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Kaepernick’s parents bothered by criticism of tattoos

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Before Thursday, I hadn’t heard of David Whitley.  I now have.  And my first impression of his work isn’t good.

In a possible attempt by a pair of dying brands to regain relevance in a world with more digital options than eyeballs to consume them, Whitley has penned a so-stodgy-it’s-edgy column for the AOL/Sporting News joint venture that criticizes Colin Kaepernick’s ink.

Crafted carefully (for the most part) to avoid legitimate complaints of racism, Whitley’s implicit message arguably could be boiled down thusly:  He prefers NFL quarterbacks to be white, or to at least act white.

In the interests of clarity and fairness, Whitley didn’t say that.  But that’s the sense I got while reading his words, including:

1.  “He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don’t want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.”

2.  “For dinosaurs like me, NFL quarterbacks were our little Dutch boys.”

3.  “It’s not just a white thing, I hope.”

I’m not even sure what the last sentence means.  Reading the full column in one continuous chunk of words, it feels like he’s lamenting the disappearance of the good old days, when quarterbacks were not only tattoo-free but also pigment-free.

Regardless of Whitley’s conscious or subconscious motivations, Kaepernick’s parents aren’t happy that their adopted son has been compared to prison inmates.

It annoyed me,” Teresa Kaepernick told USA Today.  “You are categorizing this kid on something like tattoos?  Really?  Saying other guys are role models because they don’t have them?  Really?  Some of these other guys don’t have crystal clear reputations.  That’s how you’re going to define this kid?  It’s pretty irritating, but it is what it is.”

“This guy has probably never talked to Colin,” Rick Kaepernick said.  “Instead of saying that Colin does all these great things and donates his time to children, this guy is going to make him out like a gangster.  Really?”

I’m no stranger to the criticism that flows in response to opinions that reflect old-school attitudes that come, for example, from the days when the husbands smoked cigarettes and read Life magazine while watching Walter Cronkite in the waiting room as their kids were being born.  But the idea that quarterbacks shouldn’t have tattooed arms has no relevance to anything that would be remotely relevant to playing the sport of football, at any level.

Except for folks who prefer their quarterbacks to be fair-haired and fair-skinned, or at a minimum to behave as if they are.

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Mike Tomlin not surprised Ben Roethlisberger is thinking of retiring

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Head coach Mike Tomlin speaks with Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers against the New England Patriots during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s comment today that he is considering retirement came as a surprise to some people, but not to coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin told reporters today that he wants to keep coaching Roethlisberger but will understand if the soon-to-be 35-year-old Roethlisberger decides to walk away.

“Ben said it so you do take it seriously. I’m not alarmed by it, that’s football. Obviously, I’m hopeful he returns,” Tomlin said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Not surprised by that thought process by Ben. We’ll react and plan accordingly. We haven’t met yet. He’s one of last I meet with.”

Although Roethlisberger is still a good starting quarterback, given his age it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him quit this offseason. Tomlin said the Steelers will plan accordingly for the possibility that they’ll be building a new offense with a new quarterback in 2017.

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Philip Rivers ends search for AFC’s final Pro Bowl quarterback

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01:  Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers runs off the field after losing to the Kansas City Chiefs 37-27 in a game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL had a hard time finding a quarterback to join the AFC team at this week’s Pro Bowl, but their search has come to an end.

Philip Rivers of the Chargers will take the spot vacated by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this week. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian were previously invited, but recent surgeries meant they had to turn down the opportunity to go to Orlando.

Rivers was the one turning down an invitation the last two years as injuries and personal reasons led him to pass on a chance to play in the annual exhibition. He has played in three other Pro Bowls.

He will join Andy Dalton and Alex Smith in an all-replacement quarterback group for the AFC. Tom Brady and Derek Carr joined Roethlisberger as those initially named for the contest.

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Brandon Spikes sued by Fish Guy

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Everywhere Brandon Spikes turns up, animals seem to end up dying. And this one could again cost him a few real bucks.

