The Agent’s Journal

The Agent’s Journal

5 reasons why you should let your son play football

One of my clients who played a long time in the NFL and is now coaching in the NFL, made a comment to me that is a sign of the times. He said, “Man, these guys have it made (referring to current NFL players). They practice half as much as we did and only have

One of my clients who played a long time in the NFL and is now coaching in the NFL, made a comment to me that is a sign of the times. He said, “Man, these guys have it made (referring to current NFL players). They practice half as much as we did and only have about 10% of the contact we had. These guys will play for a long time”.

Yes, it’s true, say goodbye to two-a-day full contact practices, brutal practice rituals and barbaric head banging drills. Today’s football coaches and organizations are producing a safer game with less risk for injury.

Here’s why:

Helmet to helmet hits are greatly diminishing: The helmet to helmet hit will never be totally eliminated from the game of football, but it has and will be significantly reduced. Unless you have been under a rock for the last three years, anyone involved with football has been made aware of the brain trauma associated with concussions. Therefore, coaches at all levels of football should be more proactive than ever in teaching proper head placement for tackling and blocking techniques.

Liability: Coaches from Pop Warner to high school have been made aware that they could face potential liability for creating and/or encouraging unsafe methods, techniques and practices. I’m certain everyone knows the NFL is facing lawsuits from their own players, so what’s to stop college, high school or youth players from doing the same? The growing shadow of liability should keep those in charge (coaches, trainers, and conditioning coaches) honest about making sure the players don’t put themselves at risk, especially for head trauma.

I doubt we will see anymore contact drills called; “The Nutcracker”, “Oklahoma drill”, and/or “The bull in the ring”.

Trickle down education: The NFL is spending millions on educating youth players on the proper techniques of blocking and tackling. Programs such as Play 60 have reached tens of thousands of children already. Just like in rugby where it’s second nature for players to tackle with their shoulder, a new breed of football player is emerging that’s better educated through camps and clinics on how to protect themselves, and their opponents from injury.

Death of the barbarian coach: I was taught in both high school and college to lead with butt of helmet when I wanted to block someone. I suffered four concussions. My coaches weren’t being barbaric but they were teaching techniques of the game that were taught to them.

What we like to call “old school” coaches, are rapidly dying off. When Bill Walsh came on the scene and started winning Super Bowls with short, crisp, cerebral and non-contact practices, the football world took notice and started adopting his philosophy. In addition, as the game continues to speed up with spread offenses, coaches stuck in teaching strictly a physical brand of football are being weeded out and left behind.

The mindset has changed: Anybody watching will notice more penalties and more reprimands by the announcers when a hit seems either too low, too high, unsafe and/or just too vicious. It’s just not cool anymore. We all still love a great hit but not when there is a risk of concussion or serious injury. And what the pros do, the kids and their coaches will imitate.

The majority of my retired clients are pretty beat up. They’ve suffered torn muscles, labrums, cartilage, and most have had at least one concussion. These same clients now have boys between the ages of 6 and 17. And every one that I represented is letting, if not encouraging their kids to play football. So if you’re on the fence about letting your child play football, do some homework first and I believe you will find a beautiful game filled with less contact, safer methods and better coaches than you imagined.

Sure, there will always be a risk for injury but the risk of suffering a serious injury while skateboarding, surfing, and/or mountain biking may be even greater.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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A peek behind the Jarryd Hayne Curtain

I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions lately since Jarryd Hayne signed with the 49ers. Thus, I figured I would incorporate some answers into my weekly post.

Media, what to expect: Jarryd arrived in the states on October 14th, 2014. As soon as he landed he went off-the-grid, sought NFL friendly workout facilities,

I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions lately since Jarryd Hayne signed with the 49ers. Thus, I figured I would incorporate some answers into my weekly post.

Media, what to expect: Jarryd arrived in the states on October 14th, 2014. As soon as he landed he went off-the-grid, sought NFL friendly workout facilities, quarterbacks, coaches and anyone who could help him get some position basic training. He did this all on his own for a month, paid his own way and did something every day to learn the game. A month later he started interviewing agents and eventually settled on me/my firm.

On Tuesday, he had a big press conference in Sydney when he announced his team selection. We/he didn’t do this for the attention; we/he did it so he wouldn’t have to speak continuously to the numerous media outlets over the next few weeks. The goal was to get all the questions answered at once, and move on to training.

I learned by being around him that he cared less about getting attention, as he is used to being in the spotlight, and more about dedicating himself to the game of the NFL. He was his league’s MVP three different times so he is used to the attention, and doesn’t need more of it. Going forward, I would expect the same from Jarryd, flying low under the radar and eating as much football as he can every single day. Over the last 48 hours, I’ve received over 40 requests for interviews and I doubt Jarryd will do more than two of them. That’s what we should expect going forward.

What’s next: This is really simple. Jarryd will start doing what all the other NFL players are doing. And that is starting to tune up for the off-season workouts. He will make his way back over to the states in a week or so and start training with veterans. March is the month where vets start getting on the field again. They run routes and do some field work on top of doing weight room work and conditioning. Jarryd doesn’t want to do a media tour and/or try to dig up every potential endorsement. He just wants to go to work and attack the learning curve.

Why do I want to represent him? I had enough contacts down-under and throughout the sport that confirmed to me, that Jarryd Hayne is the “real deal”, a “special player”. I am a huge rugby fan (attended many matches) and never got to experience rugby league (there is a difference) in person but always thought it was the closest game to the NFL game. On top of that, I really admire the culture of rugby and rugby league. It’s the greatest fraternity in the world. The guys spend a lot of time with each other, and are really supportive of one another through long seasons, always putting the team first.

Even though Hayden Smith of the Saracens didn’t make it with the Jets for a second year in 2013, he accomplished something no one has ever done before (outside of punters). He went from never touching a football in March to playing in a game in October and catching a pass in December. It was a positive experience for all involved and getting to be a part of Hayden’s journey was worth more money than I could make. We remain great friends.

I strongly feel Jarryd’s journey will also be unique, fulfilling and rich. I for one, love being a part of something groundbreaking in my industry. The young man has been dreaming about this chance for years, is taking a big pay-cut to make this happen, and has a deep dark determination that can’t be measured by tapes and stopwatches. That’s the type of people I love busting my ass for.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Time to change the Combine

When you hear Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen talk about how much bigger and faster the players are getting each year, you have to wonder where the comparison should stop from players of the past.

The whole reason why drills, schedules and formatting of the Combine remain the same is so evaluators can always compare

When you hear Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen talk about how much bigger and faster the players are getting each year, you have to wonder where the comparison should stop from players of the past.

The whole reason why drills, schedules and formatting of the Combine remain the same is so evaluators can always compare to the prior years attendees. However, this thinking/formula is flawed now because the evolution of training and preparing for the Combine has accelerated so dramatically over the last fifteen years. If I were an evaluator I wouldn’t compare a player’s combine performance to another player going back more than eight years.

In 1999, Mark Verstegen launched his first Athletes Performance (Now Exos with 7 locations) facility in Tempe, AZ. I know this because I sent him half of his first class. Other trainers like Chip Smith of CES, Tom Shaw and several others have been prepping players for over fifteen years now and have continually gotten better at having participants peak for their Combine workout. As of late, a bigger focus has been on nutrition, speed mechanics and bringing in former NFL players and coaches to tutor each player in drills and interviews.

The main reason for the Combine still remains the medicals and physical component. And everyone believes it is the most necessary and most important component of the Combine. But players and agents are growing more resistant to this current format and a change is needed or the NFLPA could force one to happen in what could have a showdown like capacity.

The current format has players getting in line for physicals at 6:30 am, standing in line for hours, then having their limbs, joints, knees and shoulders being pulled, pushed and rotated to their limits. Some doctors are more aggressive than others and some have minimal experience in the field.

Numerous players, including 310 pound plus lineman are crammed in an MRI machine for up to 30 minutes or more. Some players reported that the air in the MRI machine was not working and when they asked to be removed because they were feeling claustrophobic, they wouldn’t immediately do so and told them to be still for 15 more minutes. If you ever been in an MRI machine you can relate to these issues. Then imagine you are 6’5” 315 pounds. These machines are not made for these size men. It’s truly a “cattle call”.

So after very little sleep (most players settle down about midnight after their interviews and snacks), much standing around without food or sometimes even a place to sit, being pulled at, tugged at, even accused of hiding an injury, it’s on to an energy draining cybex test, having up to seven or more vials of blood drawn, and then off to more meetings. That coupled with another long evening and they are supposed to be fresh for the biggest audition of their life that also takes place on national TV? Oh, and all performed in some really tight fitting florescent clothes you are forced to wear.

Of course, this is a stressful time for these young men trying to get drafted as high as possible, not embarrass themselves, make great impressions, begin their dream and perform at their very best under duress in a stressful environment. I know there are worse things, but the Combine needs to grow up, mature, get with the times and make some more adjustments that are simply common sense.

For starters, here are some changes that should be made:

Players should be allowed to come a day earlier if they choose. The Combine started an extra day earlier this year. The extra day was meant to allow for more sleep, travel recovery time, more/longer informal interviews, and make for a more civil pace for everyone. But for some reason none of the players felt any more rested than years before. I believe just more things/activities were crammed into that extra day.

Physicals, drawing of blood and even opportunity for interviews should be “AFTER” the players perform all the on-field drills and forty. Essentially, the schedule of the combine should be flipped around. Would this mean all the players who would perform under these more friendly conditions would do better than all those before them? Perhaps, but it’s a new era and now is the time to make these adjustments.

Formal interviews should be increased to 20 minutes from 15. Juniors and QBs should be 30 minutes and the players should have the right to choose which teams they want to meet with in case there is limited time for them. Additionally, all player meetings should cease at 9:00pm. They currently run to 11:00pm. Having the extra day on the front end could help the whole process.

No physicals, scans, X-rays, tests or meetings should start before 9:00am. Players come from all over the country and come from different time zones. Players from Pacific time zones who have to be at the doctor’s for MRI’s at 7:30am are getting up at 3:30am Pacific time and will be up for the remainder of the day (their first full day in Indy).

Each player should have their own room: There are some really funny stories floating around about the roommate situations at the Combine. Players get stuck with roommates who snore, want to sleep with the TV left on, stay up late on the phone and keep the other player awake. The NFL makes good money on the Combine so buck up and give the players their own rooms.

I did run into NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith and player president Eric Winston one day. They were making their rounds and talking to a lot of agents and players and getting a feel for the whole environment and listening to grievances from agents. So don’t be surprised if the Players Association asks for a bigger role in shaping future Combines.

Follow me On Twitter: @Jackbechta

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2015 NFL Combine Musings

If you watch the NFL Combine this year you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Players have been preparing for this week since their last college game. It’s also the official unofficial kickoff of free agency. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

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If you watch the NFL Combine this year you are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Players have been preparing for this week since their last college game. It’s also the official unofficial kickoff of free agency. There’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

Here are few highlights of the events of the 2015 NFL Combine

Evaluators: Agents and NFL brass have a love-hate relationship with the likes of Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Daniel Jeremiah, and all the draft pundits (side note: if you are a parent of a 2015 draftee, please quit reading the internet about your sons draft grade). These evaluators have never met your son, been to his campus to watch him work, interviewed him, read his medical records, talked to his position coach, nor watched hours of tape on him, and/or know what makes him tick).

Now, these guys do put in some work on the top 100 rated players. However, there is a huge drop off in work after the top 100-120 draftees. Last year many of these guys gave my client LB Anthony Hitchens of the Cowboys a late round to even a free agent grade. When the Cowboys took him in the 4th round some even mentioned it was a “reach”. Anthony ended up starting 11 games for the Cowboys and played like he was a 2rd round pick or better. I do think Mayock and Jeremiah are more in tune to the process than the others but they are limited to getting the same type of intel Ted Thompson gets or the grinding area/regional scouts.

Now on the flip side, we want these evaluators talking up our clients. A little media hype never hurts.

What do players really think about the Combine?

I’ve been representing players since 1986 and have had well over 100 clients attend Combine. I make a practice of asking players what they thought about their experience there. The answers are pretty consistent:

Here are the typical replies I got, including from some players who attended in 2013 and 14′.

“What a bunch of hype for a total of 30 minutes of work.”

“The meetings are a joke, it’s basically a few handshakes, and a few questions that could be answered by going to my college bio.”

“I’ll never want to do anything like that again. So stressful for what it was actually for. Those conditions will rarely show the best an athlete has to give.”

“I wish I spent more of that time preparing on football position stuff like studying film, formations, schemes, and NFL rules. The hype doesn’t match the actual performance of what we are asked to do. I felt I spent more time running around, waiting around, and standing around than being evaluated”

The Combine is in desperate need of tweaking. Now that it has become a moneymaker for ESPN (analysis/results) and the NFL Network (aired on NFL Network) the tail is wagging the dog. Meaning that it’s now another method exploiting free labor for profit. If any changes are made to the Combine they will be for the consideration of the TV/Media Networks first and their needs. Never the players. Maybe the NFLPA should ask the NFL to pay players to perform. I know, this sounds like greedy agent talk, right? Well not everyone of these players make it, the NFL and its partners are making money from the event so why not trickle it down from the billionaires to the guys we are turning on the TV to watch.

Front office traits: Attending the combine can give one an idea of how front offices are run, the standards that the owner, the president and/or the head coach and GM command from their employees. For example, some staffs will rarely ever be seen out about the town after 9:00pm getting a drink with the boys. Some front offices out work many others by getting as many interviews as possible, tracking down agents, meeting several times discussing personnel, free agency and draft grades. Others attend Indy rudderless without a plan and let their scouts, coaches and front office people act independently.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Looking back on the 2014 season

Last year I made some good and worthless predictions. Looking back on some of the off field happenings I see some positive trends unfolding.

Diagnosed concussion decline continues: In 2013, concussions were down 13% from 2012. In 2014, concussions were down 25% from 2013. Hopefully this trend

Last year I made some good and worthless predictions. Looking back on some of the off field happenings I see some positive trends unfolding.

Diagnosed concussion decline continues: In 2013, concussions were down 13% from 2012. In 2014, concussions were down 25% from 2013. Hopefully this trend will continue because concussions are serious injuries with long-term consequences. Players, coaches and trainers are realizing it’s no longer acceptable for the tough guy to hide the injury and keep on playing. Props to everyone in the food chain who is helping to make the game safer.

The blackout rule finally getting blacked-out: In September 2014, the FCC unanimously voted to end the long-standing blackout rule, which prohibits games in local markets to be televised only when a team sells out. The spirit of the rule was to force fans to buy tickets to see a local game and to control what NFL games are seen locally on “FREE” TV.

The blackout rule still exists with the NFL but it’s no longer a Federal rule or law. The NFL can still encourage or even demand that its broadcast partners not show a game in the local market. However, they have to be careful not to piss off the federal government. But with live streaming for pay (or certain media plans) here now, they will most certainly use it arguing the game is available in all local markets, regardless of sellouts.

