After months of trying to survive off scraps of NFL related news, the start of organised team activities (OTAs) came as a reminder to football fans that the start of a new season is on the horizon. However, with the vast majority of players only beginning to return to the field over the last few weeks this time in the NFL universe is nearly always dominated by off-the-field stories.
Seahawks waive 6th round draft pick
Whilst players selected in the later rounds of the NFL draft often face an uphill battle to make their team’s final roster, it is rare to see a team waive a player deemed worthy of a draft pick before the first batch of player cuts are announced. However, for Garrett Scott, the Seattle Seahawks’ 6th round selection in the 2014 Draft, it appears his football days are over. After arriving at the team’s facilities Scott was discovered to have a rare heart condition which Seahawks’ General Manager John Schneider stated “will prevent him [Scott] from any on-field participation in the near future.” However, by signing Scott before ultimately releasing him, despite being aware of the condition, it is likely that the Seahawks will pay the offensive tackle a signing bonus which will assist his transition into post-football life.
Manziel embroiled in sexual harassment hoax
Immediately after drafting Johnny Manziel, the Cleveland Browns publicly acknowledged their wish to keep the rookie quarterback out of the spotlight as he transitions to the NFL lifestyle. However, as was the case with Manziel during his college days keeping the former Heisman Trophy winner out of the public eye was always going to be easier said than done. On Friday news broke that Headline News host, Samantha Schacher had been named as the plaintiff in a sexual harassment case against the Browns’ quarterback, an announcement which surprised everyone, including Schacher who stated that she had never even met Manziel and was “the victim of a cruel hoax.” Schacher later tweeted that the lawsuit had in fact been filed by a “frequent flyer,” who has made numerous similar claims in the past and had this time used her name as an alias.
Colts lose Mathis to 4 game suspension
After a standout 2013 campaign, along with a somewhat bolstered Colts’ defense it appeared everything was set for Robert Mathis to once again dominate, and perhaps threaten the NFL single season record for sacks. However, those hopes came crashing down when it was announced that Mathis had tested positive for the banned substance Clomid, which whilst not a performance enhancing drug in its own right has been used to mask the use of PEDs in several high profile cases. Whilst Mathis blamed the test result on the use of fertility tablets, and claimed to have checked with the doctor who provided him with the drugs if the conformed with NFL rules, the governing body ignored his pleas. With the NFL offering all players a searchable app which informs them of banned substances, along with the right to consult with an appointed medical worker to clear up any confusion over a particular substance, it was decided that Mathis could have done more to avoid Clomid, if in fact he was taking it without being aware that it was banned. The announcement also causes a significant level of damage to the Colts’ ambitions for the 2014 season, as the franchise had been hoping to build on their success over the last two seasons and make a run for the Superbowl.
Floyd dominating at OTAs
Since Larry Fitzgerald’s arrival in the NFL teams going up against the Arizona Cardinals often entered those games with one simple belief; remove Fitzgerald from the game and the Cardinals would struggle. As a result of this, and a below average supporting cast of wide receivers around him, the former first round pick often faced double coverage as teams tried to limit his impact on any given game. However, in 2014 teams may have to change this mind-set as, fresh off the back of his first 1000-yard season, Michael Floyd appears to be emerging as the top level talent the Cardinals expected him to be when they drafted him in 2012. With the young wide-receiver shining at OTAs quarterback Carson Palmer stated that “the way Mike Floyd is playing just jumped out at me,” before Floyd added “If they double-team anyone, we have the guys on the field that can beat one-on-one coverage.” Playing in arguably the toughest division in the NFL the Cardinals will need Floyd and Fitzgerald at their absolute best if they are to challenge the Seahawks and 49ers for supremacy in the NFC West.
Whilst the 2014 season is still a long way away stories are already emerging which will have a significant impact on each team’s ambitions going forward. Can the Colts find a way to cover for the missing Mathis? Can Floyd continue his OTA form? Can Manziel successfully stay out of the media spotlight? The answer to these questions and many more will be answered in just a few months.
Barry Aldworth, Pundit Arena.