According to Melinda Miller of the Buffalo News, the Bills linebacker has been sued by The Fish Guy of Framingham, Mass. for $4,045 worth of care for his tropical fish, some of which did not survive the move to Buffalo.

According to lawsuit filed by Joshua Wolfson (The Fish Guy in question), Spikes did not pay for taking care of his fish, and after two years, he got a court order to garnish Spikes’ wages.

Spikes’ lawyer countered by saying that since some of the fish died upon moving to Buffalo, because Wolfson sold him a $8,000 tank which “proved to be inadequate for the type and number of tropical fish owned by Mr. Spikes.”

Lawyer Thomas Bender also mentioned “the almost instantaneous death” of other fish when Spikes hired Wolfson to move his fish when he was playing for the Patriots.

Spikes’ time with the Patriots ended after he was involved in a hit-and-run incident in which his car was found abandoned, leaving damage which he claimed was caused by hitting a deer. Of course, they never found the deer.

The veteran linebacker is a free agent this offseason. It seems unlikely the Dolphins will be signing him. At least if they know what’s good for them.

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Ben Roethlisberger to evaluate “if there’s going to be a next season”

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts against the New England Patriots during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger gave an interesting answer on Tuesday to a question about how much longer he thinks he will be playing in the NFL.

During an appearance on “The Cook and Poni Show” on 93.7 The Fan, Roethlisberger said he didn’t know how much longer he’d be playing and stopped short of confirming that he would be returning for the 2017 season.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

Roethlisberger was asked a follow up to confirm that he was considering not playing anymore which drew a laugh and a repeat of his feeling that it was prudent to evaluate. He said he wants to walk away from his career rather than get carted off and said “head injuries are always a big thing” when discussing some of the things he’d be considering.

Roethlisberger is signed for three more years under an extension signed in 2015 that came with a $31 million signing bonus. Retiring could lead him to pay back some of that bonus while also foregoing $46 million in salary and bonus as well as escalators in the final two years that could lead to a higher payout.

Those are plenty of reasons to keep playing and a tough loss to the Patriots may be coloring his thoughts, but Roethlisberger says, for now, that he’s not sure of anything.

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Steelers may be sending the rest of the league a message about Antonio Brown

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts during the second half against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week’s ominous remarks from Steelers coach Mike Tomlin may have been more than a warning to Antonio Brown; they may have been the first step in baiting the hook to trade the star receiver.

“That’s often why you see great players move from team to team,” Tomlin said in the wake of Brown’s Facebook Live fiasco. “Don’t want that to happen to Antonio Brown.”

Maybe Tomlin does. The recent leak to NFL Network reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala, who is embedded with the Steelers, that the team believes Brown cares too much about his statistics and that he was “pouting” after the first touchdown of Sunday’s loss to the Patriots could be regarded as a deliberate effort by the team to slide Brown toward the trading block.

Brown has one year left on a contract that he has outperformed. After the Steelers slid money from 2016 to 2015 and from 2017 to 2016, Brown now expects a market-value deal.

Before the Steelers consider that, why not see whether another team makes a call? Six years ago, the Steelers unloaded Super Bowl XLIII MVP Santonio Holmes after the league imposed a four-game suspension under the substance-abuse policy. While Brown has gotten in no trouble away from the field, the Facebook Live incident coupled with team-leaked concerns about Brown’s willingness to put personal goals behind team goals could be enough to prompt the team to give the tree a mild shake and see what happens.

Don’t be shocked if the Steelers issue a public denial of the report from a media outlet that the Steelers partially own, since they may end up having to continue the relationship with Brown. Even if they do, the message apparently is sent: If you’re interested in Antonio Brown, make an offer.

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Bills hire David Culley as quarterbacks coach

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 16:  Philadelphia Eagles wide receivers coach David Culley talks with Santana Moss #89 of the Washington Redskins before a game at FedExField on October 16, 2011 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills hired Rick Dennison as their offensive coordinator last week and they added someone to his staff on Tuesday.

The team announced that David Culley will be their quarterbacks coach. The move represents a change of responsibilities as well as a change in teams for Culley.