Personally, I want access to all NFL games, on every screen I own, wherever I am located and I am willing to pay for it. And the NFL knows you are willing to pay as well. It’s simple supply vs. demand economics.

2014/15 season NFL player and employee behavior: Being a former investment consultant, I always take a contrarian view on everything. With all the attention given to the Ray Rice incident, Adrian Peterson’s fall from grace, Johnny Manziel entering rehab, Terrence Cody being charged for animal cruelty, and Warren Sapp being arrested for soliciting prostitutes, there is a silver lining in the number of off-field social issues facing the NFL.

In 2014, there were about forty NFL players arrested, mostly for DUI’s/DWI’s and possession of small amounts of marijuana. Considering there are over 2,400 coming on and off rosters every year, the percentage of arrests compared to all US males in this age range is well below the national average. Additionally, these young alpha males have more time, money and status on their hands, which is the perfect cocktail for even more potential trouble. There are also over 3,000 NFL employees who for the most part, according to arrest records also behave better than the overall population. Given the circumstances, NFL players and employees as a whole are better well-behaved citizens than we give them credit for.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Tony “The Tongan” Moeaki

One client I’m happy to see in the Super Bowl this year is TE Tony Moeaki. Tony has had some tough luck since entering the league. In his rookie year it was looking like he was going to be the next coming of Tony Gonzalez. Tony was drafted in the 3rd round and in

One client I’m happy to see in the Super Bowl this year is TE Tony Moeaki. Tony has had some tough luck since entering the league. In his rookie year it was looking like he was going to be the next coming of Tony Gonzalez. Tony was drafted in the 3rd round and in his rookie campaign he caught 47 passes for 556 yards and 3 TDs. Including this spectacular TD catch.

Going into his second season it was looking like he was about to surpass his rookie numbers. However, while carrying the majority of the load during camp because two other tight ends were hurt, Tony was left in late in the 4th quarter. Due to the injuries to the other players, the coaching staff had Tony in the game playing against the two’s and three’s, mostly players who would be released and playing for their lives. A hit eventually came to the knee that gave Tony an ACL tear that knocked him out for the season.

In his third season, Tony wasn’t quite recovered from his ACL tear but went full speed in camp anyway and ended up carrying a lot of the work load again. You see he’s the kind of player who never complains, and loves to compete so he will never turn down a practice, preseason or game rep. It seems the University of Iowa breeds these kinds of players (Tim Dwight, Pat Angerer, Riley Reiff, Bob Sanders, Aaron Kampman, Marshal Yanda, Jon Babineaux and countless more.)

These types of players are their own worst enemy when it comes to managing their bodies. They want to compete so badly and at any cost that they will continue to risk injury as opposed to taking a day off, cutting back on their reps and/or communicating to team docs or trainers in fear of potentially losing their job. Tony is one of these types that just keep going, sacrificing his long-term career to compete right now.

After Tony labored through his third season with 33 catches and only one TD he got his knee scoped again and things were looking up for year four. His knee was finally healed and was feeling like his old self again and was planning for a big year. Then, in the third preseason game, late in the game against the Steelers, he got hit after making a catch that resulted in a non-displaced fracture of his scapula. An injury where you could do nothing but let the bone heal for about ten weeks. KC put him on injured reserved and I eventually did an injury settlement to try to get him on another roster by the end of the year and hopefully help a team in the playoffs.

The Bills ended up signing Tony and gave him a premium contract for the remainder of 2013 and 2014. The Bills didn’t make the playoffs and Tony was held back from being activated but practiced with the team as if he was going to play. Regardless, the Bills brass and coaching staff were excited to have Tony in their arsenal for the 2014 season.

Early in camp Tony had a mild hamstring pull and was rehabbing back to play in the final two preseason games. During his rehab Tony pushed hard during multiple 100 yards sprints, and pulled his hamstring again. It was extremely frustrating because he’d never had a hamstring issue. In speaking with the Bills, we mutually agreed it was best for us to part ways and have Tony rehab on his own with a therapist of his choice. Therefore, I did an injury settlement with the hopes Tony would be ready to workout for teams about week six of the regular season.

(Side note: It’s a really unorthodox and uncomfortable situation for a player to go into a team training room everyday during the season, knowing that as soon as he is healthy the team is going to release him. He has to see his teammates everyday knowing they won’t be his teammates in several weeks. In the meantime, the front office is always trying to do injury settlements to remove the player form their trainer’s workload. A seasoned agent won’t try to play doctor and predict when the player will be 100%. So it becomes like two people who filed for divorce but are still forced to live together everyday until it’s final. It’s not a fun way to go to work everyday).

We found Tony a great personal trainer in his hometown of Chicago to rehab and train him. After six weeks, Tony told me he was ready to roll. However, there was a great challenge ahead in finding Tony a job. GM’s don’t like bringing players in who didn’t have a healthy preseason camp or play in any games. They also worry that they won’t be in shape and will most likely get hurt again and the team has to eat their salary for a year while being on IR.

After two weeks of burning up the phone lines trying to get Tony a job, a workout or a sniff, I kept hearing the same thing, “love the player but worried about the body”. It wasn’t looking good. So I went to Chicago on or about week 9 of the regular season. I went and watched Tony workout to see first-hand what type of shape he was in. I watched him work and was so impressed I filmed the workout on my phone. My conviction was so deep about his health I started bugging every team again that I knew could use a productive TE. I even asked the Chiefs if they would bring him back. I was literally badgering the Seahawks front office until I wore them out. A few hours later GM John Schneider called back granting a workout, flying him in the next day. I could tell in his voice he was a little reluctant but we had a long working history and he knew he could trust me.

(Side note: Agents are always trying to get their out of work clients tryouts and do anything to get it done. The agent usually has to rely on the client’s word that he is in great workout shape. There are times we send players for a workout in midseason and they just bomb. Then, the Pro Personnel Director or GM gets embarrassed in front of their coaching staff that usually runs the workouts. Thus, they become very surgical as to whom they bring in for workouts. In addition, it’s very challenging for TEs, WRs, DBs, and RBs to stay sharp if they don’t have access to a quality QB or a structured environment.)

On the following Tuesday (the typical workout day for street free agents), John called me and said, “Damn you were right Jack, he is in great shape. I think we are going to sign him.” I said what do you mean “think”, sign him now or someone else will.” They decided to sign him on the spot and he immediately impressed the coaches and they eventually activated him for the Chiefs game on Nov. 16.

I couldn’t believe how serendipitous it was that it would be the game Tony would show himself again. The Seahawks lost, but Tony played well and even scored a touchdown against the team that drafted him and released him. It was pretty special as even some of Tony’s former Chiefs teammates were caught celebrating for him. Even the classy Chiefs fans gave him some love. Everyone was happy to see Tony climb his way back into the league.

Since being signed by the Seahawks, Tony has only had eight catches but has been playing a contributing role by grading out high on his blocking scores, catching six of his passes for crucial first downs and helping a blossoming Luke Willson carry the load for the Seahawks TE friendly offense.

Everyone that knows Tony knows his warrior competitive spirit and is rooting for his success this weekend. When a young player sustains several injuries in his first four years he is usually out of the league by now. It takes a lot of desire and self-motivation to keep fighting by yourself when you feel the door closing on your career.

As and agent and friend to my clients, these are they guys I/we love to fight for and get great personal satisfaction when we can help make the difference in keeping a fragile career alive.

The NFL is littered with great comeback stories like Johnny Jolly (Packers), Rolando McClain, and Willis McGahee. And behind every comeback is an agent with conviction and an NFL personnel man willing take a chance.

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A taste of the Senior Bowl

Most agents and football people will tell you they have a love-hate relationship with the annual pilgrimage to Mobile. Although the focus is supposed to be on the players, there’s a lot more going on around town than meets the eye.

Here are a few things I noticed after my first 48 hours

Most agents and football people will tell you they have a love-hate relationship with the annual pilgrimage to Mobile. Although the focus is supposed to be on the players, there’s a lot more going on around town than meets the eye.

Here are a few things I noticed after my first 48 hours in Mobile:

Challenging practice schedule for evaluators on Day 1: I’m hearing complaints by scouts about the way the schedule was laid out on Tuesday. The North team practiced at 12:15 to 2:15 at one field, then the South team practiced at another field from 2:30 to 4:30. That field is about thirty minutes away. There is a very limited time frame to evaluate and get exposure to players, and the tight scheduling made it difficult for scouts. The players usually have team meetings in the morning and a mandatory media or social function in the evening. From 8:30 pm to 11:00, teams are allowed to conduct formal interviews with players. By this time, everyone is usually fried from the long day.

Its obvious the Senior Bowl caters to the “wants” of the local community. The event brings in millions of dollars to hotels, restaurants and local businesses. It helps to keep Mobile relevant in the football world.

Star power is waning: Before the media explosion (NFL Network coverage, hundreds of bloggers, etc.) hit the Senior Bowl, the likes of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Al Davis, Arthur Blank, and the who’s who of NFL royalty were seen just five feet from one-on-one drills on the field, while followed by the ducklings that made up their inner circle. Many owners, head coaches and even general managers have decided not to attend the practices as frequently as they used to. I think the hordes of media that are here now make it less productive for them. Years ago the town was somewhat cloaked away from the outside world.

Jerry Jones is about the only owner who consistently visits the Senior Bowl. It’s great seeing him rolling around Mobile. He doesn’t have bodyguards, he’s accessible, engaging, stops for photos, and says hello to everyone. He simply enjoys people and is a constant ambassador for the NFL and his beloved Cowboys.

New coaches and GMs get slammed: If you are a new coach or just landed a GM job you wont be able to walk five feet without an informal resume hitting you in the face. If you are a new coach or GM you really need to be scouting the best college players. However, the job seekers and well wishers have other plans for your time. Some new head coaches avoid the Senior Bowl for this reason alone, as they can’t really ever get any scouting done.

Financial advisors, accountants, and other service hucksters are outnumbering the agents: I’m not saying this is a bad thing; they have as much right to promote their business as anyone. However, the players really don’t have the time, can’t pay attention to, or have an understanding of how to manage such introductions. One clever but unprofessional professional, has been witnessed going up to players with a clipboard after practice asking for the players’ email and cell number. Unsuspecting players think he’s a scout or somebody associated with the NFL. These are some of things players and agents have to deal with while trying to work and compete for higher draft slots.

The Senior Bowl has long been a staple for the NFL and its evaluators, however, many changes have been embraced and many have not. If you watch the game on Saturday, just realize you are witnessing only the tip of the iceberg. The heart and soul of the Senior Bowl is Monday to Thursday.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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The Final Four

There are a few things these teams have in common. I’ve always said that successful teams must have these four ingredients to be a Super bowl contender.

Lets take a look at some of the common DNA that makes up these teams:

System offenses: The Patriots and the Packers probably

There are a few things these teams have in common. I’ve always said that successful teams must have these four ingredients to be a Super bowl contender.

Lets take a look at some of the common DNA that makes up these teams:

System offenses: The Patriots and the Packers probably have the oldest system of the four-playoff teams. Mature offensive systems make it easier for teams to execute and game plan because they don’t have to worry about tweaking or teaching the offense to a young player. Everything is plug in and play.

(Note: If Kubiak stays put in Baltimore for a few more years they will have a system offense that will just keep getting better and younger players can see the field sooner and thus contribute, especially wide receivers.)

Mobile QBs: Sorry Tom, it’s about the only thing you can’t do but the other three can kill you with their feet. Rodgers is a little gimpy but can still get ten yards if needed. It just takes about three big plays from a speedy QB to run unaccounted for and break the back of a defense. This is where I give the advantage to the Seahawks (if Rodgers can’t run of course). It could be the deciding factor in these playoffs.

Next up/Scouting: The Seahawks finished third in the league with the most players on injured reserved this year with 16. The NY Giants had 22 and the Ravens had 19. The Ravens and Seahawks are two teams that many feel do a great job in teaching, developing and actually playing young players. More importantly they find and invest in players like LT James Hurst who was undrafted but helped dig them out of a hole when Eugene Monroe went down. They also started John Urshel (5th Round) who was more than serviceable. The Ravens 2014 sack count was 19 and the year before it was 48. So needless to say they are headed in the right direction as an offense.

The Seahawks had a similar experience last year along the offensive line where they were scrambling to use undrafted players and bodies off the wire. Having offensive line coaches like Castillo and Cable is a huge plus. However, credit has to go to the scouting staff to for finding serviceable hidden gems that can get you deep into the playoffs.

Chemistry: Us NFL agents get to hear a lot about what goes on in NFL teams training rooms and locker rooms. I can’t emphasize enough how important a team’s training staff is. If the players don’t trust them they don’t trust the organization and perhaps the coaches. If the trust is gone the coaches can’t get that extra 10% they need out of their players. At least three of these four teams have training staffs that players trust (I cant attest to one team because I, not players, have yet to have enough experience with them).

Sometime early in the season when the Seahawks were struggling, the players called each other out. They actually criticized themselves for getting too soft, doing too much stuff off the field and not working as hard as they did before. It’s important for players to hold each other accountable and it’s very hard for the coaches to manufacture it. It has to come from the players. Not all teams have this type of locker room.

The Patriots and Packers also have very special locker rooms. I’m hearing the Colts players all really like each other and the younger players are really setting the bar for a contagious blue-collar work ethic.

There are several other teams that have these components but may lack the QB, the coaches or the playmakers to get them over the hump. Enjoy the games!

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Just getting started

You ever wonder why some teams fail and some consistently win? Besides measuring a roster for talent and a head coach for brains, there is a lot more moving parts to the NFL than meets the eye. Those teams that make all the right moves after the regular season seem to be consistently in

You ever wonder why some teams fail and some consistently win? Besides measuring a roster for talent and a head coach for brains, there is a lot more moving parts to the NFL than meets the eye. Those teams that make all the right moves after the regular season seem to be consistently in the win column (along with having a great QB).

Here’s what coming down the pike:

Jan 15th: Final date for Underclassmen to declare for the draft: Most underclassmen that will declare have declared. Those players on Oregon and Ohio Sate may hold back out of respect for their team to make their announcement. Some teams who didn’t anticipate these players coming out might have to play catch up with those who did.

Jan 11th to 17th: The 90th East West Shrine Game held in St. Petersburg Florida. The Shrine game is usually full of players drafted between the 4th and 7th rounds. Don’t be surprised to see Packers GM Ted Thompson and other high profile personnel men here looking for mid-round gems. Two years ago, I had Packers rising star and DB Micah Hyde play in this game. His position coach for that week was former Packers CB Al Harris. This is the game where scouts can make their money by confirming their opinions on players they have on their short list. It’s also a game where a QB can make a big jump, like Jimmy Garoppolo did last year to the 62nd over all pick.

