To Play or Sit – It’s All Business
I have to be the first to admit that when college seniors, headed to the NFL, started sitting out Bowl games I was not a fan. At first, it made me question character and made me question a guy’s team commitment. I’d sat in many meetings hearing and speaking about a player’s ability and “what makes him tick on the inside”. When a player sat out some kind of opportunity/event- it was just another RED FLAG. Now after several years, I’ve come full circle- I GET IT and I can’t blame the young man a bit.
As usual, there are two sides to the story and if I had a son in this position, who was projected to be picked in the first two rounds of the NFL draft, I’d have a hard time recommending that he played in a college bowl game “just for fun”.
We always joke in the business that with our employment, we are all “day-to-day”, with a football player it’s more like we are all “play-to-play” – risking injury on every play. A coach one time reminded me, as I was checking my pedometer regarding my steps for the day, that we might only have “so many steps in us”. I’m simple-minded, and it gave me pause, “J – is that true?”
Steps are one thing, but actions on the football field where 22 players are involved trying to contact or put the other side in awkward positions are a totally different deal altogether.
At some point, college football players have to turn the page from “playing for fun” to “playing for a living”. That’s what these players who choose not to play in bowl games are doing. They are electing to protect assets, and preserve their bodies, in order to get paid the most amount of money for their futures.
We have seen this for years at the Indianapolis Combine and even some at individual pro days at schools throughout the spring. Some players have not participated for health reasons and also for strategic reasons. Times have changed, the money that these players stand to make is now “life-changing” so they really have to think and make a decision that is best for them. I’m all for scouts and the NFL people collecting their information but once that player (who is a top round pick) has checked the boxes, I’m not sure I can blame him for not wanting to do it again. Get your one 40 time, one vertical jump, one skill position workout for scouts and coaches and if you’re happy with it, take it to the house. Especially when it comes to 40 times. This type of thinking does, however, come with a price. I always loved the guy who was willing to try and better his times/jumps/workouts from a competitive spirit standpoint. If I was a 3rd or 4th round pick (gray area with money), I might consider that if I can improve on my testing numbers it might raise my stock or at least put me ahead of someone that’s very close in ability. If nothing else, they get a bolder GOLD STAR for wanting to compete.
So, I guess, at the end of the day, if a player is projected to be a high pick, by a credible source, and it comes time to participate in my team’s bowl game, that I gain nothing business-wise from, I can understand shutting it down to protect yourself. That player is electing to turn the page. For every player that decision comes at a different time in his college career.
We should respect the fact that these players are doing no different than any of us, in the real world- they are making a business decision!