He spent the last four years as the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach with the Chiefs. Culley followed Andy Reid to Kansas City from Philadelphia, where he coached the Eagles wide receivers from 1999-2012. He’s also coached wideouts with the Buccaneers and Steelers.

He’s reportedly going to be replaced in Kansas City by Greg Lewis, who played for Culley with the Eagles.

Culley will be working with 2016 fourth-round pick Cardale Jones. The rest of the quarterback group is less certain as EJ Manuel is headed for free agency and Tyrod Taylor, the starter for the last two years, may not have his contract option exercised due to over $30 million in guaranteed money that would kick in if it is picked up.

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PFT Live heads to Houston next week

PFTLive

Houston, hello.

Next week, PFT Live heads to Texas for the first time since two inches of ice coated all of Dallas and beyond six years ago. We’ll be broadcasting every day from the media center at Super Bowl LI, and the guest list already is extensive and impressive.

In no particular order, we’ll tentatively be joined by Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Cardinals running back David Johnson, Washington cornerback Josh Norman, Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders, Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson, Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Lions defensive end Kerry Hyder, Saints defensive end Cam Jordan, Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian, Giants guard Justin Pugh, Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo, Raiders defensive back DJ Hayden, former NFL receiver Chad Johnson, former NFL fullback and FOX broadcaster Moose Johnston, and four Hall of Famers and counting: Marcus Allen, Dan Marino, John Randle, and Aeneas Williams.

Last but hardly least, the Pardon My Take guys, Barstool Big Cat and my Internet son, PFT Commenter, will be on set for what should be a rollicking (and hopefully no more profane than Tom Curran) segment.

If you or one or more of your clients would like to join the extravaganza, let us know. We’ll be on live every day from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET and taping segments through the day.

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NFL: Coming out of the pile with the ball doesn’t prove a clear recovery

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with referee Terry McAulay #77 during the first half against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots appeared to catch a break during the NFC Championship Game when Tom Brady fumbled on a quarterback sneak and Steelers nose tackle Javon Hargrave came out of the pile with it, but the officials ruled it Patriots ball. But the NFL says there’s no replay that can show whether the officials got the call right or wrong, and so they had to stick with the call on the field.

NFL senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said in a video released by the league that coming out of the pile with the ball isn’t proof of recovering the ball.

“Brady takes the ball, he sneaks for a first down, the ball is going to come loose,” Blandino said. “Eventually, Pittsburgh is going to come out of the pile. . . . Pittsburgh 79 does have the football. But that is not evidence of a clear recovery.”

As the NFL sees it, it’s possible that the Patriots actually recovered Brady’s fumble and the Steelers only grabbed it after the play was blown dead.

“If we don’t have video evidence of the Pittsburgh player actually controlling and possessing the ball before the pile ensues, we can’t overturn the ruling on the field,” Blandino said. “In that pile, the officials are telling the players, we’ve ruled down by contact. One player may have it, he may listen to the officials and let go, and another player may grab it.”

On the CBS broadcast, Jim Nantz said that referee Terry McAulay had announced a clear recovery by the Steelers. Blandino, however, says McAulay was just announcing that the Steelers were challenging that they had clearly recovered the ball. McAulay was not saying that had been the ruling on the field.

“Pittsburgh challenged that there was a fumble that that they clearly recovered the ball, and that is what the referee announced,” Blandino said. “The referee announced that Pittsburgh challenged that there was a fumble and that they clearly recovered. He wasn’t saying that the officials on the field ruled a clear recovery for Pittsburgh. The officials on the field ruled down by contact. They didn’t rule on the recovery. There was some confusion as to the announcement, as to the referee saying clear recovery, but all he was saying was what Pittsburgh thought the ruling on the field should have been.”

So while the officials wrongly ruled Brady down by contact when he had actually fumbled, in the NFL’s view, there wasn’t a clear mistake that replay could have fixed.