Jan 19th to the 24th: The Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. About one hundred of the best college players will descend on this bayou city to show NFL teams why they should be drafted. This is also the unofficial NFL convention of NFL coaches, agents, front office execs and top media. Behind the scenes, coaches and personnel men will be interviewed, hired, and fired. Agents will start to gather intel for interest in their draft picks and upcoming free agents. Media scribes will be milling around watching, listening and gathering for any scoop they can find. Those team’s evaluators who stay out of the bars at night and away from the gossip at practice may walk away from the week with meatier reports on the top draft prospects.

Jan 25th: 2015 Pro Bowl (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

Jan 25th: An assistant coach whose team is participating in the Super Bowl, who has previously interviewed for another club’s head coaching job, may have a second interview with such club no later than the Sunday preceding the Super Bowl. Those head coaches who aren’t afraid to wait for the best coaches to scoop up may be rewarded.

Feb. 1st: Super Bowl XLIX (University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona)

Feb. 2: Waiver system begins for 2015

Feb. 10: Beginning at Noon ET, NFL clubs may begin to sign players whose 2014 CFL contracts have expired.

Feb. 16: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

Feb. 17-23: NFL Scouting Combine (Indianapolis): This is where the fun really happens. New head coaches are rounding out their staff. Agents are getting bids on their free agents. Extensions are being negotiated for many players and draft prospects are actually being interviewed and evaluated.

March 2: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 7-10: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of Players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts. At 4 p.m. ET on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 10.

March 10: Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain the exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer three accrued seasons.

All 2014 player contracts expire at 4 p.m. ET

2015 league year and free agency period begins (4 p.m. ET)

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Is college football about to implode?

If you read my column you already know that I’m a big proponent of taking better care of college athletes. Not because I’m an agent, but because I’ve played it and have a front row seat for the inequities.

It would actually behoove the NCAA and its member schools to share

If you read my column you already know that I’m a big proponent of taking better care of college athletes. Not because I’m an agent, but because I’ve played it and have a front row seat for the inequities.

It would actually behoove the NCAA and its member schools to share more of the wealth produced by college football. Four or five years of banging your head, lifting weights and sacrificing your health takes a bigger toll than fans realize. In addition, playing college football is equivalent to have a full time job and taking a full school load.

The NCAA and the major conferences better get proactive right now.

Coaches salaries range from $1 to $7 million dollars a year because college football is a very profitable business. Good coaches exponentially pay for themselves by producing winning records, recruiting exciting players and getting their school to big paydays, oops, I meant a big time bowl game.

The NCAA’s $15 billion dollar football and basketball contracts can’t be ignored too much longer without more of that revenue trickling down to the players who help produce it. According to the department of education, the University of Michigan produced about $81 million dollars in revenue in 2012/13, had about $23 million in expenses and about $58 million in net revenues. The top ten most profitable programs had net profits ranging from $81 million dollars to $38 million dollars. The only places in the world where the economics work like that is in third world countries where factory workers who make luxury products for compensation equals about a dollar a day.

There are two lawsuits against the NCAA that have some big teeth to them. One is the Ed O’Bannon case, which alleges that the NCAA used players’ likeliness without properly compensating them. The initial ruling in that case went against the NCAA and may go all the way to the Supreme court.

The Kessler lawsuit is the scarier of the two for the NCAA and its biggest conferences. The lawsuit is trying to promote a free market system on what players can be compensated by a university to play football. The spirit of the suit is to lift the ceiling on what football players receive as compensation (a scholarship and some meal money). The lawyers and plaintiffs really just want the money that goes into the college football coffers, to trickle down to the players.

These two cases together can blow the roof off college football as we know it. So the conferences better get more proactive in offering up more financial benefits to the student athletes and try to settle these cases now.

The bowling madness needs to end or be reformulated

There are now 38 of them and attendance is pitiful for the lower bowl games. We have 66 teams playing on days where there are some TV earning opportunities. So the NCAA and its members employ the free labor of college football players to pick up the easy money from its media partners. However, the NCAA and their member schools still profit from these games even though some have less than 5,000 bodies in actual attendance.

There are players practicing and lifting for two weeks, during finals week, and many teams are flying out, and/or practicing on Christmas day or eve. In addition, there has been about five or more players so far this year that have sustained serious injuries in these meaningless games where most teams have 6-6 records or just slightly better. Two of those players were decent NFL prospects.

Last year, one of my clients sustained a fractured fibula in one of those worthless bowl games. He was slated to be about a third round pick, and after 49 straight starts at left tackle for his school, he was left with a plate and eight screws in his foot. He couldn’t play in the Senior Bowl, participate in the NFL Combine and could barely workout on his pro day. The injury cost him a few million dollars but the NCAA and the schools made their bowl monies. At least insure players against potential lost income.

Another issue with many of these bowls is that the families of these players can’t really afford to attend them but do anyway. I’m not saying get rid of them all but give the potential pro players and/or those serious students the right to opt out of the bowl game and practices. Why risk millions for a meaningless game?

College players are starting to figure out the economics and are getting close to standing up for more rights they deserve. The NCAA and the big conferences need to quit playing defense and start sharing the wealth before the courts make them.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Exporting the NFL

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Is the NFL’s strategy on expansion insane? It’s definitely expensive.

I’ve been to about thirty countries and I’m always curious about how the NFL is received abroad. Unfortunately, my foreign friends

It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Is the NFL’s strategy on expansion insane? It’s definitely expensive.

I’ve been to about thirty countries and I’m always curious about how the NFL is received abroad. Unfortunately, my foreign friends knowledge of the league is usually limited to the off field actions of such players as OJ Simpson, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. Yep, we have an image problem abroad and the foreign media outlets love kicking dirt in our face whenever they get the chance.

Playing the London game is a small bright spot for us but it’s really limited to England. If the NFL is determined to expand and export their product, they need to start exploring some other methods.

The million-dollar foot

If you haven’t seen the movie, Million Dollar Arm, it’s a pretty good flick based on a true story. The NFL pays millions of dollars to bring six teams to London, millions more to promote the games, and millions more in logistics and activities. So, why not take a million dollars and have a worldwide contest every year?

The contest would consist of accuracy, distance, hang time and consistency. Unlike American football fans, foreigners are fascinated with our kicking game.

Because of the skill set used in soccer and rugby, foreigners come out of the womb kicking a ball. Imagine the hordes of young athletes from South America, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Latin America, and/or Asia who would work all year to win a million dollars, and perhaps get a try out and/or contract with an NFL team.

The NFL game is very cumbersome and difficult to learn from watching one or two games live or on TV once every year. But having the world’s attention from a contest is also a chance to teach the game. Each entrant would have to watch some videos, and then take a test online about the game before they qualify to enter the contest. That most likely will mean 10 to 15 million or more entries per year. A good percentage of these entrants will become fans. The final contest would be a worldwide TV spectacle.

Let’s attract the world’s best athletes with incentives

I met Dennis Rodman in Las Vegas years ago and asked him if he ever thought about playing in the NFL as a receiver. He said he actually looked into once and was shocked to see how little players made. He said, “I couldn’t afford the pay cut and don’t want to be treated like a rookie again”. He meant “financially”.

Did you know that any pro athlete from another sport that signed with an NFL team would have to enter the league through the rookie salary pool? The rookie salary pool only has a finite amount of money carefully designated for each draft pick and a handful of undrafted free agents. Therefore, any player entering the rookie pool would have to sign a three-year deal, be limited to a tiny signing bonus and have restrictions on incentive bonuses. In essence, most players playing other sports would be taking a severe pay cut to play in the NFL.

The NFL needs to create a special category for foreigners, and/or sport changers over 24 years of age. Furthermore, there should be a roster exception for one foreigner per year per team that doesn’t count against the 90 or 53 man roster. Their contract should be a 2-year deal that does not count against the rookie salary pool. They should be part of the overall team cap.

If the NFL were sprinkled with ten or more players from around the world, the NFL would build fan bases more cheaply than moving a team to London. Countries such as Croatia, Turkey, China, Germany and Spain have tuned in to the NBA, buy apparel and consume the NBA product because of players from their country.

The NFL will have to help countries develop skill sets of athletes at a younger age with camps and the establishment of club leagues. Many of the foreign NBA players grew up playing basketball in their country.

We have been playing NFL games in Europe for over twenty years if you count the NFL Europe venture. I attend the London games each year and I see growth, but it’s at a snails pace. The NFL is truly pushing the proverbial boulder up the mountain.

There are many other entertaining, strategic and less expensive ways to garner foreign consumers of the game.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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NFL Players Christmas List

Spending a lot of time around NFL players and their families, I get to see what they spend their money on. When you’re a professional athlete you have two assets many of us don’t; time and money. When one has time and money they usually can figure the latest and coolest toys to buy.

Spending a lot of time around NFL players and their families, I get to see what they spend their money on. When you’re a professional athlete you have two assets many of us don’t; time and money. When one has time and money they usually can figure the latest and coolest toys to buy. So what do pro athletes want and what can you ladies buy your man?

Here’s a list of what’s trending on pro athletes wish list:

1) Hair it is: Facial hair gone wild looks to be a fad that’s not going away any time soon. I’ve never seen so many pro athletes letting it all hang out. Facial hair is the equivalent to the tattoo rage of the 90’s. Here are some ideas to tame the Grizzly Adams wannabe in your house.

Tom Ford for conditioning beard oil for men. If he won’t shave it, he may manage it by hydrating, softening and giving it some shine. With signature manly scents such as musky oud wood, sweet tobacco vanille and piney Neroli, how can he not still feel studly?

The Merkur 180 long handle by Dovo. Big guys, big beards, can mean big hands. The Merkur 180 gives your athlete a longer handle to operate with one of the best blades on the planet. Dovo’s lines of shavers are known for quality.

2) Ear to ear: Any time you see an NFL football player walking through the airport or going through his pre-game ritual, he’s usually sporting some earphones. We all see the dominance of Beats by doctor Dre’, but the fastest growing trend I’m seeing is athletes getting custom fitted earpieces.

Ultimate Ears UE-5 custom fitted headphones are getting raves reviews. Once you experience the custom fitted headphones it’s hard to settle for the universal models. These headphones are tailored for each individual’s ears. Athletes love anything that is unique to them and so will any baller in your life.

Another more affordable option: Fuze custom earphones, About $50

3) Grind it: I had a client with the Jets a few years ago who actually had an espresso machine in his locker. It was so popular he had more guys stopping by for some caffeine than he had cups.

I’ve noticed more and more athletes are trading Gatorade bottles for coffee mugs.

Here are some of the more popular models you might find:

The Ratio automatic pour over. You’ll most likely find this in the QB’s meeting rooms. QB’s are patient and want to design a proper coffee. This costly but worth-it maker provides perfect engineered coffee with the touch of one button.

The Nepresso citiZ espresso machine machine provides simplicity, quickness and convenience. For those looking for a quick fix

4) Drive for show: Golf is becoming more and more popular among players in the offseason. With no time for practice or lessons these guys want to play well and play well now. Here are some ideas for the golf enthusiast who hates to lose.

ZEPP mobile analysis tool: Instant 3D feedback and analysis of your golf swing will allow you to fix the most fatal of slices quicker than ever. With a Bluetooth device attached, you can swing away and get the instant feedback you need on your mobile device on what’s really going wrong.

Optishot simulator: No time for a full round? Optishot will allow you to play full rounds in under an hour from the comfort of your own home. You can swing away with all of your clubs and project onto your HDTV for a full playing experience. Note: There is a foam ball option for those with the nasty hook.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Stay or Go?

Last year, there were roughly 250 college underclassman that applied to be graded by the NFL’s underclassman advisory committee. The process incorporates a cross section of NFL scouts and/or scouting directors who form an opinion on a players potential draft status. The information that comes back to the player is usually vague.

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Last year, there were roughly 250 college underclassman that applied to be graded by the NFL’s underclassman advisory committee. The process incorporates a cross section of NFL scouts and/or scouting directors who form an opinion on a players potential draft status. The information that comes back to the player is usually vague.

By the deadline of Jan 15, 2014, 98 underclassmen declared for the draft. 62 were later drafted, while 36 went undrafted. 16 were drafted in the first round.

So did those drafted below the first round make a mistake by declaring early? What about those who were taken very late or not drafted at all? There’s no doubt some players entered the draft prematurely and several others, regardless of where they were drafted made the right decision.

So how does a young player and his family make an informed decision when so many people with the information he needs has bias, liability and conflicts?

The first thing a young player and his family have to realize is that exploring his option of declaring is NOT being selfish. Football is a team sport with a stigma that if one focuses on his own future he is being selfish and putting his team second, primarily because the research and inquiries that need to be made have to start during the season. College coaches and administrators don’t like their players looking over the horizon and are usually very reluctant to help them and give them the time, respect and resources to make an informed decision. Hence, many universities are guilty of being selfish by not giving a young man the help he needs.

When a player doesn’t get the unbiased help they need from their university, they rely on sources that are readily available to seek an opinion. Those sources are usually conflicted agents who most likely want the player to come out.

So what’s the best way for an underclassman to proceed? Here are 10 things every player should consider before making a decision.

1) A player and his family should let their intentions be known before the start of their third college season (usually his junior year). This way, it doesn’t come as a surprise to his coaching staff, and if he does leave the coaches can start preparing to replace the player. The player should appoint one family member or qualified family confidant as their point person to acquire and sort information as it comes in. There are no reasons to keep one’s intentions private. If a player tells his head coach/pro college liaison that he wants to explore entering the draft early, it’s their moral duty to inform scouts of the player’s intentions. If a player feels his university is not supportive and wont relay the intention to the NFL community, then he should announce it publicly.

2) Apply to the NFL advisory committee right at the end of the regular season. Don’t wait. Be one of the first in line to get your evaluation letter. Also note that the advisory board has to be conservative in their projections.

3) Players must ask themselves some important questions before they consider coming out. Questions such as: Will my coaching staff continue to help my growth and development as a football player? Will my school’s strength and conditioning program continue to help get me bigger, stronger and quicker? Are my coaches helping continually raise my football IQ? Am I endangering my health by staying another year? Does my university have my best interests in mind, or only their own?

4) A player must consider his health. If he has some degenerative knee, back/spine and/or concussion history he may be on track for a short NFL career. So why not get started a year early. Also, do your trainers and doctors always look out for your best interests?

The other question is, am I taking a beating and am I seriously risking injury by staying in the same system?For example, you may be a QB with no offensive line who gets sacked and hit 10 times a game. Or a running back, who normally has a short shelf life anyway, getting 30 plus carries a game. If there is great risk of injury at your university you strongly consider leaving early.

5) Can I duplicate or improve on my previous season? Many players who have a great junior year have a hard time duplicating or topping it the following year. Usually because opponents work harder to stop the player the following year.

6) Seek opinions from retired experts. There are numerous retired NFL evaluators who would love to give an opinion on a player’s drafts status. Just make sure you get the right ones. Greg Gabriel, Daniel Jermiah, Jerry Angelo, Louis Riddick, Charley Casserly and Ted Sundquist are just a few good ones.

