From Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com comes a report that the NFL is trying to discourage incoming rookies from attending the events organized by the NFLPA* during draft week — even though the events do not conflict with the 2011 NFL draft.
Freeman says that “team scouts, personnel men and assistant coaches are informing agents that their draftees should stay away” from the NFLPA* events. Freeman reports that the effort has “infuriated” several agents, and that an unnamed NFL.com draft analyst “has contacted multiple draft prospects and told them not to attend.”
The unnamed NFL.com draft analyst, according to Freeman, “has called prospects, in some cases, six and seven times, telling them that if they attended the NFLPA[*] event they would not be allowed to attend the NFL Draft and walk on stage with Commissioner Roger Goodell.”
The threat, if it was made, seems to be idle. Surely, the NFL wouldn’t yank the rug from under players who already have accepted invitations to attend the draft. Still, if these efforts have been occurring, it’s as troubling as the previous effort by the players to discourage players from attending the draft.
It’s actually even more troubling, since the NFLPA* had the courage to articulate their position publicly.
That said, the league denies that any such efforts have been made.
“The bottom line is that the league is NOT trying to discourage players from attending NFLPA events,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT via e-mail. “If someone has specific information to the contrary, we would be interested in knowing about it.
“A lead draft analyst for NFL.com that has contacted multiple draft prospects is Gil Brandt,” Aiello added. “He contacts them every year in helping us arrange to invite the top prospects to New York. Gil says he has NOT told any of the invited prospects that they should not attend the NFLPA draft events, which are on the day of the first round and after Thursday night (not prior to the draft). Gil also said he never told any of the players they would not be allowed to attend the draft and walk on stage with the commissioner, as the story claims.”
Freeman stands by his report. “More than a few agents were furious about the pressure being put on the kids not to attend and no matter what the league says, it was happening,” Freeman told PFT via e-mail.
Freeman also addressed his decision not to name the NFL.com draft analyst who supposedly was contacting the players. Freeman told us that he “wasn’t sure about [the] fairness of naming the person though I was certain of the accuracy of the information.”
In our view, the fair thing to do would have been to give the person (presumably Brandt) a chance to respond, and then to go with the story, naming his name. Especially if Freeman was and is certain of the accuracy of the information.