Davis trade frames important question about player relations

Getty Images

LaVar Arrington’s complaint regarding the Redskins’ decision to cut Chris Cooley on the eve of the start of the regular season leads naturally to a broader debate regarding the relationship between NFL teams and their players.

The best organizations seem to value relationships with the players, regarding them as human beings and not commodities.  The not-so-best organizations often have a more calculated and detached approach to the men who fill out the roster, especially once it’s determined that a player who has been a valued member of the team no longer fits.

That distinction came into focus for me personally while watching the clip from Tuesday’s Hard Knocks regarding the trade of cornerback Vontae Davis.  In an intensely personal, private, and potentially embarrassing moment featuring the raw, organic reaction to the news of a trade, does recording that moment and broadcasting it to the nation fit with the notion that players are regarded by the organization as people?

Maybe in the end that’s why franchises like the Patriots and Packers and Steelers and Giants would never allow such an intimate look at the inner workings of the team.  Maybe it’s not just because those organizations are secretive or averse to the distractions of cameras and microphones.  Maybe those organizations — which have won seven of the last nine Super Bowls — have enough respect for the men who wear their uniforms to not expose inherently sensitive interactions and observations to the rest of the world.

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

35 responses to “Davis trade frames important question about player relations

  1. That’s a cute take on this, however; Bill Belichick (SuperBowl winning coach of the Patriots) did do an all access, mic’d up for NFL Networks, A Football Life, a two parter if I’m not mistaken. I’m pretty sure you even wrote an article about it.

  2. And how much of that featured players being cut or ridiculed or told on camera without warning that they are being traded?

  3. How about commenting on the lack of player loyalty to their teams and their teams fans? Many, if not most, NFL players would happily abandon a team that needs them for a nickel more from another team in free agency.

  4. “The best organizations seem to value relationships with the players, regarding them as human beings and not commodities.”

    Me thinks you are forgetting the Eagles and how they dumped Dawkins, or when they pulled the franchise tag out from under Trotter.

    How about the Patriots when they choose to let Lawyer Milloy go to Buffalo and sparked a mini firestorm. Or how about Deion Branch, when the Pats choose not to resign Brady’s favorite target at the time.

    Honestly, I could go on about how successful franchises are willing to dump fan favorite players when they no longer see their value to the team. I would even argue that successful franchises are successful because they know when to cut a guy loose and don’t hang on to them too long. Of course this wouldn’t fit the nice little story you were writing up there.

  5. These types of situations are likely handled the same by all the teams in the NFL. Personnel decisions are made and the players are notified. Hard Knocks just happens to broadcast it and the Dolphins are being scrutinized for letting the cameras in. This has happened in every year of the show. It is only become an issue this year. That is probably because of the national perception that the Dolphins’ front office is inept and the players that were shown getting cut/traded this year are high-profile guys on a team with very few of those. I think it is hypocritical for this site (among others) to actively advocate that a team needs to agree to the show and then criticize the team that finally agrees to it.

    That said, the Dolphins were in transition with a new regime and a team in disarray. This was a bad year for the Dolphins to do the show, but Ross loves celebrity and wanted to showcase his team in the hopes of selling more tickets. They should concentrate on becoming a better football team and the sales will follow. they are heading in the right direction but this road will be quite bumpy along the way.

  6. That’s a cute take on this, however; Bill Belichick (SuperBowl winning coach of the Patriots) did do an all access, mic’d up for NFL Networks, A Football Life, a two parter if I’m not mistaken. I’m pretty sure you even wrote an article about it.


    That was completely different. Belichick had creative control of “A Football Life”. He had the final say in the editing room. so he could spin the footage whichever way he liked. He would never allow an all access show like Hard Knocks to come to Foxborough.

  7. I would love to get a player’s perspective on this issue. I don’t imagine it’s much different than what we expect: embarrassing or degrading.

    I suppose I’m a little guilty because I watch the show (and therefore encourage their programming strategy), but I’ve always felt more uncomfortable than anything else watching the player cuts.