7) Don’t trust the Internet! So many young players declare because they saw their name rated high on a draft blog. Dig into the source and don’t rely on just any one website.

8) Ask the agent community! Don’t ask the agent community. 75% of all agents will be biased in recommending a player come out early if that agent thinks he can sign that player. However, experienced agents are direct conduits to the scouting community and their opinions. They can get the information a player needs to make an informed decision. But it’s best to have someone from the school filter the information to keep the agent honest.

9) Look at the history of the draft and the position you play. If you are a guard, center, fullback, H-back, tight end, safety, kicker, punter and even a Sam linebacker, there is a good chance you won’t be a first round pick anyway. There are very few at these positions that get drafted in the first round. Therefore, if you are most likely a fourth round graded center after your junior year there is a good chance you will only be a 3rd round graded center at best your senior year.

10) Is money important to you? The higher one is drafted the more money they will make in their first year. So doing everything possible to get into that first round makes sense. That usually means staying for your senior year. However, scouts can be forgiving for juniors and harder on seniors. There are several cases where players were rated as first round picks after a strong junior campaign. Then they get game planned and hyped so much they’re never able to duplicate and live up to their previous season. And sometimes the scouting community just starts looking for flaws on the highest rated players.

Players who were three-year starters at their university and have accomplished all they can accomplish should look favorably into coming out early. All others should really be more conservative and lean on staying in. The bottom line is to recruit your university into the process, get opinions from multiple sources, don’t let the process become a distraction and don’t make an emotional decision. Make an informed business decision.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Landing the first client

The number one question agents are always asked by anyone is, “How did you get started?”

This is an important week for agents. Many college football players and their universities open the window to the agent interview process. The week after the last regular season game is usually when players start thinking about

The number one question agents are always asked by anyone is, “How did you get started?”

This is an important week for agents. Many college football players and their universities open the window to the agent interview process. The week after the last regular season game is usually when players start thinking about narrowing down their choices of agents, or, outright making their selection. For those going to a playoff and Bowl game they usually wait until after the playoff game and sometimes after the bowl game. However, 95% of college players usually commit to an agent within a few days after their bowl game.

This time of year is stressful for agents as we wait for players to make contact with us, make a decision or confirm a meeting. Or, to hear that they’re, “going in another direction”.

Before the Internet, pre-draft web sites, the NFL Network, and before the avalanche of information came to be in this digital age, opinions on draftable prospects were scarce. If you didn’t know a scout or two you were banking on a players reputation, and maybe a scouting report from one of only two publications in the marketplace.

I was lucky enough to play college football at a small Texas school (Texas A&I Univ., now called Texas A&M-Kingsville) that was consistently producing NFL talent.

My junior year, I had a front row seat to watch my teammate Hall of Famer, Darrell Green, get scouted weekly and eventually get drafted in the first round. My suite-mate, Lloyd Lewis was also a top prospect and our phone (before cell phones) was always ringing with agents and scouts. I had the job of screening those calls and relaying messages. I also went through the pro day process of being evaluated so that was the extent of my exposure to the scouting and agent process.

After I graduated, I started working for investment banking firm E. F. Hutton in Corpus Christi, TX. After reading a Wall Street Journal article about how players were getting ripped off and always losing their money, I got certified as an agent with no knowledge, plan or guidance. I just wanted to help players protect their wealth and it was a way for me to stay close to football.

After watching some of the players I played with, I went back to my alma mater and sat down with two of the team’s best players, a receiver and a defensive tackle. Both looked the part but weren’t very instinctive. Nonetheless, I signed them and had no clue what the hell I was doing. They didn’t get drafted but they did get signed as undrafted free agents.

That year, 1987, was the strike year so there was a vacuum for bodies needed as replacements players. One of my players got to play in all three strike games and was seen by a lot of other teams. Once the strike was over, he was let go but was recruited hard by four different teams. He bounced around the league for two years and never stuck, but I got valuable experience and made a lot of good contacts with GMs and personnel directors.

Mike DyalLanding the first client is the most difficult.

The following year I was really impressed with a tight end from my school named Mike Dyal. Mike was recruited as a QB, then went to wide receiver and kept getting bigger and eventually was moved to tight end. I got to see Mike play several times. Playing the same position at the same school, I really appreciated his talent. He was fast, smooth, and a good blocker with great hands. I was also naively convicted that he would make it.

Mike was actually recruited by a few other agents but eventually signed with me. I still wasn’t polished at the job, as I was still a full-time investment consultant and our offices’ retirement specialist, so I was working about 60 hours a week for Hutton.

I started calling teams, as I was accustomed to cold calling, and was very comfortable on the phone. I was surprised that most teams never heard of Mike Dyal so I went into sales mode. In 1988, game film from a small school was finite and hard to duplicate. So I had Mike bunker down in Kingsville and painstakingly make a highlight tape. After weeks of work we had a VHS tape, which I then had to make copies of. The work was laborious, cumbersome, and time consuming. I managed to produce about 32 tapes, which I sent out (along with a detailed bio of Mike) to all 28 teams.

I then waited for the calls to come in from my efforts but the only thing I got was the sounds of crickets. I started aggressively calling teams to encourage them to look at the highlight tape. In doing so I discovered two things. One, many teams graduated to Super VHS and/or another system all together. Ouch! So I went back to the drawing board and got the tape made in Super-VHS and mailed those out. Again, nothing but crickets. The second thing I learned was that scouts weren’t going to go out of their way and spend time in Kingsville unless there was a top prospect there.

The draft was a month away and I knew the Cowboys, the Raiders and the Vikings all spent some intimate time on campus doing some work on Mike. Thus, I figured I’d best keep in touch with these teams. However, the stress was building and I was getting desperate.

I went to visit a friend in Tampa and I brought a highlight tape with me to present to the Bucs then college scouting director, Jerry Angelo. Jerry granted me 20 minutes. He spent time advising me how to find players, what books and magazines I should subscribe to and to always be sure that prospects have minimal measurables such as size and speed to play the game. I eventually presented Jerry with a Dyal highlight tape and was hoping he would watch it on the spot. He didn’t. Even worse, he pointed to the back wall of his office to show me a pile of highlight tapes waist deep by ten feet wide. As I looked at the pile, sinking in my chair, I realized it was a highlight tape graveyard and pictured 28 similar cemeteries around the league.

Jerry ended up graciously spending two hours with me and was nice enough to give me a crash course on scouting, contacting teams and promoting players.

A few days before the twelve round draft I finally got a call from Al Davis’ right hand man, George Karras. George was telling me that he was watching my tape and was very impressed. He started selling me on Mike being a Raider but I was confused because I was thinking they would just draft him.

On the day of the draft, I then got another call from a Cowboys scout, Walter Juliff, who is still a member of their staff. Walter took the time to educate me that they wouldn’t draft Mike but would want him as a free agent.

With twelve rounds at the time and about 336 players being drafted I thought for sure Mike’s name would be called. However, the phone never rang!

After the draft, Karras called me again and the local Raiders scout who lived outside of Corpus Christi was, simultaneously recruiting Mike. After taking a good look at the Raiders roster and noting an aging Todd Christensen and a backup TE who was also their deep snapper, I figured it was a great place for him to make the team.

Mike went into camp with the Raiders and caught every single pass thrown his way. Now the Raiders had a problem. Other teams were scouting Mike and they were ready to pounce if the Raiders waived him. So the Raiders did what most teams did back then to keep their young budding talent. They asked Mike to “take a dive” (aka fake an injury) in the last quarter of the last preseason game.

They told him that if he did that they would keep him on injured reserve for a year, pay his full salary and he would develop and make the team the following year.

We agreed to the strategy, the last game rolled around and Mike wasn’t getting a chance to fake the injury. They eventually had him run down on kickoff towards the end of the game. They told him to stay clear of the runner and limp and fall down. However, the kick returner was running straight at him and he ended up making the tackle and got so excited he start celebrating and forgot to fake an injury. Mike eventually starts running off the field and then it looked like a sniper hit him. He obviously remembered his script before getting to the sideline, and fell to the ground grabbing his ankle (which he did slightly hurt earlier in camp).

In Todd Christensen’s 1988 campaign as the starter, the injury bug caught up to him and the table was set for Mike to become the starter the following year, which he did. Mike caught 27 passes, had an 18.5 yard average per catch, scored 3 TDs and was even AFC player of the week.

Mike then started to refer me to teammates Tim Rother, a 4th round pick from Nebraska, Derrick Gainer, an 8th round pick from Florida A&M and RB Vance Mueller, one of Al Davis’ favorites.

By 1990 I had several Raider players and started picking up clients from around Texas. Before I knew it my sideline business grew into a full time business after landing 2nd round OL Todd Rucci from PSU (Patriots) and 3rd rounder OT Earl Dotson (Packers) from Texas A&M-Kingsville.

I have to really thank those early guys for taking a chance on me, especially Dyal, Rucci and Dotson. There were more experienced agents at the time they could have gone with. As a matter of fact, Dotson signed with an agent out of Dallas who gave him a signing bonus of $3,000. After thinking about for a few days he eventually returned the money, fired them and hired me. I went on to make him the highest paid OL in the history of the Packers and one of the highest paid right tackles in the NFL (at time of deal) on his second contract.

An agent’s first client is the hardest one to get, and sometimes the most important.

Side note:

I have a tight bond with all of my clients but those early ones are very special. Now I get to see their son’s play and may even represent them someday.

Mike Dyal’s son, QB Cade Dyal, is in the 5A Texas High school playoffs (Kerrville-Tivy) and can play in the championship in Cowboys stadium if they keep winning.

Todd Rucci has two massive athletic boys that are tearing it up at the middle school level and already look the part.

Former client, Chiefs cornerback coach and friend Al Harris’ son, Al Harris Jr., is starting for South Carolina at Corner as a true freshman. Like the old man, playing lots of press and wearing number 31.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Is the CBA hurting young players?

When the group of veteran player reps sat down with the NFL to negotiate a long-term labor agreement in 2011, a big focus for players was putting more safeguards in the CBA to protect their bodies. Jeff Saturday and his team of 30+ year old players were successful in limiting practice schedules, reducing contact,

When the group of veteran player reps sat down with the NFL to negotiate a long-term labor agreement in 2011, a big focus for players was putting more safeguards in the CBA to protect their bodies. Jeff Saturday and his team of 30+ year old players were successful in limiting practice schedules, reducing contact, eliminating two–a-day padded practices during camp and shrinking the off season organized team activities (OTAs). The spirit of their efforts was to take their bodies out of harms way by spelling out how many times coaches can access players on the field and by putting a definitive cap on full padded/contact practices.

The result: A huge win for veteran players!

Only time will tell if we have indeed reduced injuries and prolonged the career span of the NFL player.

But in just three years we do know this: 1) A reduced salary structure for rookies and players with less than four years of experience are fiscally more attractive than pricey veterans. 2) There are younger players on rosters seeing the field with less preparation than they had prior to 2011. 3) Young QBs are really struggling. 4) We are seeing more penalties, especially from younger players.

Is this the result of the changes made to the CBA as it relates to fewer teaching opportunities? A lot of coaches and front office execs think so.

Many coaches I talk to are very frustrated with the lack of time they get with teaching young players on the field. As one NFL head coach put it to me, “I had to force myself and my staff to become more patient and tolerate the growing pains of rookie players on game day.” Another AFC offensive line coach told me, “I was able to drill my young players for hours and days without risking injury and having contact. Now I can barely get my hands on them. I’ll still develop them but it will take longer.”

As for the 2011 CBA resulting in fewer injuries, it will be hard to tell. For one, more players are being more conservative by reporting injuries and missing more practices and games. Many players in the past were scared to report injuries because they were afraid they would eventually be released being damaged goods.

As a side note, one veteran client thinks more players are getting hurt because meeting times have increased significantly in lieu of practice time. He said, “Seems like we go from hours of sitting down in meetings, then practice, then hours of sitting down again. The longer we sit we can feel our bodies get stiffer and stiffer. I would prefer we be more active without hitting”.

With no two a day padded practices during camp (which definitely had to go) and only ten days of OTA practices (organized team activities), NFL coaching staffs are extremely limited in their ability to develop younger players. For layman’s, imagine this scenario: A rookie wide receiver asks his coach prior to the official offseason workout program to go out on the field to work on his routes. The coach has to say NO, because if he took the player out on the field and walked through routes for thirty minutes it would be a violation of the CBA.

Young players need to get on the field with their coaches in the off-season and even after practice. Young players want to get some extra technical work and coaches want to coach them up. But it can’t and won’t happen. If we had better prepared young players, which teams are keeping anyway, we will also see cleaner football on Sundays, especially from the QBs.

So what can we do?

Many would like to see some coaches and the competition committee propose some additional non-padded/non contact practice sessions for players with less than four credited seasons. For example, there may be ten one hour sessions between April 15 and June 20. Then, an additional five sessions during camp and about fourteen during the season (no more than 2 per week and no longer than 60 minutes).

Young players want to be coached and need to be coached. Those coaching staffs that are loaded with good teachers will definitely have an advantage over those who don’t.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone and thanks for reading.

What am I thankful for? I’m thankful for….

Getting to watch players like Steve Smith who play football the way it should be played, to the echo of the whistle, going hard on every play and being physical.

Representing America loving blue collar studs like Pat Angerer, Al Harris, Earl Dotson, Eric Steinbach, Todd Rucci, Tim Dwight and Kelly Gregg who are now retired, and many others). These guys did it the right way and left a huge wake of respect on every field they ever touched. Pleasure was all mine.

That the football world has finally woke up and quit ignoring the severity and dangers of concussions.

That college football finally has a playoff system. Amen!

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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What If…

Being an agent I get to hear players and coaches talk about the league in private. They talk about which coaches they love and hate, who's smart and who's dumb, who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t. The chatter you don’t get to hear would surprise most fans. In listening to coaches and

Being an agent I get to hear players and coaches talk about the league in private. They talk about which coaches they love and hate, who’s smart and who’s dumb, who knows what they’re doing and who doesn’t. The chatter you don’t get to hear would surprise most fans. In listening to coaches and players over the years, here are some “What if” scenarios that may surprise you.

What if…. All players were free agents after this year and could sign wherever they wanted. Where would they go?

Considering that the head coaches stayed put and all the QB’s did as well, and the contracts were equal; these are the teams players would most likely choose:

Seattle Seahawks: The state of Washington has no state taxes so most players would receive an automatic 5% to 10% raise. Pete Carroll makes football fun and laid back but he still motivates and wins. And, they’re the “it” team right now. Players around the league talk and compare. Players talk to each other about training rooms, practice routines, locker room chemistry and finger pointing within their organizations. Players will come here for the organization.

Miami Dolphins: Players want to go to this team more for Miami than they do the Dolphins. Florida also has no state taxes, a decent cost of living and many players’ workout, vacation and train there in the off-season. Florida also produces the most NFL players, and players from Florida prefer to stay close to home. So just for the fact that so many NFL players are from the southeast they would likely flock to the city they could live in and play in year round.

