are taking part in right now.

It’s all about those lyin’ eyes, and mouths.


2 Responses to “Those Lyin’ Eyes … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • April 13, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    When you actually take a serious look not only at the numbers but also the disparity between them I think we can all understand why they really need to change the rookie pay scale. It is completely way out of wack. No one can convince me that there should be such a large differential between say #5 (our great man Eric) and say #20. Its 10 Million a year vs. 2.62 Million a year. I just don’t buy it!!!!! I go back to what I said on many earlier posts, look at Tyson Jackson. If he isn’t completely OVERPAID then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I want to sell you!!!!!! 10 Million a year for a guy that plays a backup role for the most part. RIDICULOUS.


  • April 13, 2011  - RW says:

    Interesting overview, especially on the Bowers daily drama series. If the Chiefs were considering Bowers, should he plummet down the board to them, surely it would be a leap of faith based on the information they would have in hand. Ideally, an interested mid to late 1st round team would prefer to have their own medical people examine the player and make a determination but that luxury wouldn’t be possible once on the clock.

    My point is, if interested, a team drafting down the board would be wise to have Bowers in and do their own medical due diligence. At best, a possbile rare diamond find, at worst, billowing out another cloud of smoke to disguise their real intentions.

    Sometimes there’s a good reason for a player to fall down the boards like a Brady Quinn. Other times, there’s not, like a Aaron Rodgers. And if Bowers falls, then what? I don’t think he will but if he does, it will add considerably more spice to an intense first round of picking.




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