Sports Illustrated NFL columnist Peter King chose his words poorly when assessing Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory in today’s “Monday Morning Quarterback.”
Gregory, without question, was a top-10 value on talent alone. But he tumbled down so many draft boards because of his character flaws.
King since walked back the words “character flaws” when assessing Randy Gregory’s struggle with anxiety, depression and marijuana use, but there’s a larger point here being missed.
You’re all right. I was dumb to mix marijuana use+depression and call them “character flaws.” Will fix. Thanks for pointing out my error.
— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) May 4, 2015
The following isn’t about Peter King — others do a much more thorough job of taking King to task than I ever could. Rather, King opens a window for discussion about something much more important than his poor word choice.
King may take back “character flaws,” but the largely point is made clear with some far more egregious and damning language invoked to evaluate Randy Gregory:
Pick 60, Dallas: Randy Gregory, defensive end/outside linebacker, Nebraska. My first thought after this pick: Rod Marinelli’s going to have Greg Hardy and Randy Gregory in his defensive team meeting room. Hope he’s ready.
In the above passage, King implicitly equates Randy Gregory’s emotional challenges and marijuana use with Greg Hardy throwing a woman he physically assaulted onto a couch covered in guns. If only the NFL had a track record of policing domestic violence as harshly as it does marijuana use. When it comes to marijuana — which, as Mike Tunison points out in the above-linked KSK column, might help Gregory with his anxiety — the NFL is about as hard-line as the producers of Reefer Madness.
The league’s well-documented stance against pot caused some serious hand-wringing in the build-up to last weekend’s draft, as NFL pundits opined that both Randy Gregory and Shane Ray severely damaged their stock.
Ray was selected in the first round after the Denver Broncos actually traded up to select him. Gregory plummeted. Both were contrite when addressing their respective situations: Gregory’s a failed test at the combine, Ray a low-level misdemeanor paper arrest.
So if marijuana wasn’t actually behind Randy Gregory’s slide, what was? Well, an NFL.com report, rife with anonymous sourcing, points to Gregory’s anxiety without doing so explicitly.
At least three general managers view him as a top-five talent. But according to more than a dozen coaches, scouts, personnel chiefs and GMs, there is concern about Gregory’s ability to handle the mental rigors of professional football. And just how far he drops in this week’s draft will likely hinge on the individual psychological profiles (and the results of related testing) put together by each team, according to multiple veteran evaluators. He has been taken off a several team’s draft boards, according to multiple sources.
Jay Glazer also jumped in the fray with a vague warning of “other issues,” as he told Dan Patrick. What those issues are, he didn’t say.
NFL franchises are worthy hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more. Thus, with so much at stake, it stands to reason front offices would be diligent about investing in a player. And yet, Randy Gregory having “the ability to handle the mental rigors of professional football” seems to be weighed a lot more heavily than arrests.
Anxiety and depression are seen as a greater stigma than violence. This isn’t just an NFL problem, either. Common mental health issues like anxiety and depression are seen as weaknesses — or, in other words, character flaws. Perhaps Peter King wasn’t so wrong in his word choice in that it accurately conveyed how these issues are perceived.
It’s easy to dismiss a Randy Gregory. He’s just another faceless, replaceable automaton who puts on pads every Saturday or Sunday for our amusement, wearing a helmet that conceals his face.
Underneath the helmet, however, is a real person with real struggles that millions tackle every day.