It was five o'clock in the morning on a Tuesday in July, so I did what millions of Americans do when they roll out of bed in the summer—I went searching for a football fix.
Before the coffee had even started brewing, the search engine was churning to find the latest NFL news and notes. In hopes of a little home cookin', I jumped over to NFL.com to see what was on the fire.
This has to be some kind of joke, right? Training camp starts this week. This week! This can't be all there is to talk about in the NFL right now.
Roger Goodell has to be behind this. He's been too damn quiet about his 18-game regular season this year, planting the seed deeper and deeper into our football consciousness until the idea sprouts organically, like we, as a collective fanbase, somehow thought of it ourselves.
- Pettine: Browns will name starting QB by third preseason game
- Dareus agrees to enter substance-abuse program, attorney says
- Manziel jersey tops league in sales
- Tebow shows he's staying in shape, hoping for NFL call
- Dungy: 'I would not have drafted Michael Sam'
- Titans' Mettenberger sucker-punched at local bar, owner says
If these are the headlines we get in late July, that can only mean one thing: more football. We need more football.
More football would mean training camp would have to start earlier, which would mean a shorter offseason, which would mean headlines like we got this week—headlines that adorn the front page of the league website—would simply not exist.
Let's take a closer look at the stories the NFL is promoting. There are 10 different links to fantasy football content, because as the lead story on the site explains, "It's not too soon to starting thinking about fantasy football."
There's a feature on the wide-open NFC North, which actually sounds like a great preseason read on a lazy July morning.
Then there are the "Latest Headlines" on NFL.com, which include such gems as which quarterback will start for the Browns, Johnny Football jersey sales, the release of a former third-round pick, the retirement of an offensive lineman, unbridled preseason optimism from a member of the (fill-in-the-blank) front office and Tim Tebow staying in shape in case an NFL team comes calling.
You know, a typical NFL day in July.
Oh, right, and Tony Dungy saying he wouldn't want the distraction of a gay player in his locker room.
There's that too.
Let's start there. Tony Dungy, who works for NBC, a rights-holding partner with the NFL, talked to a local reporter in Tampa and said he would not have drafted Michael Sam because he wouldn't have wanted all the extra media interest during camp. From Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com:
"I wouldn't have taken him," Dungy told The Tampa Tribune's Ira Kaufman. "Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it. It's not going to be totally smooth ... things will happen."
Dungy's comments will be scrutinized, but his opinion likely reflects how a lot of coaches felt about Sam's pro prospects. Dungy, unlike many coaches, feels comfortable enough to be honest with the media.
While I respect Rosenthal's point, Dungy isn't a coach anymore. Rosenthal pointed out that Dungy feels comfortable enough to be honest with the media because, per his job, he's part of the media.
There's this line people in our business seem to draw between those of us who sit in the press box during games and those who ran around on the field first. If we are paid to give our opinion about football, why is Dungy any different than Peter King or Mike Florio when speaking as an employee of NBC?
Sure, not only has Dungy been a successful coach in the league, but he's mentored and counseled countless players and coaches in his career as a player, coach and NFL analyst.
It's just that Dungy's comments about coaching Sam should serve as no reflection on today's NFL. Dungy quit coaching half a decade ago, and his website, CoachDungy.com, is being used to peddle a book titled—and I am not making this up in the wake of his comments about Sam—Uncommon Marriage.
The book, by the way, is published by Tyndale House Publishers, a company with a corporate purpose that reads: "Minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles."
It's understandable why Dungy wouldn't want the distraction of Sam being on his team, given both his personal beliefs and the fact that he seems quite content not being a coach anymore. Dungy wouldn't want any distraction that an NFL coach has to put up with anymore. That's why he's not an NFL coach.
It's just funny, in a way, that a guy who works in television created an enormous NFL distraction by essentially saying he wouldn't have picked a player because he wouldn't want that player to be a distraction.
After this week, Dungy should send Rams coach Jeff Fisher a copy of his book signed, "Dear Jeff, sorry for the distraction."
Tim Tebow? Really?
Whether we like it or not, the Tony Dungy comments and the entire preseason for Michael Sam are newsworthy no matter what else is going on in the NFL universe. But Tim Tebow? Come on, NFL.
Tebow let Phoenix TV station KSAZ record his training sessions in Scottsdale, Arizona, and the station talked to the former college star-turned-NFL bust about his training regimen in hopes of getting back into the professional ranks.