Tennessee Titans: If you never been to Nashville you’ll find a city with Midwestern values, southern charm and well balanced in every manner. It’s centrally located to players who are from the midwest, east coast, and/or southeast. It too has no state taxes and a friendly cost of living. I’ve had a few players move there after they retired. There’s entertainment, great food and it’s a good place to raise a family. These traits help to overcome the lack of success by the team as of late.

Green Bay Packers: NFL players really respect a winning QB. They respect Brees, Rodgers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady. Players talk about these guys with the utmost respect and favor. Offensive specialty players know they will have more success if they have a good QB. Rodgers is a QB who is ego-less, tough and fun to play with. Word around the league is that Green Bay is a special place and the players get treated very well.

In talking to several current and retired coaches lately the subject of who were the best head coaches ever came up. So here is another fun what if based off these conversations.

What if… You could hire one coach out from behind the TV camera to coach and build your team for three years? Here are our choices: Tony Dungy, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Steve Mariucci, Brian Billick, and Jimmy Johnson.

My choice without question would be Jimmy Johnson. I don’t care that he’s 71. Players love playing for him, he’s tough but fair and can motivate. He has an eye for talent and knows whom to hire as assistants. I would let him run my draft as well. The coaches and players who worked and played for him are constantly singing his praises and any coach in the league would love to work for him.

Who would you hire?

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 best NFL venues

I’ve asked several agents, media types and other professionals in our industry what their favorite stadium venues were. Along with my own experiences, here are our favorite venues. In selecting our venues, we considered the city experience, ease of logistics, pre-game, post-game and the game time experience.

Here are our top five stadiums

I’ve asked several agents, media types and other professionals in our industry what their favorite stadium venues were. Along with my own experiences, here are our favorite venues. In selecting our venues, we considered the city experience, ease of logistics, pre-game, post-game and the game time experience.

Here are our top five stadiums in no specific order:

Dallas AT&T Stadium: If you haven’t been to Jerry’s World, put it on your sports bucket list. It doesn’t even have to be for a Cowboys game but this stadium is the new world standard. What I particularly like about it is you don’t have to stay in your seat for the entire game. You can bounce around and still see the games from the many TVs, screens and the massive HD digital display.

Additionally, if you are located in some premium seating areas you may get access to some fantastic club lounges complete with the premium champagne or tequila bars. The tunnel bar is a glass venue that allows you to see the players and coaches walk right by as they enter and leave the field.

Prior to the game, there is some elaborate tailgating going on with some of the most exotic grills and setups I’ve ever seen.

The only downside of Texas stadium is the location outside of some of the better areas in Dallas. However, it’s worth the trip and you won’t be disappointed. If your team is playing the Cowboys, make a road trip you’ll never forget.

Green Bay: The first time I’d ever been to Green Bay in 1993, is when I fell in love with Packer-land. Driving down, what was/is an ordinary suburban like four lane street, the Stadium pops up and out at you from behind a strip mall. Your mind tells you that this thing doesn’t belong here. There are literally backyards of houses across the street. It looks like somebody accidently dropped it there from the sky.

LambeauAlways something good to eat outside of Lambeau.

For me, Packers Stadium represents the Mecca of pro stadiums and experiences. It appears and feels like part stadium, part museum, part monument and part capitol building. It’s warm, inviting and friendly even on the coldest days in December. But what makes the Packers experience is the people/fans. They are quick to offer you luck, a brat and a beer if you are wearing an opposing teams jersey (with the exception of a Bears jersey).

Getting into and parking at the stadium is simple and cheap. Tons of tailgate parties around the stadium with live music, tents and bars. Once inside, you’ll feel the intimacy with the game action because the field is close to the seats.

Seattle: When a team is playing well and their fans have something to cheer about, it always seems like a fun atmosphere no matter where you are. However, Seattle has something more to offer than a hot team and newer stadium. The whole package is one of the best in the country.

The thing I like most about the Seattle experience is that once you arrive you don’t need a car or taxi. You can stay at one of the many cool hotels downtown, visit the many restaurants and explore the city by foot or bike. It does lack a traditional tailgating component but that’s more than made up for by all of the activities and venues the downtown has to offer.

Once inside the stadium the crowd stays electrified through four quarters and the energy is infectious. There’s definitely something organic, but yet futuristic and unique about seeing the skyline underneath the ominous northwest skies from your seat. The stadium is efficient, clean and well thought out.

Indianapolis: The Colts are lucky to have a venue that’s downtown and pedestrian friendly. It’s the reason why the NFL Combine, The Big Ten Championship and many other big events call Indy’s Lucas Oil Stadium their home.

Indianapolis may be one of the best walkable sports towns in America. Downtown is stacked with hotels, restaurants and bars. You can easily park anywhere downtown, grab a sandwich and beer before the game and tailgate in the warm indoors. If you want a stress-less convenience, Indy is your spot. I would describe Colts fans as nice, mature and easygoing. It’s a good place to take the family.

As you approach Lucas field you realize you aren’t walking into a stadium but into a field house on steroids. The field house feels more like a setting for a college basketball game than a football game, which provides for a unique experience. The field house style design of Lucas Stadium is deceiving because the stadium provides for a comfortable roomy venue but yet keeps the environment intimate.

After a game, you can quickly be eating a steak dinner at one of the many fine restaurants, or enjoying another game on TV at one of the many sports bars.

Pittsburgh: Back in the apex of the industrial revolution Pittsburgh was one of the wealthiest cities in the world. Oil, steel, banking, and railroad monies laid the foundation of a city on the rise on the intersection of three rivers. The Steelers stadium is magnificently placed as a stage to the city. Night games in Pittsburgh are especially magical.

Pittsburgh has one of the leagues most contiguous fans bases. Meaning there was never a huge turnover in season ticket holders. Therefore, the Steelers fans are some of the more passionate you will ever witness. To experience their passion for their team is one of the reasons you go to the game.

You can get there by foot, by boat or by car. You can choose the experience you want. Watching the fans make their way to the stadium is like watching bees finding their orderly place on their hive.

Yes, Pittsburgh is by reputation a blue-collar town but you’ll also find upscale accommodations, and some sophistication alongside simple down home eateries and watering holes. This setting was designed by the football gods.

Honorable mentions:

KC Chiefs: If you want to know what its like attending a BIG 10 or BIG 12 college game just go to a Chiefs game instead. Arrowhead is one of the few venues that emulates big college football.

ArrowheadKC Chiefs fans always get creative for tailgating.

Prior to kickoff, this stadium offers a massive tailgate scene, constantly singing fans, the smell of authentic barbeque, and an orderly way of getting to your seat. Just follow the regulars and get some laughs from the many outfits you’ll see.

Chiefs fans are passionate, a little out there but still mid-westerners at heart so they are pretty nice. Arrowhead represents an old school atmosphere that hasn’t changed for decades. You can’t help to get swept up in the fans love for their franchise.

New Orleans: A one of a kind experience in a one of a kind place.

The Linc in Philly: The fans are edgy, creative, passionate and take tailgating to new heights. The stadium has several indoor and outdoor venues and the food is damn good.

Cleveland, Houston, Baltimore and Tampa were also listed as several favorites.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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The difference maker

If you are an avid football fan and watch religiously with a forensic eye, you will know that the difference in each game comes down to about five big plays. That’s five plays that could happen because of a blown assignment, a missed tackle, a penalty, a wrong route, and/or a missed block. Outside

If you are an avid football fan and watch religiously with a forensic eye, you will know that the difference in each game comes down to about five big plays. That’s five plays that could happen because of a blown assignment, a missed tackle, a penalty, a wrong route, and/or a missed block. Outside of the balanced give and take between two teams, it’s these five plays that make the difference in the outcome of a game. Usually, the team who makes the least mistakes wins.

So what are the macro-fundamental reasons why so many teams can’t consistently win ten games or more over the course of a decade? What are the unseen forces of why teams fail to be consistent winners, and make the playoffs two thirds of the time?

Here are four factors for losing organizations you may not notice on Sundays but they are usually the reason.

It does start at the top: Owners can be their own worst enemy by either being too deeply involved with personnel (coaches and players) moves, being too cheap, and/or letting their ego or the media sway their decisions. Now a bad owner even gets lucky sometimes and wins a Super Bowl in spite of themselves. They may score a great QB in the draft and land a great coach, however, they usually can’t keep the wins coming.

The best owners hire great football people, reinforce and support their plans and get out of their way. I would be foolish to name any owners but you know who they are.

The training room: NFL teams will manage about one hundred players over the course of a year. During the season it’s about sixty. However, the vast majority of NFL training rooms are understaffed and lack quality depth. Some teams only have three to four trainers backed up by a few interns. Others have about eight to ten high quality trainers. Some head trainers are empowered to make decisions in the best interests of the player first. Some others can’t even order an MRI without permission from a GM or front office exec.

Eighty percent of all NFL players have an injury during the season that requires serious attention. Many players don’t get the care and attention they need. Teams with superior training rooms do a great job in catching an injury before it gets worse, even preventing injuries and making players feel they can trust the decisions being made. The reality is, most players don’t trust NFL trainers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the saying from clients, “Our trainers are a joke”. Or, after moving teams, “Wow, the treatment I’m getting now is night and day”.

Teams that keep their players healthy will win more frequently with a training staff that helps to create high morale throughout the team.

No real offensive/defensive “system” in place: The Packers have been running the same offense for many years. So have the Patriots, Giants, Saints, and the Falcons. They are system-based offenses that can plug in players that fit the needs of the system.

Defensive coordinators Dom Capers, Dick Lebeau, Wade Phillips, and Greg Williams run a philosophy and system based defense that players can adapt to quickly. When these coaches are with one team for a long time they usually have long-term success.

Once players learn a system, the work/practice time is about perfection, execution and adding some wrinkles. The Patriots have used WR’s Troy Brown, Tim Dwight, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola and/or Julian Edelman to plug-in and play their slot receiver for years. The Packers and the Patriots have both pawned off back-up QBs that have excelled in their systems but struggled with other playbooks after being traded.

Having a developed system on both sides of the ball allows players to improve each year without having to learn new playbooks every three years.

Ability to develop players: Teams that know how to develop young players will have depth and can rely on the “next man up” philosophy. Under the new CBA coaches don’t have the on-field development time they used to so they have to improvise. Teams who properly manage their preseason reps, balance coaching time between vets and rookies and have a definitive patient plan in place will always have a pipeline of good players.

Teams who don’t have developed depth fall apart around midseason once their best players get hurt. The Ravens and Steelers do an excellent job in developing young players. GM Ozzie Newsome once told me he hired John Harbaugh because he’s used to working with the bottom half of the roster and is a teacher. Thus, John likes hiring coaches who are always “teaching”. It’s actually the reason I sent UFA LT James Hurst there this year after 18 teams bid for his services. As a rookie, he started four games and did a good job protecting Flacco.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 Surprising Things About NFL Players

I try to spend a lot of time with my clients, especially in their first few years in the league. I also take notice of their habits, and how they spend their time and money. So when friends and relatives talk to me about their perception of the lives of NFL players, I find myself

I try to spend a lot of time with my clients, especially in their first few years in the league. I also take notice of their habits, and how they spend their time and money. So when friends and relatives talk to me about their perception of the lives of NFL players, I find myself chuckling and correcting their stereotypes of them.

Here are five things that may surprise you about NFL players:

They don’t lift weights: Players don’t do as much weightlifting as you may think. In college, they did what they were told by the strength coaches, which usually included lifting a lot of weights. They were doing things like bench presses, incline presses, squats and power cleans.

When players get to the NFL they are relieved that they are not required to lift weights year round and many of them gladly try other strengthening methods. These methods include more use of body weight exercises, resistance bands, balancing balls, lunges, yoga, TRX, flipping tires, jumping ropes and even playing basketball.

Both on-season and off-season training are conducted differently from team to team but for the most part, the majority of NFL players avoid heavy weight lifting.

There are still some players who prefer old-fashioned weight lifting but it has been in decline for some time now. Active and retired players such as the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu, TE Tony Gonzalez, Chargers C Nick Hardwick, QB Drew Brees and even WR Larry Fitzgerald incorporates plyometrics into his daily routine. Many others swear that heavy weights can damage joints and shorten careers.

Boring, don’t go out much: The majority of NFL players get married (unofficial estimate of 70% +) while they are playing, or are usually in a serious relationship.

During the season players have less social time on their hands than anyone can imagine. Most players arrive at the facility about 6:30 am and get home dog-tired after 7:00pm three days a week. Six days a week, their time is devoted to film study, meetings, team functions and charitable/community commitments.

Many guys just want to get home, eat, play with their kids or dog and watch a little TV. For the ones who do go out during the season (usually the same five or six per club) and try to create some social fun, they are limited to just one day a week. Overall, NFL players are boring to be around during the season. 

In the offseason, players have a little fun at teammates weddings, golf outings and/or visiting their college campus. They’ll get a small vacation in Florida, Hawaii, Jamaica, or Las Vegas. However, their free fun time is usually crammed into three or four weekends out of the year. My 70-year old aunts are more fun than my clients.

Don’t live in the hot spots within their cities: I’m still surprised by this but I’d say less than 10% of NFL players live in their team city hot spots. You would think that if you were young, had time, money and status, and were placed into a new city you would live in the trendiest areas. Players in Miami don’t live in South Beach, in San Diego they don’t live on the beach, in NYC (Jets, Giants) they don’t live in Manhattan, in Atlanta no one lives in Buck Head and in Chicago few live in Lincoln Park or downtown.

Instead, players choose to live close to their stadium and/or workout facility. They live in cookie cutter neighborhoods with spacious lots, big back yards and good school districts.

Don’t have a passport: You would think that having excess cash and three months off from work that you would travel the world. Wrong again! The first time many players get a passport is because their team is playing overseas in London. When players were in college they had spring practice, summer school and summer workouts. Thus, no time for spring break in Cancun or time to study abroad in Spain so they never had a need for one.

The truth is many players like to keep their free time simple and just play golf, hunt, fish, and/or go to the beach. Additionally, many big guys hate flying and have to buy a first class seat for long flights because of their size. A first class round trip to Europe can easily cost $10,000, so that also is a turnoff.

Don’t have wills, estate plans or get prenuptials: Being a former financial consultant, I preach and encourage all of my players to get their fiscal house together. However, many just have an aversion to pulling the trigger. Even though they know and are constantly reminded of the horror stories of wealth squandering, health issues and high divorce rates amongst players, they just don’t think any of those things will happen to them.

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Will a rugby star make it in the NFL?