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Tyrod Taylor, Trevor Siemian pass on Pro Bowl due to injuries

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1: Quarterback Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass in the first quarter of the game against the Oakland Raiders at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) Getty Images

The three quarterbacks selected for the Pro Bowl in the AFC were Tom Brady, Derek Carr and Ben Roethlisberger, but none of them are going to be in Orlando.

Brady’s going to the Super Bowl, Carr is recovering from a fractured fibula and Roethlisberger has opted out of the game. Andy Dalton and Alex Smith are in as replacements, but a third is getting hard to find. Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill were injured to end the year and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck just had shoulder surgery.

Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor turned down an invite after groin surgery and Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian has done the same after a shoulder operation of his own.

“When I first heard about it, I thought they must know I’m originally from Orlando and it would be easy to plug me in for the game,” Siemian said, via KUSA. “But obviously, it was really cool and a huge honor. It would have been cool to play with everyone I respect, especially our own guys who are going to be there. It was still an awesome honor.”

The other regular starting AFC quarterbacks that haven’t been mentioned are Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco, Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Ryan Fitzpatrick and whichever Browns quarterback you’d like to include. Rivers and Flacco had the best years of that group, but the label Pro Bowl quarterback is getting stretched pretty far in the AFC.

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Bud Dupree: Steelers were surprised by Patriots offense

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) runs against Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree (48) after a reception during the first half of the AFC championship NFL football game, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) AP

The Steelers didn’t know what hit them in Foxboro on Sunday. Literally.

The first drive hit us by surprise,” linebacker Bud Dupree said Monday, via Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “They came out firing and they caught us off guard. We were checking and they were checking at the same time. Hats off to that team. They had a great preparation.”

Dupree added that the Steelers were not expecting to see the no-huddle offense as much as they did.

“We didn’t really anticipate it like that,” Dupree said. “It was more in their approach to the no huddle, the checks they made right away. It was a great job by Tom Brady.”

Or it was not a great job of planning, preparation, and execution by the Pittsburgh defense.

As of last month, questions were being asked about New England’s reduced use of the no-huddle offense. Then came a Monday night game against the Ravens, during which the Patriots extensively employed a no-huddle approach to manhandle Pittsburgh’s top rival.

Regardless of whether the Steelers did or didn’t anticipate it, they failed to adapt to the circumstances. Coach Mike Tomlin admitted that it happened to the offense after the injury to Le’Veon Bell; it apparently also happened to the defense.

While Dupree surely didn’t intend to point a finger at coaching, his explanation points a finger generally toward a place where coaching is one of the reasons for the lack of preparation for a no-huddle attack and for the inability to adjust quickly on the fly to the tactics the Patriots were employing. Only so much of that failure can be blamed on execution; at some point, the quality of the coaching is called into question.

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Report: Alex Mack unlikely to practice this week due to sprained ankle

CORRECTS THE LOCATION TO FLOWERY BRANCH, GA. - Atlanta Falcons center Alex Mack looks at an NFL football banner as he arrives for a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017, in Flowery Branch, Ga. The Falcons host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship football game on Sunday. (AP Photo/John Amis) AP

The Falcons will be practicing in Atlanta this week before heading to Houston for the final preparations before Super Bowl LI, but one of their starters may not be on the field.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that center Alex Mack is unlikely to practice this week due to “a swollen, painful sprained ankle.” Mack left the NFC Championship Game briefly because of the injury before returning to the lineup.

Rapoport adds that Mack is expected to be OK in time for the game, which is good news for a Falcons offense that benefitted from his arrival as a free agent last offseason. He was voted a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press and anchored a line that improved over underwhelming performances in recent seasons.

Mack may not be the only player to take it easy this week. Wide receiver Julio Jones missed two days of practice last week because of the foot and toe injuries that have bothered him for a while and it’s a good bet that the Falcons won’t push him too far this week with so much time before the game.

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Dan Quinn: Keeping things normal will be “a big topic” heading into Super Bowl

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons looks on in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

In terms of Super Bowl experience, the Patriots have a big edge over the Falcons.

