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Antonio Brown burns a few more bridges in Pittsburgh, Dwayne Haskins could be the draft’s biggest steal and Sen. Cory Booker has some concerns about the sport that helped shape his life. All that and more in the latest 10-Point Stance.
1. Hard feelings
Just like you, and me and many others, there are parts of the football world looking at Antonio Brown and wondering: What the hell is he doing?
More than a few teams have been taken aback by the social media exchanges Brown has engaged in with his former Steelers teammate JuJu Smith-Schuster. And this week, Brown took the simmering beef to a new low point when he posted a Twitter direct message that an 18-year-old Smith-Schuster had sent him while looking for advice.
“This is record-level petty,” an AFC South team executive said. “Has anyone told AB how awful he looks?”
Brown must know to some degree. He later deleted that post. Unfortunately, though, the damage to Brown’s reputation was already done. He then attempted to blame the media Tuesday, tweeting it was us who started it all. It wasn’t. It was Brown himself.
Some teams look at the pettiness and see a larger picture—that Brown’s behavior with his former teammate portends a possible problem for the Raiders, who traded for Brown in the offseason and signed him to a three-year, $50.1 million deal.
Now, to be clear, I don’t necessarily believe a Twitter fight is any type of future indicator. Yet there are teams that believe Brown’s behavior toward Smith-Schuster demonstrates he’s learned little from his dustups with teammates and coaches in Pittsburgh (especially Ben Roethlisberger) and is bringing some of that toxicity to Oakland.
They also think Raiders coach Jon Gruden is making the same mistake Steelers coach Mike Tomlin did in giving Brown so much leeway to express himself. Tomlin did the same early in Brown’s career, and Brown took advantage of the coach.
(To be fair, that could be a bit too much psychoanalysis from those teams. Also, how is Gruden supposed to control what Brown tweets?)
No matter the future implications, for now, Brown’s social media attacks are a pretty bad look for a guy who’s already had more than his fair share of bad publicity, even if much of it was unwarranted. Smith-Schuster is seen as one of the league’s good guys, and Brown attacked him for no clear reason.
It looks like everyone hasn’t quite moved on just yet.
2. Brown’s new town
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Despite the worries of some around the league, most people I speak to in those circles believe Brown will be highly successful with the Raiders. They don’t seem to be as alarmed as I am that Derek Carr will be the one throwing the football to Brown.
They think Brown is so good he can make any quarterback look special.
3. Manziel’s NFL future
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Has Johnny (who now prefers John) Manziel’s football adventure come to an end? He’s gone from the NFL to the Spring League to the CFL to the AAF (that’s a lot of acronyms) to unemployed.
Still, the sense I get from people in the NFL is that Manziel may well get another chance to play on football’s main stage.
It’s true that Manziel has demonstrated little reason for teams to take a chance on him, but he plays at a position of such extreme need that, if he can show even a modicum of skill, someone will have him in for a tryout or on a training camp roster. Doesn’t matter who you are; if you can play, you’ll get a look.
4. Another intriguing idea from the minds of…the XFL
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The XFL is a year away from actually playing games, but in the time before that, it seems to be trying its best to create something interesting that football fans might appreciate. Already, a handful of football veterans have joined the league, and, according to Commissioner Oliver Luck, who spoke to Pro Football Talk, the XFL will try to update the concept of the extra point, allowing for one-, two- and three-point conversions.
It will be one point for a successful scrimmage play from the 2-yard line, two points from the 5 and three from the 10. In the XFL, the traditional extra point will be dead.
This is a good idea. The NFL has a kicking tee up its rear end and wouldn’t consider something like this (at least not now), but it should. It would add another layer of excitement to the game that would likely make the NFL’s already huge ratings even bigger.
5. Is Dwayne Haskins’ stock tumbling?
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Heading into NFL draft season, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins had been pegged as a top-10 pick by most experts. B/R’s own Matt Miller had him at sixth overall in his latest mock draft. Lately, though, it appears as though Haskins’ stock is tumbling. NBC Sports’ Peter King believes Haskins could be the fourth quarterback off the board later this month. If that happens, whoever picks Haskins would get one of the steals of the draft. I think he’s that good, and I know I’m not alone.
There are usually any number of reasons a player of Haskins’ potential starts sliding, and often they’re not good ones. This looks, to me, to be one of those cases, which should make some team that didn’t expect to get a starting-level QB very happy for the next decade.
6. Waiting game
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I keep hearing there are teams interested in signing Colin Kaepernick, but no one has yet. The optimist in me says it will happen. The pessimist, however, believes the Dominion will attack at any moment, wonders if I’m being bamboozled and hoodwinked, or perhaps, run amok.