Before I get into any details, I want to disclose that I have represented two Australians who have played in the NFL. Matt McBriar, Cowboys pro bowl punter. And Hayden Smith, a Saracens rugby player turned tight end for the Jets in 2012. In addition, I am a big fan of rugby

Before I get into any details, I want to disclose that I have represented two Australians who have played in the NFL. Matt McBriar, Cowboys pro bowl punter. And Hayden Smith, a Saracens rugby player turned tight end for the Jets in 2012. In addition, I am a big fan of rugby and rugby league, follow the sport closely and even consult for USA Rugby captain Todd Clever on his contracts and endorsements.

With all the attention given to Jarryd Hayne’s shocking decision to leave the National Rugby League to pursue a career in the NFL, I thought I’d shed some light on the challenges he will face and the probabilities of making it.

First, to put it in perspective for NFL fans, it would be equivalent to Marshawn Lynch quitting the Seahawks at age 26 to pursue a career playing rugby league in Australia. Or, a young Derek Jeter leaving MLB to pursue a cricket career in India. This is big news down under.

Jarryd Hayne was bred to play rugby league and was a natural since his early youth. In his first year as a professional he made a huge splash, similar to what SS QB Russell Wilson did as a rookie. He went on to win just about every award available within his first seven years in the NRL. He’s been rookie of the year to player of the year and everything in between. He was even named “The fastest man in Rugby”. Jarryd Hayne is one of the most decorated rugby league players in the history of the NRL There really wasn’t much left for him to accomplish that he hasn’t already achieved.

So being one of the best of the best in one sport says a lot about ones athletic ability and overall skill set. It must be special. However, the question remains, will it translate into being special enough to make an NFL team?

Let’s break down Jarryd’s and/or any other Rugby player challenges:

The physical adjustment: For Rugby and or Rugby League enthusiasts, who think wearing helmets and pads makes the NFL game softer than Rugby league, please forget that silly notion. The pads are there for a reason. The NFL game is extremely physical and the hits are massive and aplenty. The helmet and pads encourage players to hit as hard as they can, sometimes even using the helmet as a weapon. The average starting NFL linebacker is about 6’ 3 1/2”, weighs 256 pounds, and runs a forty-yard sprint in 4.65 seconds. He’s strong, mean, explosive, agile and quick. Our defensive linemen are even scarier. They can weigh between 290 and 320 pounds and run as fast as many rugby players weighing 50 pounds less. My point, if you are the fastest and quickest guy on the rugby field, you most likely won’t be the fastest guy on an NFL field, thus your speed that was a huge asset on the pitch will be marginalized to “average” on the NFL field. The same goes for the size and speed combination.

So for a rugby or rugby league player who is used to dominating his peers and playing at an advantage because of his physical skills, he will now have to adjust to the talent level around him.

A rugby league player will have the advantage from a training, durability, stamina, and mental standpoint and will be in better shape than most NFL players. Rugby and League players are some of the best conditioned athletes on the planet. When Hayden Smith was touring the NFL, the Saints put him through a non-stop hour and half workout at a few different positions. Mickey Loomis called me and said he wanted sign him and had never seen a guy in better shape at his size. Unfortunately, the NFL game doesn’t require the endurance needed in rugby. Therefore, rugby players will train differently for the NFL game and have to make some adjustments.

Overall, rugby and rugby league players will have a great advantage stepping into an NFL tryout, camp or game. My only fear is that traditional NFL style training can take away a rugby player’s edge and there is always injury risk in doing a lot of new things that the body is not used to.

(As a side note, the NFL could learn a lot from Rugby as it relates to training and enhancing a player’s durability). Hayden Smith made the Jets in his first season with the club without ever playing football in his life. He actually was playing rugby in the same year he played for the Jets. The following year he was released after not progressing over the previous year and not moving as quickly as he did the year before. Hayden feels his off-season football training slowed him down. Although he got stronger and bigger he lost a tad of his agility and quickness. He told me if he did it all over again he would have stuck more to his rugby training regimen.

The language / terms/ playbook: I like to equate learning an NFL offensive system and playbook to being in an eleven-piece orchestra. You have over fifty songs to learn and you may have to play more than one instrument. In addition, you have to understand the other members’ roles as well. One of the biggest challenges for players is learning the language of the game. Many NFL players have been playing football since the age of ten, so by the time they get into the league they know the basics. Even then, rookies struggle knowing the plays, the calls, and the audibles.

Audibles, also known as “check downs” or simply “calls”, at the line of scrimmage (right before a play starts) may be the biggest challenge for offensive players. If a player misses a call on a blocking assignment he may get his QB killed, run the wrong route, or hit the wrong hole and help cause a fumble.

Rookies from Stanford and Iowa, for example, do really well in the NFL because they work from a pro style terminology, playbook and system. They speak the language well! Rugby players on the other hand are starting from ground zero. And even when they get some type of crash course like I did for Hayden Smith, (I hired a former NFL TE coach to tutor him before his workouts), they will still struggle while learning on the run.

The better an individual’s ability is to learn, the faster they will catch on. But some NFL languages like the Patriots digit system can be even more challenging.

Learning the NFL system, a position requirement, and the game rules gives a younger player from college a huge advantage over someone who has never played the game. And preseason camps are so short that there isn’t much time to learn on the job.

Jarryd may have instant success with his potential ability to cover kicks/punts and possibly return them by relying on his athletic ability and instincts.

The CBA limitations and culture: With only four preseason games before the cut-down to the final 53 roster, there are very limited reps available for the projected starters and the other five or more players competing for a job at a given position.

The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement severely limits the amount of coaching time a coach has with a player on the field. Hayden Smith ’s biggest frustration in learning was his lack of on-field time with the coaches. Even though he would stay at the Jets facility for fourteen hours a day for 3 months straight, he was limited to learning physical techniques on the field with coaches. His coaches were just as frustrated with the limited amount of coaching sessions they’d get with him and all players.

Under these rules, Jarryd and other rugby players will be better served having retired NFL coaches working with them as soon as they make the decision to give the NFL a try. And even once they are signed with a team, they should stick with a personal coach as long as they can.

The other challenge of making an NFL team, is the culture of the decision makers. Coaches and GMs have to think short-term. Outside of the quarterback position, there is no such thing as a three-year project anymore. There is little patience in the NFL in developing players, especially when they get north of 25 years of age. Jarryd and other potential crossovers will have one year to prove they can develop. By their second year, they have to be contributing by the end of that season. A younger player may get more grace with a solid organization.

There will be a few other areas where Jarryd will have some culture shocks. For one, Rugby is one of the world’s greatest fraternities. The players practically live together, travel together, socialize together, vacation together and train year round together. The NFL is very different. With only 16 games and 53 players, a rugby player won’t find the same kind of closeness he experienced with his other teammates. Many NFL players are married and rarely ever go out. Certain position groups stick together and don’t do much with other position groups. Unlike rugby, the NFL roster turns over so much that it’s hard to build and maintain relationships with teammates.

The other x factor involved with Jarryd having success or not may be out of his hands. Coaches select what players get the practice reps in the preseason and minicamp. If a coach thinks another player can help the team more, a crossover rugby player may never get the reps, coaching and time he needs to be successful. So no matter how hard he works, how talented he is, and how determined he is to make plays, he may never be given a fair opportunity to compete. Therefore, picking the right team will be 60% of his potential success.

I for one have a feeling he’s going to make it. Additionally, I already know of a few teams who are interested and wouldn’t mind grabbing the attention of his already built in international following.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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On the road with an agent

One perk of being an NFL agent is attending a lot of football games. Yes, it’s work because I’m usually visiting a client or two. However, being a football purist I like to enjoy the local scene, take in the regional food, marinate in the pre and post game energy, and admire tailgating at

One perk of being an NFL agent is attending a lot of football games. Yes, it’s work because I’m usually visiting a client or two. However, being a football purist I like to enjoy the local scene, take in the regional food, marinate in the pre and post game energy, and admire tailgating at its best.

A typical schedule for an agent visiting a city for a game weekend usually goes something like this:

Saturday: Arrive before 4:00pm, check into hotel. Between 6:00pm and 8:00 pm, I’ll have dinner with a client from the visiting team. From 8:00pm to 10:00pm I’ll meet with the visiting team GM, salary cap manager, and/or pro scouting director. An agent may also visit with a player’s family member, former retired client and/or one of the home team’s front office execs. Both teams usually have team meeting starting about 9:00pm and curfew shortly thereafter.

JackPre-game on the field is a great place to catch up with team execs.

Sunday: Assuming a 1:15 or 4:15 pm kickoff, game day for me usually looks like this: Grab breakfast somewhere I can watch the early games and still take in a local experience. I always try to stay somewhere that gives me a true local experience and is not far from the stadium. And every now and then, I stay with clients. I will arrive at the stadium about two hours prior to kickoff. I like walking around and checking out either the downtown area and/or the tailgates. I may even stop by a client’s family tailgate and have a beer and/or bite.

My next stop, about an hour before the game, is the media will call window where I will pick up my tickets, pre-game field pass and/or post-game pass. I’ll make my way to the field to say hello to team execs, owners and coaches I didn’t see the previous evening. I may even chat with a network sideline reporter, home team PR director, and even a game official. I enjoy watching how each team handles their pre-game warm up, especially by position group.

Once kickoff begins, I’m in my seat experiencing the game and watching my client’s every move. Simultaneously, I’m watching NFL Now on my phone via my Verizon plan. (For some reason phones seem to die faster in stadiums so I make sure I bring my Mophie to get some additional juice). During the game and on breaks (halftime, timeouts) I’m always taking note of who is advertising in the stadium and in the program. These advertisers may be good prospects for client endorsements/sponsorships.

After the game, I make my way down to the family room of the home team or outside the locker room of the visiting team. Here I visit with my client for a few minutes and usually see their families as well. It’s also a great area to get some short but quality time with reporters, team execs, and or coaches.

After I say hello and good-bye to everyone after the game, it’s usually out to dinner with the home team client. We usually go somewhere that is known for the local fare. Or, head back to a family tailgate within the parking lot. Other times, back to the client’s house where someone is preparing a post-game spread. Whether it’s dinner at a restaurant or their home, I talk to my client about the game, his injuries, his finances and/or endorsement opportunities.

It’s important for an agent to visit his clients during game weekend. We can learn a lot of things to help guide our clients and create more opportunities for our clients. Such as how to build a local brand, which media outlets to trust, where to live or not to live, and/or which charitable organizations to affiliate with.

My favorite part of going to an NFL game is just taking in the atmosphere like Anthony Bourdain does when exploring a far off exotic city and culture. Watching the local fans enjoy themselves, tailgate, banter and cheer passionately is as much entertainment as the game.

Next week I will give you my top five NFL venues/cities to visit for a game.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 things I’ve learned as an NFL agent

This October marks my 28th year as an NFL agent. As the game rules change, the CBA evolves and the faces change, here are five things that may never change.

There are 32 owners and the rest of us: Players, GMs, coaches, agents, scouts, media, and anyone else in the NFL are expendable.

This October marks my 28th year as an NFL agent. As the game rules change, the CBA evolves and the faces change, here are five things that may never change.

There are 32 owners and the rest of us: Players, GMs, coaches, agents, scouts, media, and anyone else in the NFL are expendable. Look at all the big name coaches doing TV with Super Bowl rings. They didn’t all get there by choice you know. Many of them got a little too big for the owners to handle. So they just moved on from them. The well of talent is everywhere for players, coaches and front office people. The owners do what they want, they run the show and people like GMs and Commissioners take heat and bullets for them because they want to keep their job and they get paid very well to do so.

If an agent, coach, or player ever thinks he holds all of the cards or has all of the leverage they will find out they are wrong. When you work in and around the NFL you make sure you don’t step on any of their (the owners) toes. They aren’t going anywhere, they have no competition and they get richer every single day. We are all actors in their theater.

There are no secrets in the NFL: I’m not sure why, but people in the NFL gossip like teenage schoolgirls, especially the coaches. Now I’m not saying everything eventually makes it to the media but I’m saying that there are factions of fraternities where news travels faster than the speed of light. If a position coach gets in hot water in say Cleveland (for example only), within minutes the information is out the door and people are lining up for his job while others around him start distancing themselves from the potential castoff.

On the contrary a really competitive and experienced scout may keep a secret about a player he really covets. An agent will keep quiet about a client nursing an injury. A local beat reporter may keep dirty laundry about a coach or GM buried in his vault in fear if he airs it he will be blackballed by the team he/she covers. But for the most part, no intel is considered sacred.

These silos of fraternities (coaches, scouts, front office execs, agents) usually act more like gossip groups when there is something juicy going on. Coaches are constantly leaning on their players to keep things super quiet. One AFC head coach tells players all the time about his conversations, “don’t you tell your wives, friends or agents: it stays here!”

It’s pretty commonplace to hear the words, “ what are you hearing” during the Senior Bowl and at the Combine.

Take your foot off the gas, you are done! The healthiest players who conquer longevity have a few things in common. They are usually mature, work the hardest year round and go the hardest everyday in practice. There is a direct correlation between the workout gym rats that are always doing something year round and those who obtain longevity (12 years or more). Yes, genetics plays a big part but I’ve seen the guys who took off for long periods, say one full month after the season, get hurt often and have short careers. My clients with longer careers such as Al Harris, Kelly Gregg, Tim Dwight, and Jonathan Babineaux, for example were/are workout warriors 50 weeks out of the year and took/take great care of their body.

The guys who take long periods off, do as little as possible, drink too much and abuse their body seem to fall by the wayside.

The majority of NFL organizations are dysfunctional: There is a high degree of mistrust, jealousy, and backstabbing amongst coaches, scouts and front office execs (kind of like the agent business). It’s a functionally dysfunctional environment. Everyone in the NFL works hard and just keeps plowing through it every day. But the lack of communication is unbelieveable. There is one GM who doesn’t share any scouting reports with anybody else in his building. He hoards all of the team data.

You wouldn’t believe how many coaches don’t know which of their own players are struggling and rehabbing from an injury. It’s rare when you can find the medical staff, trainers, strength coaches, GM, team personnel men and the coaches sharing all of the same exact information about a player. There are offices where people just don’t talk to each other and their doors are closed all of the time.

Sure, sometimes having some good coordinators and a lot of talent, especially at QB, can hide the dysfunctions but it still exists in the majority of NFL buildings and will eventually take its toll on an organization.

Young players will keep making mistakes: If you have youth, status, time, and more money than any of your peers you went to school with between the ages of 21 and 29, I promise you that you would have made the same mistakes as many NFL players. That’s the part people don’t understand. Most of us didn’t make enough money or have enough time out of high school or college to make fiscal and social mistakes. Many of us have done many stupid things, but without the cell phones, reporters, and millions of people watching and recording our every move, it goes unseen and undocumented.

I really get tired of people criticizing players’ behavior and stereotyping all players as careless, foolish and selfish. The majority of players in the NFL are actually very good citizens.

