The thing about the offseason is that it’s long. Too long. So painfully, horribly long.
So when they’re not lifting weights, running, or eating applies and doing whatever they need to do to maintain their status as finely tuned athletic machines, NFL players often appear in front of various cameras and recorders to say things. This practice is encouraged, because selfishly it gives guys like me something to do. Thanks.
But there’s an admitted contradiction that both us in the media and you guys — you fans — have and maintain: we want our athletes to be fun and very much the opposite of boring, but they can’t be too much fun, and too exciting, and too candid. In this sense, Ryan Mathews committed a sort of crime last week.
When he made an appearance on NFL AM Friday, Mathews was rather blunt with his assessment of the 2012 San Diego Chargers, their final season under Norv Turner.
“I think we were just complacent. The time that we spent there — we spent a lot of time there — it was the same thing over and over again. There wasn’t anything new.
“I think he (Norv Turner) did everything he could to try to make us win, no doubt about it. I just think we really got complacent to where we were and what we were doing and thought we were owed to win games.”
“We all had the talent. I think it was just going through the same routine, doing the same thing over and over again. You go there and you do what you gotta do to get ready for practice, go to practice, get out of practice.
“It was kind of just a routine thing, it wasn’t something new. I think the new coaches being in here is going to be good for us.”
Fair enough, and there was probably some natural human instinct at play if what Mathews says is true. Even the most elite athletes with their advanced mental framework can’t avoid falling into the grimy rut of losing, and breaking the habits which led to that slide. If a coach can’t shake them of that routine and of those losing habits — which is no easy task — then he likely won’t be a coach on the team in question for much longer.
The problem for Mathews is that pissing teammates off with public comments is never a good idea, and it’s an especially poor move in April. With offseason activities still a few weeks away for most teams, players haven’t been engaged in a true team environment for quite some time. Without that, sour feelings can linger.
Turns out linebacker Donald Butler doesn’t particularly enjoy having his work ethic questioned.
“I just wish he would have spoken for himself. That’s all. Just speak for yourself. Don’t make generalized statements like that about the whole team. … I haven’t got a chance to talk to him, but I’m sure he knows that. It is what is. Just speak on yourself, and that’s it.”
Now in fairness, Mathews did repeatedly say “we”, including himself. Butler thinks he should have gone with a different word that’s one letter long: “I”.
Center Nick Hardwick chucks his lunch, and everything else in his stomach before every game. That’s not the feeling of complacency.
“Just from my own personal standpoint, I throw up before every game. I know what kind of work it’s going to take to even get through a game, let alone to win a game. There is a ton of work that’s involved in every single game, and you go throughout the week that very same way.”
All will be well, and this will be forgotten in a day or so. Or maybe it won’t, but either way, it’s less than ideal for a team attempting to right itself under a new head coach.