  8. Our lack of visibility into the backroom moves that teams like GB, Pitt, and NE doesn’t translate into them taking the moral high ground or saving face for players. Frankly, those teams will cut or trade a player without feeling just as quick as any other will. As fans, we’ve been conditioned for years to deal with excruciatingly rising contracts and all the other non-sense as “it’s just a business”. Well guess what? That’s how we look at a player getting cut or traded as fans. It’s just a business. When I watched that episode and saw Vontae Davis’ reaction of disbelief, I was hoping he’d call his grandma and have her say on speaker phone, “It’s just a business!”. I think the days of fans having sympathy for professional athletes in these circumstances is long over.

  9. Cut throat describes it best. Tough to put the Patriots in that bracket when they cut Tiquan whats his face the night before the Super Bowl.

    But watching Davis’ reaction was pretty foul. Very foul indeed. I do not wish the Dolphins well this season. Not a fan in the least bit.

  10. It’s the difference between contenders and pretenders. Organizations like the Dolphins and the Jets who haven’t won anything in forever feel compelled to resort to shameless self-promotion tactics like agreeing to be on Hard Knocks. Belichik’s A Football Life was something completely different than the invasive presence of Hard Knocks.

  11. The Cowboys did the show, the Ravens did the show- I think both of those teams are widely considered class organizations. Hard Knocks is an awesome inside look at what goes on behind the scenes in the most beloved game in the country. These players know they are in the public eye..it comes with the territory. Not every team is on Hard Knocks but if a player gets a speeding ticket it is splashed on the spors page. Plus being traded isn’t horrible..it happens all the time and might even be welcomed by the palyer. No big deal.

  12. Reporters and camera men have always had access (and sometimes caught exchanges and emotional moments). This is just more access.

    I’d have a lot more sympathy for someone who came into the league BEFORE “Hard Knocks” started. If you entered the league after 2001, you know that your team might get featured.

    It’s similar, though not as extreme, to how I have more sympathy for those in the military who went on many extra tours – and possibly even died – due to a change in foreign policy from the non-interventionism Bush campaigned on to the “strike-first” preemptive invasions and occupations. If you joined the military right before 9/11, you expected to only be used against immediate threats to our national security.

    Of course, for the military, there is plenty of blame to go around as it was the UN sanctions (and the 100’s of thousands that died as a result during the Clinton years) that the CIA and 9/11 Commission Report say Al Qaeda used to recruit.

  13. I don’t think your issue is with the franchises, its with HBO. I am 100% sure Bill had to cut a player that year, whether or not NFL Network air’d it.

  14. I agree that allowing the camera’s in is cheap and unfair to the players. However, to suggest that the Patriots treat players as people rather than resources is to ignore their history of cuts/trades and the timing of those things. As soon as a player is no longer useful (or as useful as his contract dictates he should be), he is gone. Jeez, they cut Underwood for SB week. To the Pats, players are definitely assets and nothing more.

  15. This is the exact argument that crossed my mind during the Davis trade scene on Tuesday night.

    Vontae Davis has been ridiculed, perhaps rightfully so, for a supposed lack of dedication to honing his craft, a lack of maturity in his approach to his job.

    It’s easy to pile on a kid like this when he brings it on himself.

    It’s also easy – for fans and Dolphin management alike – to write this kid off as a “sunk cost” or an expendable commodity that didn’t pan out.

    Both NFL decision makers and we – as fans – need to remember that, despite these perceived undesirable qualities we may find, these players are human beings that feel emotion just like you and I.

    Don’t get me wrong – NO BODY should be crying for Vontae Davis. He’s as physically gifted as anybody at his position in the game, and he’s a millionaire that’s going to continue to be handsomely paid by another franchise.

    But if that scene taught us anything, it’s that people need to exercise some compassion and realize that NFL athletes are people and not inanimate assets that deserve to have personal, life-changing events broadcast to the world.

    Look no further than Vontae’s immediate reaction to the news. Everything he has known about life in professional football is coming to an end, and all he wants is to speak to the person he loves most in the world and be told that everything is going to be ok.

  16. With the amount they get paid, I think they can handle any public work related embarrassment or revelations.

  17. I’d like to see the inevitable video in the next year or two of the Dolphins GM getting fired.

    I hope their coach does well, but as I was watching the coach deal with Chad I was wondering how he felt about the way the authorities dealt with his son. He might be a good coach but he has poor interpersonal skills. Which I think are essential to be a good leader.