We can throw all of the education, seminars, and player development programs at NFL players but the behavior isn’t going to change much. The life skills training, the accountability, speeding up the maturation process and learning proper social and fiscal behavior has to start at an earlier age. It has to start at home, in junior high and in high school. Colleges have to do their part too. They use the talent of young athletes in exchange for a scholarship but they let too many things slide and don’t coach a lot of life skills they will need. It is very easy to see how people get around athletes and when they are close to them they stop holding them accountable and make excuses for their behavior.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Entertaining headlines around the league

Being an NFL agent for 28 years I have learned a lot of things. And one of those things is to ignore 95% of all sensational headlines. Especially in today’s time of the internet where the gaggle of lemming journalists don’t go to practices, don’t watch the game film, and don’t actually talk to

Being an NFL agent for 28 years I have learned a lot of things. And one of those things is to ignore 95% of all sensational headlines. Especially in today’s time of the internet where the gaggle of lemming journalists don’t go to practices, don’t watch the game film, and don’t actually talk to NFL players, coaches and team execs.

Jim Harbaugh is losing the Niners players: In case you missed it, Deion Sanders has inside information that Jim Harbaugh is losing his players. Well Deion didn’t just make that up, and somebody must’ve said something to him along those lines. That’s right, one person most likely said it and that person may feel that way. Maybe another Niners player told him the same thing.

However, there are 53 men on the roster each with their own opinion of the head coach. If a handful of teammates don’t like something about the head coach they will find each other and confirm their feelings and say negative things to outsiders about him.

I’ve had players on a team where one guy loved the head coach and the others hated him. It’s just like teachers and/or bosses in any business. Jim’s in your face supercharged competitive style is not going to appease all 53 players. He’s very demanding. Bill Parcells, Bill Cowher, and/or Jimmy Johnson weren’t always liked by their respective players either. Not every player on the Patriots is fond of Belichick. I’ve heard my players blast a lot of great coaches who went on to win a Super Bowl. So when you read headlines like this, look at the big picture and realize the toughest coaches won’t be loved by every player.

More importantly, know that the competition for insider content by the hoards of media personalities can lead to sensationalism and misinformation.

The end is near for Tom Brady: Didn’t we hear this before and often about Peyton Manning? Just like Belichick’s expressive facial reaction, the “knowledgeable” football world is giving the same reaction to these headlines. Yes, Tom looked bad on Monday night. Phillip Rivers, Alex Smith and Tony Romo all have had bad enough outings (and even seasons) that garnered headlines calling for a change at QB.

Tom Brady is one of the most competitive football players on the planet. Also one of the hardest working players as well. The problem with the Pats isn’t just his performance but the lack of overall team talent, and a revolving injured receiving corps not available for building continuity in the offseason as they had done in years past.

Oh and yes, the end is near for any QB 35 and older. But let’s not bury them alive.

Jaguars putting too much pressure on Blake Bortles to carry franchise: This one is brilliant! For one, every NFL QB is under pressure to perform, lead and win every single week and also be the face of the franchise. If this is true for Blake then it must be true for Bridgewater and Carr. Sure, there are two schools of thought in developing young QBs. One is to have them be an understudy for a few years and groom them patiently. Two, throw them in the fire, give them experience and let them learn on the job and accept the short-term growing pains. Both philosophies have worked and both have failed. The QB junk pile is littered with failures under both schools of thought.

One reason this headline is laughable is because there isn’t a better place to start a rookie QB than in the soft media cul-de-sac of the NFL, Jacksonville.

Now this headline may have some teeth if Bortles was in Philly or New York. Football people know that the Jags are a young team with a very patient owner looking to build a solid foundation. Additionally, the Jags aren’t set up like the Pats or Packers or any other team that has a proven laboratory for young QBs to incubate. The experience that Bortles received against the Chargers can’t be coached or emulated in practice. Don’t be surprised if the Jags go back to Henne if they think Bortles is getting too much mental and physical pressure. And know that Bortles isn’t being asked to “carry” the franchise but to help prepare it for 2015 and beyond.

Glennon is the answer for Bucs at QB: This is the opposite version of the Tom Brady headlines. This isn’t a knock on Glennon but a dig at the headline and overreaction to a QB who played a heck of a game. Yes, that’s “a” game this season. I’m actually a fan of Glennon and think he will be a good NFL QB. But my point is that most young writers seem to be quick to either grab their bandwagon uniform or their pitchfork based on a players latest performance. Glennon is a young QB who has a chance to be very good, but he needs some more tests so we can see if he can continually improve his performances.

There is a reason why the Bucs paid McCown ten million over two years plus another five in incentives to start this year. They obviously didn’t think Glennon is the near term “answer”. However, for the kids sake, I hope he is and continues to do well but let’s not anoint him until he runs the gauntlet of NFL defensive coordinators who make a living finding and exploiting flaws in a young QB’s game.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Retooling NFL front offices

Here are a few facts: NFL front office people don’t ask players what they are doing in the privacy of their home. Adrian Peterson was considered a perfect role model by just about everyone in and out of the NFL. Ray Rice is sincerely loved by the Ravens front office people including the owner

Here are a few facts: NFL front office people don’t ask players what they are doing in the privacy of their home. Adrian Peterson was considered a perfect role model by just about everyone in and out of the NFL. Ray Rice is sincerely loved by the Ravens front office people including the owner (and their wives), even after everything they’ve been dragged through because of his actions. My point is that many star players weren’t/aren’t considered as being “at risk” employees for criminal behavior. The only safeguards that may have prevented both the Rice and Peterson incidents are continued education for proper social behavior. However, who knows if it would have had any impact whatsoever.

Regardless, the NFL along with each team, are going to have to retool their front offices to minimalize any further embarrassments. The focus will be on player education programs, counseling, and identifying players at risk for criminal behavior. This will be a real positive for the NFL and its clubs in the long run.

In addition to supporting and educating players, the NFL also has to educate its team leaders (GM, head coach, VP of player development, security directors, and even the PR directors).

While meeting with two very highly placed NFL executives last week, I proposed this question: How many GMs, player development directors, public relations directors and team security directors are equipped to spot and/or manage personal player crises? These two execs have two different roles and about fifty plus years of combined experience working for the NFL. Each of them has a different title of the jobs I mention above.

Answer from exec #1: “Only about one third of these professionals have the skill set and experience to handle crises (like the Rice and/or Adrian Peterson issues). Exec #2 gave a similar answer and thought the percentage is probably a bit less and closer to 20%.

If NFL front offices don’t have the professionals in place to handle these crises, they probably don’t have individuals in place who can potentially prevent/spot issues before they happen and can think five moves ahead to minimalize fallout from criminal, embarrassing, and/or any negative employee (coaches, execs, players) behavior. In addition, team decision-making is always motivated by a “win right now” philosophy. Therefore, teams have built in conflicts of interest in policing themselves.

Some teams do have incredible people in their building. I’ve met several of these people and have been very impressed by them as have been my players. But the fact is that owners have to spend more money to bring in more qualified people. Additionally, players should be required to take part in more ongoing education as part of their contract. In many businesses such as law, insurance, financial consulting, nursing, teaching, sales, or law enforcement, these professionals are required to have ongoing education covering topics such as ethics, personal behavior, and industry specific proficiency.

Here is a quick breakdown of the backgrounds of most NFL front office execs. As agents we have to deal with each one of these team professionals:

General Manager: Most are former scouts, not human resource directors. Most have likely never left a college or pro football environment. If they didn’t come from scouting they came from in-house legal or the salary cap side. However, with the exception of just a few, none of them have worked in corporate environments or in real world law.

Player Development: The majority of the men who fill this position are former players that were well behaved, trusted and did all the right things as players. Not too many Chris Carter types fill this position.

Public Relations: Can you name the PR director for your team? Probably not, because many of them don’t take the lead in crisis management. That job usually is left to the head coach. NFL teams have been habitually secretive for so long that these guys are afraid to say anything that might piss off their owner, head coach, GM and/or star player(s). Most of their jobs have morphed in to community relationship liaisons. Many are just toothless lions because the coaches overshadow their work.

Team Security: The majority of NFL security people are usually former police officers. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because they usually know the community very well. However, while they have to be very reactive handling team DUIs, physical altercations such as a few bar fights, and stadium security, they have little time and qualifications to create player programs, educate, and be proactive in working hard to identify at risk players. Decades ago local retired police officers were hired because they were good at making things go away and disappear.

Head Coach: The head coach has a very difficult job to do in policing his players. On one hand, he is paid to win and only has job security by doing so. On the other hand, if he doesn’t give players a second chance when they screw up, and stand behind them in their time of need, he risks losing the respect of the players and losing games by disciplining his star players. He is truly conflicted.

Playing, managing, and coaching in the NFL is truly a privilege. The league needs to come up with a balanced plan of education, discipline and uniformed steps for a second chance. You don’t ban a player without help for two years because he has an addiction to codeine, and then give another player only two games for assaulting his fiancee. In addition, you don’t let football people make human resource policies and decisions they aren’t qualified to make in the first place.

It’s not just the players who have to grow up but the league as a whole has to step it up, spend the money and owners have to take responsibility to hire the best qualified professionals to create a professional mature environment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Are NFL players as bad as they are portrayed?

I’ve spent my entire adult life around NFL players and I’ve had some real up’s and down’s with them. But 95% (over 150) of the players I have dealt with were very good people. Even some of those who have made some mistakes have turned their mishaps into positives. Johnny Jolly for

I’ve spent my entire adult life around NFL players and I’ve had some real up’s and down’s with them. But 95% (over 150) of the players I have dealt with were very good people. Even some of those who have made some mistakes have turned their mishaps into positives. Johnny Jolly for example is one of those people. And as painful as some days were, I am happy to be a part of his turnaround story. That being said, there are a handful of players in the league I wouldn’t represent because I don’t think a second chance is going to change who they are.

In the last few days I’ve heard countless harsh comments about NFL players in general. I can personally tell you that by lumping all players into a single group because of the actions of a few is a mistake.

In my experience, 95% of all NFL players are pretty good people: You don’t see it, hear it or read about it but over 90% of all NFL players spend a lot of their time and resources giving back. You don’t hear about it because most don’t want the recognition in fear of being accused of tooting their own horn. The media could care less about covering it because it’s not sexy, dirty or controversial enough for them to garner profitable attention. 95% players I’ve been around are solid family guys who do a lot of good when nobody is looking.

Now keep in mind that an NFL team manages about 100 players per year per club. The “100” number comes from ALL players who have been on the roster either during the regular season or the 90 they carry in the offseason for almost six months. In addition there are several on injured-reserve and/or other football or non-football injuries list. So all in all, each team must sign and manage over 100 players per year.

Compare that to any company, business or entity that manages and hires employees (teachers, lawyers, tradesman, military personnel, performers, or politicians) and there will always be a percentage of some bad apples. My point is that no matter what type of safeguards and prescreening measures the NFL adopts, a small percentage of bad apples will get in the door. Just like they do any other business or entity.

To complicate things even more, NFL players have time, money, status and some fame at a very young age and no learned skill set to manage all that’s thrown at them.

I was talking to a player the other day who was telling me that “wow, you have to really grow up fast in this league”, as he was telling me about putting a life together in one weekend after being told he made the team. What most of us get to figure out over a long period of time, without millions of people watching everything we do, pro athletes get thrown into the fire without a manual. Now, I’m not making excuses for some horrible acts by some noted star players but my point is that as whole, NFL players on a percentage basis compared to the general population carry themselves fairly well considering their position.

What’s more is that a lot people throw darts at young athletes with no concept of what it’s like to have time, money and fame at the age of 22. I guarantee you that if you gave one million dollars to every 22 year old, that the majority of them would blow it at the same rate or faster than an NFL player would. Furthermore, give every 22 year old off work 3 months per year, some social status, drug test them and track their every social move, I guarantee you that the result would show that there will be a greater percentage of DUI’s, arrests, failed drug tests (especially marijuana), and social mishaps as compared to the NFL players.

So when a small percentage of NFL players do some really stupid and/or even horrendous acts, don’t tattoo all players as being similar to the ones read about. So far this year, of the estimated 3,200 players who are signed there have been about 30 arrests and/or charges against them. That’s less than 1% of all players.

Please keep in mind that Ray Rice, the man, and Adrian Peterson, the man, and the other accused of domestic violence probably would have done the same acts whether they were a schoolteacher, firemen, or a factory worker. So I highly doubt that NFL players are any worse than any other group in society.

The NFL is trying to figure who they are right now as a social compass, where the lines between personal and private lies, and what they can ask of their employees. In time, I believe they will get it right. They have to and they know it. Whether it’s because they are money motivated and don’t want to alienate fans and sponsors or because they truly care about the impact they can make on our society, they will get it right. Once again, they have to.

Its interesting that a few years ago Commissioner Goodell was known as the “Discipline Czar” and now everyone wants his head for not disciplining enough. And yes, he and the league screwed up big time on some of their recent disciplinary decisions. So they are learning that they aren’t qualified to be human resource directors, judges and/or counselors. They will be smart enough to hand that component over to those who are more qualified.

Going forward, the league needs to grow up on a lot of fronts. They need to hire the most qualified professionals they can find to set a new course for the league. They need to become more consistent in their disciplinary actions and start by getting the business people out of the human resources side of football. They need to raise the bar for themselves, the coaches and front office execs to be examples for the players and help them handle their professional and personal lives. So be patient, but continue to voice your concerns and remember that it will never be perfect and they won’t weed out all the potential offenders and things should get a lot better sooner than later.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Ray Rice: Questions and Fallout

As an agent, I’ve been asked in the last 24 hours, “what would you do if you were representing Ray Rice? Would you stand behind him? Do you walk away? Do you fight for him? Do you distance yourself? Do you speak for him? Do you champion a second chance? As you read this,

As an agent, I’ve been asked in the last 24 hours, “what would you do if you were representing Ray Rice? Would you stand behind him? Do you walk away? Do you fight for him? Do you distance yourself? Do you speak for him? Do you champion a second chance? As you read this, I ask you, “What would you do if you were his agent?”

Not ever having met Ray Rice, I do acknowledge he has done some good things with his career. He has been active in his community, checked the boxes on being charitable with his time, he was liked well enough in the locker room and by his coaches. He was also respected enough by endorsers to garner 1.6 million in off-field earnings in 2014 (according to Forbes link). But now, after being released by the Ravens, suspended indefinitely by the NFL, no income coming in and being casted as the international villain poster child for domestic violence, Ray Rice is not an attractive client for any agent.

The agent conundrum: The irony is this, when agents sign players they promise to stand by them no matter what. That’s our job, right? So where is the line when an agent says I can’t stand behind you anymore?

Furthermore, if an agent abandons his client in his darkest hour, other players take notice and may lose confidence in that agent and eventually fire them. There lies the conundrum. Michael Vick’s agent stood behind him during his time in jail and helped to champion his comeback to the NFL. Me, as a dog lover and long time pet owner, my loyalties would have been tested.