In all honesty, it’s hard to say where this goes. I still think there are one or two brave teams like the Panthers (who signed fellow protester Eric Reid) who will take a chance on Kaepernick, but here we are, weeks after Kaepernick’s collusion case has been settled, and he is still unemployed by a league in which he is well qualified to play.
7. He’s worth it
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The new contract defensive end Demarcus Lawrence signed with the Cowboys is massive, totaling five years and $105 million. ESPN Stats & Info notes the $65 million in guaranteed cash is the fourth-highest for a current defensive player behind Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald and Von Miller.
Lawrence’s 25 sacks are the fourth-highest since 2017. That’s perfect symmetry.
Eye-popping as the numbers may seem, some people in the league consider Lawrence one of the most underrated players in the entire sport on either side of the ball. The Cowboys were smart to lock him up.
8. Let it go, Robert Kraft
Seth Wenig/Associated Press
Someone as wealthy as Patriots owner Robert Kraft has any number of people advising him as to how to handle his two counts of solicitation following a police sting that was part of a human-trafficking probe into multiple Florida massage parlors and day spas. He might be wise to ditch the advisers and read the argument from NBC Sports’ Tom E. Curran about why Kraft should just be as transparent as he can regarding a story that has become a bit of a PR disaster for him. It’s worth a look.
9. Winston redemption tour begins
Jason Behnken/Associated Press
After a series of transgressions and allegations, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is trying to rebuild trust between himself and the team. Part of that effort could be seen in his decision to speak about his faith, among other things, with Jason Romano on the Sports Spectrum podcast, a conversation that was transcribed by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.
We’ll let you decide about Winston’s sincerity. He’s been accused of some awful things, and not in the distant past, either. It will take a lot for Winston to rebuild his reputation, and this is a first step. But, hey, everyone has to start somewhere.
10. Sen. Cory Booker has something to say about football
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Football changed presidential candidate Cory Booker’s life for the better. He says it taught him how to be disciplined, how to be tough, how to be a good person. It helped him become a Rhodes Scholar, get into Stanford and become a United States senator.
To Booker, football was life, and life was football. In many ways, for him, it still is.
“So much of my life was shaped by football,” he said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “It helped me learn how to endure pain and pass limitations. What happened on the field also bled into the classroom. It helped my discipline because there was nothing in academia that was tougher than the game.”
Yet, as much as Booker loves football, including the NFL, he has the same concerns that many parents, kids and others do.
When asked if he would let a potential son or daughter play football, Booker said: “It would be hard to say ‘no’ knowing how much the sport did for me. But I would definitely worry.
“I feel like the benefits of football outweigh some of the issues. So much of my view about the world comes from that 60-70 hours a week playing the game.”
Booker, once the mayor of Newark and now one of New Jersey’s two senators, is one of the highest-profile politicians to delve into the safety of football and concerns about CTE, the brain disease that has been linked to repeated hits to the head.
President Barack Obama said in 2014 he would not allow his son to play professional football.
Booker is a unique voice on the subject, however, since he’s one of only a handful of politicians who played the sport at a high level.
Booker went to Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan in New Jersey. He played wide receiver, tight end and defensive back. He was the team captain, wearing No. 21, and jokes that what got him into Stanford was 4.0 and 1,600—as a senior in 1986, he had 4.0 yards per carry and 1,600 total yards.
He was the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year and made the USA Today All-USA high school team as a defensive back, as SBNation.com reported. Also on that USA Today team was Emmitt Smith, now in the Hall of Fame.
Booker says he was recruited by a plethora of all-time star head coaches, including Steve Spurrier before he started at Florida and Lou Holtz at Notre Dame. He was also recruited to Michigan by former President Gerald Ford, who won two national championships as a Wolverine.
Booker picked Stanford because of the academics, and while he didn’t become the star there that he was in high school, the sport continued to have a positive impact on his life.
Even when he was playing, though, his family had questions about the safety of the sport. “I’m two years behind my brother,” Booker said, “and I remember the fight my parents had on whether or not to let my brother play football.”
Now, Booker is the one sorting through his feelings about the sport.
“I see how college players aren’t treated fairly,” he said. “They generate the wealth and have a lifetime of injuries.” Booker also feels the NFL needs to relax some of its stringent policies on marijuana, which mandates the league suspend players four games after a fourth positive test, 10 games after a fifth one and calls for potential banishment after another failed test.
But he isn’t out to demonize the game. He sees the positives, the same positives that shaped him, and he’s proud of the players who are using their power to bring attention to some of the social justice issues facing the country.
“In the end,” Booker said, “the sport is about people. It has to be.”
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.