  18. Ask Mike Wallace how nice it is to work for the Squealers. It’s like any company…there are times when the worker gets a bug up his butt and times when the company takes advantage.
    So quit glamorizing certain teams when they have their own problems. Just wait until Todd Haley starts a fight with one of his Steeler players – and then tell me how beautiful it is in rainbow city.

  19. Or maybe those “golden” franchises don’t let cameras in because they treat their players like commodity’s as well, but don’t want the cameras to show how ruthless and cut throat they are and tarnish their “golden” image bestowed upon them by the talking heads. It’s funny, because I remember a time when the New England Patriots were the laughing stock of the league… and it wasn’t that long ago. I also remember a time when the Steelers were considered a mid-ling franchise at best… or when the Packers were 4-12 and also a laughing stock…. and it really wasn’t that long ago for these “golden” franchises…. Are they good now? Yes, but all have legitimate QB’s at the present time… but who is to say their next QB will be as good… Indy might have struck gold twice in a row, but the odds of that happening are very slim…..

  20. Hard Knocks is a great show for the fans. In an era where the NFL is competing with for the consumers dollar, its an important one too.

    There are clear and pervasive reasons why NOT to do this show. However its a show everyone loves to watch. Pats fans would LOVE to see their team on Hard Knocks, while at the same time understand completely why it isn’t going to happen….under the current system.

    The solution is simple. Everyone has to do it once. Sure its a burden for the teams, but if you have to do it only once every 32 years….its not much of one.

  21. Are you serious? Davis was traded not cut. He also didn’t do himself any favors by faking it during practice and taking long bathroom breaks. Football is a business and has a cut throat side hence the name of the show, HARD KNOCKS!!

  22. I’ve always been taught that for every action there is a reaction. Later on in life I filled in the blanks that inaction is in fact an action.

    I see two separate equations in this story. Vontae Davis inaction in terms of preparation for his job (relying mostly on his talents) resulted in his embarrassment in getting cut on TV.

    On the flipside (and I’m a HUGE Dolphins fan) there will also be a reaction to the Dolphins embarrassing players on TV. Perhaps it’s further FA’s deciding to sign elsewhere. Perhaps it’s Jeff Ireland getting fired after this season (hope hope). But that cheque is in the mail.

    Vontae, like us all, got what he deserved. If he didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of the class he should have done his home work. It was always in his hands.

  23. Everyone… stop being so sensitive. He was cut, period. Your impression hasn’t changed of him… talented guy that now plays for a different team. I think it’s great that hardcore football fans get an inside look at how a football team is run and the hard decisions that need to be made. It’s great entertainment and a treat to be able to see this. I commend any team that partakes in this.

    And contrary to popular belief… the cameras ARE NOT a distraction. There are always cameras and judging eyes around pro teams. These “professionals” should focus on their job while the cameras buzz in the background.

  24. Vontae showed up out of shape LAST YEAR and was gassed in the first 3 games. At 0-7, he showed up to practice DRUNK and was suspended for the Chiefs game. Then he responded with a great finish to the 2011 season, and I thought he had turned the corner.

    Then? Vontae showed up in the worst shape of his life, couldn’t finish practices, and was demoted.

    Vontae did this to Vontae.

  25. I guarantee that you’ll never see the Niners on “Knocks” as long as Harbaugh is the coach. That’s a damn good thing. And you seldom see anything about the Niners on most blogs. Most reporters and bloggers don’t even want to approach Jim, fearing the response they’ll get to their inane questions. And that also is a good thing. The less the league knows about the team, the better to keep them guessing.

  26. If HBO thought it was hard to get a team to agree to “Hard Knocks” this year just wait until next year. A ton of the critisicism the Fins have received has been unwarranted. Every team has skeletons in their closet and things they are happy we do not know about. Nobody told VDavis to look like someone spit in his oatmeal….am I the only one that noticed he called Ireland “J”. Seems like they got along as men so this was a little touchy for the 2 of them as “employee-boss”. Ireland seemed like he was somewhat sad about it too….the trade was Philbins final decision. VDavis had character issues coming out of Illinois and Ireland gave him a shot when other teams were hesitant. #justbusiness

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!