Per NFL.com's Dan Parr, Tebow said, "I feel great. I feel the strongest, healthiest, throwing the best I ever have. I'm just really excited about the improvement."
You hear that, America! He feels the best he's ever felt! And he's improving! And this is front-page news on NFL.com.
Please, please, football, get here faster.
If there is ever going to be a way for Commissioner Goodell to get average Americans to forget all the horrible reasons why an 18-game schedule is the model of the NFL future, it's stories about how strong, healthy and improved Tim Tebow feels each July. What, was Brett Favre busy this week?
Johnny Manziel: The Newer, Better Tebow
Jersey sales will always make the front page of a league-run website because stories about jersey sales beget other jerseys being sold.
People—and by people I mean sports fans—are inherently sheep. If a jersey is the most popular in the league, the pronouncement of that tiny news item is only going to lead to more people who haven't purchased the jersey to run out and get it.
Recently, the NFL put out a story that its store website, NFLShop.com, announced that Manziel's jersey is now more popular than that of Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick or Peyton Manning. Richard Sherman and Michael Sam are the next two on the list for the league's official shop.
Sessler failed to mention that's probably because every single football fan in Minnesota already owns a Peterson jersey, so of course a new marketable star like Bridgewater would get more sales than the guy who is surely one of the five most popular players in the history of the franchise.
The story on Manziel's jersey sales is manufactured news. The bigger Manziel story, however, came in the form of actual football news.
Via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com, Cleveland Browns coach Mike Pettine doesn't know who his Week 1 starter will be, but a starter will be named by the third week of the preseason:
Pettine said he will meet Tuesday with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to decide how to split first-team reps in training camp between Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer.
"(A decision) could be sooner, and that's something we're going to discuss in that meeting," Pettine said, according to the Akron Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich. "It'll be before the third preseason game. I just don't have a date. I don't know if I'll set a date and kind of paint ourselves into a date, but it will be sooner than the third preseason game."
Yes, this qualifies as bona fide NFL news in July, inasmuch as "we don't know" can ever be news.
The second half of that NFL.com report is about Josh Gordon, where Pettine states Gordon is a member of the team and they want "to do what's best for him."
In other words, they won't just cut him. They want to help him. It's certainly the bigger story in terms of NFL news in that link, but it doesn't have a Manziel connection, so it didn't even make the headline.
Speaking of Drugs and Alcohol…
The Bills announced that defensive tackle Marcell Dareus has entered a substance-abuse program in an effort to get his felony drug charges dismissed after he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance back in May.
In June he was charged again after allegedly drag racing and leaving the scene of an accident. He was also put on the non-football illness list to open camp after failing the team's physical.
If there was ever a reason to have more football and less offseason time for players, it's stories like this.
Most guys spend the offseason relaxing with friends and family, reaping the rewards of being super rich (comparatively speaking) and getting four to five months out of the year to not have to show up to the football facility to bash their bodies into each other repeatedly.
A very slim margin of players make headlines by doing stupid stuff like getting arrested for having a controlled substance or drag racing and leaving the scene of an accident.
According to the U-T San Diego NFL arrest database, 19 players were arrested or charged with crimes since the end of last season—including Dareus, twice—which seems like a lot until you remember that the league employs 1,696 players on active rosters and nearly 2,000 if practice squads and injured players are included.
And yet the offseason headlines are huge anytime a guy gets a scrape with the law, because anything and everything—see jersey sales and Tebow Time—is big news in the NFL in July.
Heck, even when a player doesn't do anything but get punched in the face, per reports, it's big NFL news in July.
Zach Mettenberger, the sixth-round pick out of LSU by the Tennessee Titans, was punched in the eye by an Alabama fan at—again, we couldn't make this up if we tried—Loser's Most Wanted Bar & Grill in Nashville on Saturday.
The owner of the bar told local reporters that Mettenberger didn't do anything wrong and the 'Bama fans were trying to provoke him before one socked him in the face and ran off.
Yet the story was front-page news for the NFL in July.
Everything in the NFL is front-page news in July. Since I started writing this, the NFL.com front page has been updated to include a link that reads, "Owner: Raiders' offseason was 'phenomenal.'"
Please, football—real, meaningful football—come back soon. I'm almost starting to wish you were 18 games long after all.