The unexpected anthem controversy, which arose last Friday night when the President used profane language to essentially challenge the players and the owners, affected every team. But it definitely affected some more than others.
Multiple teams, whether they’ll admit it or not (and few will if for no reason other than to avoid the appearance of excuse-making) apparently were impacted by the issue, which created a real distraction last Saturday and Sunday from the normal pregame routine. For some teams, the disruption extended into Saturday night (impacting sleep schedules) and remained right up until kickoff on Sunday.
It’s easy to spot the potential disruption as to teams that performed more poorly than expected. The Steelers apparently were affected by the question not of whether to stand or kneel but whether to even enter the field of play for the anthem. So were the Ravens, who fell flat in London against the Jaguars; as one league source explained it to PFT, players like linebacker Terrell Suggs were “a mess” prior to the game, due directly to the anthem controversy.
The Broncos also may have been affected, given the in-house tension that always has existed there regarding whether to stand for the anthem. Ditto for the Dolphins, who have had multiple players (Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas) at the forefront of the issue. Stills had previously decided to stop kneeling and had originally planned to stand last Sunday, ended up taking a knee. (Both took a knee on Sunday in London, but they had a full week to consider the issue this time around.)
Likewise, the Raiders apparently were affected. Though the most controversial tin-foil hat theories emerging from the team’s ugly loss in Washington has not yet been corroborated (and may never be), a league source tells PFT. that there was some acrimony within the locker room between those who didn’t stand and those who stood for the anthem, especially with the entire starting offensive line not standing and the man they protect choosing to stand.
Even though the Cowboys won on Monday night, they started slowly and looked sluggish. As one source explained it to PFT, some players were considering defying what ultimately was an edict from owner Jerry Jones regarding the plan to collectively kneel before the anthem and then stand.
As Week Four unfolds, it will be interesting to see how all teams handle the issue, and ultimately whether there’s any reason to think that performance is being impacted by the way that a given team has handled a controversy that the league desperately hopes will go away for could, but that still lingers.