They won the title two years ago with many players who remain in prominent roles with this year’s team and it’s the seventh time that coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady are headed to football’s biggest game. The Falcons counter with five active players who have been on teams that went to the Super Bowl, although defensive tackle Joe Vellano was inactive for New England when they beat the Seahawks.

Coach Dan Quinn was the defensive coordinator for that Seattle team and he had the same job when they won the previous year. He said Monday he plans to use those experiences to keep things as normal as possible for the team.

“It’s a big topic,” Quinn said, via ESPN.com. “I’ve gone when it’s gone well, and I’ve been a part of it when it hasn’t. And I just really want to kind of outline the keys to playing well in the game and managing some of the things on the outside. That’s part of the process that I can help share. … We’ve got a great process that we go through to get ready, and we’re not going to deviate from that.”

Quinn said he began work on logistics for a trip to Houston during the team’s Wild Card round bye because he saw a shift in the team that left him with the belief that the Falcons were “headed in the right area.” The team will have a regular practice schedule from Wednesday to Friday before heading to Texas on Sunday for the final week before the game.

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Falcons taking all their employees to Houston with them

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank holds the George Halas trophy after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s not just the players and coaching staff going to Houston next week, it’s the entire Falcons organization.

Via Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Falcons owner Arthur Blank is sending all of the team’s employees to Houston next week for Super Bowl LI.

“Football is the ultimate team sport and it goes way beyond the people you see on the field,” Falcons president Rich McKay said in a statement. “It takes a lot of people to operate a successful NFL team and the staff works very, very hard all year round. Arthur loves the associates and one of our core values is ‘Include Everyone.’ He wants those who have helped our team reach the Super Bowl to have the chance to see the game live in Houston.”

It’s not an unheard of move, as both Broncos owner Pat Bowlen and Panthers owner Jerry Richardson did the same last year.

But it’s still a nice perk for the 500 employees of the team, who get to ride along for an unexpected end-of-year bonus.

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Concern in Pittsburgh that Antonio Brown cares too much about stats

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 16:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins on October 16, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bad judgment on social media isn’t the only concern the Steelers have about Antonio Brown.

The Steelers are also concerned that Brown is focused too much on his own personal statistics even at the Steelers’ expense, according to Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network.

According to the report, after DeAngelo Williams scored the Steelers’ first touchdown in the AFC Championship Game, Brown was pouting while the rest of his teammates were celebrating because Brown wanted the ball to go to him, not Williams, on the play. And that’s not new: Last year, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had to sit Brown down and tell him to stop chasing statistics, and that his only concern should be winning championships.

Brown is heading into the final year of his contract, and there’s been talk that the Steelers are planning to give him a raise on a new deal in the offseason. But if Brown really cares more about his stats than about winning, that may not be such a wise idea.

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Dak Prescott has some Senior Bowl advice

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys stands at attention during the national anthem prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

As potential NFL employees continue a three-month job interview process that includes plenty of free labor that allows NFL Network to generate cheap content during the slow months, a guy who lasted until the fourth round a year ago has some free advice.

“Senior Bowl is this week,” Prescott said Monday on Twitter. “DON’T TAKE A Meeting, Practice REP, or Walking Through the Lobby Lightly. You’re Being Evaluated.”

He’s absolutely right. And it applies well beyond Senior Bowl week. Everywhere the players go from now until their names are called at the draft, they’re being watched and evaluated. They should assume that every person they encounter eventually will report back to one or more teams on whether the player was rude, nice, profane, respectful, whatever.

Case in point: When players visit a team, the low-level employee who picks the player up at the airport and takes him to the facility is ALWAYS paying attention to what the player says and does. Amazingly, most incoming draft picks (and plenty of free agents) have no idea that this is happening.

Of course, none of this means that the evaluations will be accurate. Prescott still ended up being a fourth-round pick, going after the likes of Christian Hackenberg and Connor Cook. Still, for those players who are trying to maximize their draft stock, it’s critical to remember that, indeed, everyone is watching and evaluating — even if those doing the evaluations may not be as good at their jobs as they need to be.

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