As for my advice to Ray, if I were representing him, would be to get professional help (I would start by ensuring he secured it)! Make sure this never happens again, and figure out a way to turn this incident into a positive for all victims of domestic violence. Own your actions with sincerity and place your family above your career. Don’t hire a “fix it” PR firm, instead, dive into this issue boldly and take your medicine for your actions. I personally couldn’t champion a reinstatement at this moment until I was convinced the man we saw in the elevator had evolved into a completely different person, a person who would never lay a hand on a woman, nor the people he loves most.

I’m very lucky that I represent clients who don’t have or had these types of issues.

What does the NFLPA do? It will be interesting to watch if the NFL Players Association fights for Ray Rice in any capacity. They fought and won, to help Michael Vick get the balance of his guaranteed monies after his conviction. They fought to help other players who made some offensive social mistakes get reinstated.

I have a feeling they will sit on the sidelines for a while on this one.

Independent enforcement needed for disciplinary actions: The NFL Players Association has been asking the NFL for years to take the power away from the Commissioner’s office as judge and jury for player violations. This Ray Rice incident may help to convince Roger Goodell to give up control of fining, penalizing, and suspending players for their behavior both on and off the field.

Roger Goodell admitted and apologized for missing the mark on Ray’s initial disciplinary action (2 game suspension). Even before he saw the latest video from TMZ he knew he screwed it up. And now, he and the NFL are taking a well-deserved beating for it. However, if there were a third independent party who made disciplinary rulings against players and coaches and even owners, the NFL and its Commissioner would have dodged a huge backlash bullet.

I would think that after the time and energy spent on managing this problem the NFL now may be incentivized to give up control of setting disciplinary actions.

Setbacks: One of the hardest jobs for an agent is securing endorsements for players. It’s more difficult than most people think. Sure, it’s easy for the top ten or twenty players in the league to get them. I do believe this incident can make some companies very gun-shy on selecting athletes, particularly NFL players, as their pitchman.

On another front, the TMZ video has been shown over and over again on an international scale. The BBC, CNN World, Al Jazeera and every major news service in the world is reporting the Ray Rice story. As a frequent traveler to other countries I can attest that we, the USA, get bashed pretty good abroad for just about anything that happens within our borders. And it won’t surprise me when foreign news services twist this into being a major identity with ALL NFL players as a whole. This is not good for the international expansion. Something that Roger Goodell and company is trying hard to accomplish abroad. While selling the NFL to multi-national partners, the Ray Rice incident will loom in the minds those foreigners hearing the pitch.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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What is an injury settlement?

As each NFL team tweaks their 53-man roster this week, there is still a steady stream of negotiations going on between agents and salary cap managers. Some teams are still rounding off their practice squads and building their emergency short list. The other lesser known activity is the negotiation of injury settlements.

Injury settlements are

As each NFL team tweaks their 53-man roster this week, there is still a steady stream of negotiations going on between agents and salary cap managers. Some teams are still rounding off their practice squads and building their emergency short list. The other lesser known activity is the negotiation of injury settlements.

Injury settlements are agreements between players and teams spelling out compensation and other terms in which the two parties will immediately part ways. For example, if a player suffered a preseason injury such as a knee MCL partial tear, it usually takes about six weeks to heal and for the player to get back to full strength. If the player sustained the injury in the final week of the preseason (7 days prior to the 53 cut down date) and all parties agreed it would take six weeks for a full recovery, the parties may agree on a five week regular game settlement. A five-week settlement is appropriate because the first week of the six weeks is still during the preseason. Thus, the player would have most likely missed five weeks of the regular season on the inactive or the injured reserved list. Therefore, the team will pay the player for those five weeks in trade for a full release of liability. So the player will be paid 5/17th of his salary (there are 17 weeks in the season.)

Here are some typical terms and/or components of an injury settlement:

-Player and his representatives release team, doctor, trainers and team’s agents from all liability associated with the injury.
-Team will be responsible for the costs of all second medical opinions, rehabilitation, medical and related expenses. A player may choose to rehab his injury at a place of his own choice.
– Player acknowledges that he has hereby been given notice that he may have rights under the applicable Workers’ Compensation laws of the state in which the team resides.
-Offset language preventing a player from double dipping. It usually goes like this:
The parties further agree if Player signs a new contract with another NFL Team during the first five weeks (using our MCL example) of the 2014 NFL Regular Season, Club’s obligation shall be reduced by the amount of any contractual compensation (including, without limitation, salary, signing, reporting, option and/or incentive bonuses) received or earned by Player from such other NFL Team and Player shall reimburse Club for any such amounts previously paid by Club.

Injury settlements are used in lieu of placing a player on the Injured Reserve (IR) until he is healthy enough to be released. If an injury is deemed to take longer than 17 weeks to recover the player will be placed on IR for the season and receive his full salary (unless he has a split contract). Injury settlements are also used to lighten the load of the training room. If a team has six players who have injuries that require rehabilitation it will tie up the time and resources of the training room. Teams want to move on from players they think wouldn’t have made their team, are expendable talents and/or are easily replaceable.

Injury settlements can also give a team a chance at getting a player back during that same season. There is a rule in place that the team (agreeing to a settlement) can’t resign that player until a minimum of six weeks passes following the amount of weeks of the initial settlement. So for our MCL example, the team cannot resign that player for the first eleven weeks. For a player who did a three week/3 game settlement, his team can’t sign him back until after week nine. However, the player is free to sign with another team.

If a player, usually upon the advice of his agent, doesn’t want to do an injury settlement, it’s the team’s obligation to rehab and give him medical treatment. Once the team and the team’s physician deem the player healthy enough to return to the field, the team will release the player from the injured list. If the player feels he is still injured, he has the right to file an injury grievance against the team. An independent arbitrator (as spelled out in the CBA) will hear the grievance.

Negotiating an injury settlement can be very tricky and can get downright nasty. A player has a right to a second opinion from a doctor of his choice. So a team doctor may say the injury should be completely healed in 6 weeks. A second opinion doctor may say that it could take up to ten weeks for the injury to heal. Therefore, the agent will ask the team for ten or even eleven weeks of salary. The team will propose five or six weeks. The two parties will usually reach an agreement in the middle of the two opinions. In most cases, agents will fight tooth and nail for a time beyond the predicted recovery table to make sure they don’t short change their client. Agents will also try to get a settlement equal to at least 3 game checks in order to garner that player a credited season which would lead to certain benefits if the player had at least three credited seasons. As agents, we know that injuries take longer to heal than what is typically projected.

Although this is how the system works, it is deeply flawed. For one, the system asks a salary cap manager/or GM and an agent to play doctor and predict when a player will be healthy. Two, it relieves teams of liability when an injury could possibly linger for months and/or years. Three, it takes the player out of a controlled football environment and sends him out on his own to rehab and workout.

 

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Behind the cutdown curtain

Watching Hard Knocks gives us a realistic look inside the emotions of being cut from a roster. If you don’t have HBO, I can tell you that it’s more emotional than you know. I have had grown men cry to me on the phone, completely disappear for days from friends and family, even spiral

Watching Hard Knocks gives us a realistic look inside the emotions of being cut from a roster. If you don’t have HBO, I can tell you that it’s more emotional than you know. I have had grown men cry to me on the phone, completely disappear for days from friends and family, even spiral into a depression where their confidence erodes and own self-worth is questioned.

You have to remember that these guys were always the stars of their hometown, college teams and always the first one ever picked in the school yard. Being rejected for their first time is a tough pill to swallow. There is no preparation for being released and it’s usually a first for players who have never experienced failure on many levels.

A Slow Death: With 90 players on the camp roster there are about ten to twenty players per team that get very little action in the preseason games or even practice. We call this cut a “slow death” because the player knows it’s coming and never gets a chance to prove himself but can’t and won’t quit. On top of that their position coach may outright ignore them because he knows it’s coming and doesn’t want to be attached. I’ve had players ask their coaches to meet for extra grease board or film work where the coaches say “sure” but never show up or say they have to leave.

The anxiety around being in a slow death situation stinks because you know you could be getting a better look with a team who has a bigger need for your position or has an environment where everyone gets a fair shot. This player usually gets cut at the 75-man mark.

The nagging injury: One of the worst things that can happen to a player is to go to camp with or suffer a nagging injury. I’m talking pulled hamstring, high ankle sprain, back spasm, neck stingers, groin pulls, light concussion and/or something where he can play but not be at his best. The problem is these injuries will hold you back from being at your best, but they are the type of injuries where coaches expect you to play and practice. You may miss a few days here and there but for the most part you are playing and practicing because you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity.

Playing with a nagging injury can make you look slow and/or hesitant and coaches really don’t care how hurt you are. Many teams’ trainers don’t even inform their position coaches of these injuries. One of the most frequent conversations between and agents and players during camp are, “should I practice, should I tell my coach I’m not 100%, should we get a second opinion, should I play this weekend?”

Having a nagging injury is sometimes worse than a season ending injury. With a nagging injury the player puts an inferior product of his services on the field and on tape for other teams to see. That’s the impression that is left to the rest of the league. At least with a more serious injury such as an ACL tear, a torn pec or bicep, the player at least can receive a financial injury settlement equal to the amount time he would miss. To be placed on injured reserve, the player at least receives a salary, is around the team for the season and most likely gets another chance the following season.

Making it to the 75 man

If a player does make it to the 75-man roster they most likely have a shot of making a practice squad or being resigned later in the season after someone gets hurt at their position. These twenty-two players are fighting for their professional lives. To them it’s the ultimate game of survivor. After the 75-man cut down, where they see their new friends, roommates and teammates disappear, they know they have one week and game left to prove themselves.

Some just need a few lucky breaks or just a few big plays in practice and/or the preseason game.

The agent’s job: When a player gets cut the agent really has to shine. He or she has to work hard and with exact precision in finding his client another opportunity. However, as agents we must be direct about the players’ future and the reality of getting picked back up by another team. It’s our job to know what our cut players’ deficiencies are, address them and have a plan. It’s our job to know where the other opportunities are, who is best at developing young players and getting our clients noticed. We have to text, email, cold call and promote our players daily. We have to do the hardest work when nobody is looking and even create an opportunity where there wasn’t any.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 myths of the NFL agent business

Agents spend the majority of their time servicing, protecting, preparing, educating, and counseling their clients. They are also always prospecting for new clients and on alert making sure absolutely nothing slips through the cracks of the management of their clients’ careers. And for those clients who get cut or injured, agents have to find them

Agents spend the majority of their time servicing, protecting, preparing, educating, and counseling their clients. They are also always prospecting for new clients and on alert making sure absolutely nothing slips through the cracks of the management of their clients’ careers. And for those clients who get cut or injured, agents have to find them the best medical care, protect their rights and/or find them another job.

What on the surface appears to be a sexy job is really very intense, competitive and holds little room for error. NFL players only have one short career and it’s the agent’s job to ensure that every opportunity is maximized and every decision is the right one.

The agent landscape: There are currently about 810 agents registered representing about 3,500 players. Only 2,880 (90 x 32) of those players will be invited to camp under contract. And of those 2880, only about 1,696 (53 x 32) will make a regular season roster and another 320 will make a practice squad.

1) You have to be an attorney: False, you don’t have to be an attorney to be an agent. Many agents have gone to law school but few actually have practiced law. The language of the NFL contract has evolved over the decades through collective bargaining within a vacuum. Matter of fact, all sports language is different. That’s why you see very few agents representing clients in multiple sports.

Very few agents jumped from being a full time attorney into the agent business. However, the NFL Players Association does require the following to be an agent: Undergraduate AND Post-Graduate Degree (Masters or Law) or in lieu of the degree sufficient evidence of at least 7 years negotiating experience. However, many agents who got in the business prior to this requirement simply had an undergraduate degree.

2) Agents don’t make 10% of a players contract: I’m still surprised by how many people think agents take a big cut of a players contract. The Players Association has capped what agents make at 3% max on contracts. 2% on first time franchise/transition tags (or RFA’s), 1.5 % on second time franchise/transition tags, and 1% on third time tags. Even in the 80’s I believe the cap was 5% then.

We can charge whatever we want on marketing deals but the industry average is probably about 10 to 15%. But only a handful of players are garnishing substantial marketing deals.

3) Agents are constantly dealing with cleaning up player’s messes: When I tell people what I do for a living the next statement usually is, “It must be tough dealing with players’ egos and constantly getting them out of trouble”. The truth is that 80% of NFL players are easy going, humble, hard working, and low maintenance. Of course there are some divas that demand more time and attention than others but it’s a small percentage.

Sure, there are a handful of DUIs, failed substance and or PED (performing enhancing drug) tests, social slip-ups and an occasional criminal arrest. However, these issues get a waterfall of media attention but only account for a small percentage of all players. My estimate is less than 5%.

4) Agents make a lot of money and are rich: See number 2. There are a few who do but the majority makes a very modest living. Many of the highest paid players are working off representation deals of 2% fees and the agent only gets paid when the player does, not on the entire value of the contract at once. And guess what? When the player gets cut with millions left on his contract that agent doesn’t collect on the unpaid balance of the contract.

Additionally agents have high overhead. I, for example employ a full time marketer and attorney to handle marketing and to just make sure nothing slips through the cracks. Agents also have to invest 15k to 25k on average to train and prepare rookie players. Very few agents if any charge their players for expenses. Travel, marketing, office space, and entertaining clients can be costly. I’d say NFL agents are at par with successful real estate agents and some attorneys. An agent representing about five new clients a year and managing about twenty clients overall has estimated expenses of about $200,000 to $250,000 per year. Some agents also have to share fees with partners and their agency.

Agents make a good living but only a handful make over $1 million per year.

5) Agents have a sexy lifestyle and party with the players: Yes, some do but the majority of established agents aren’t at the club or bar or on an exotic island with their clients. Sure, it’s fun to go to dinner or grab a drink with one of the clients like most people do in any business. And sure there are some agents who take their clients out a lot in the offseason, but they are a small minority and usually don’t last long in the business.

On the contrary, being an agent, day to day, can be a very lonely and isolated experience. We attend college (prospecting) and NFL games almost every weekend alone. We are on the road alone and spend many hours a day on the phone talking to NFL personnel execs, doctors, clients, their wives, prospects/parents, and the media. When we go to games, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, a college bowl game, a golf tournament, the ESPYs, practices, etc., there is always a degree of work involved and the switch is in ON mode, not FUN mode. There are some agents who try to be “The Man” when they go out with their players and their ego may need the attention, but their players will most likely lose respect for them at some point and even fire them.

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NFL: Listen closely to the fans

In my article “What still irks the NFL fan”, I received many passionate responses on how the NFL could improve the average fan’s experience in consuming the game. Some want to eliminate Thursday Night Football, move the Super Bowl to Saturday and demand a better in-stadium experience.

Let’s take a look

In my article “What still irks the NFL fan”, I received many passionate responses on how the NFL could improve the average fan’s experience in consuming the game. Some want to eliminate Thursday Night Football, move the Super Bowl to Saturday and demand a better in-stadium experience.

Let’s take a look at some fan grievances and some possible solutions:

Thursday Night Football: Most players and clients I spoke to have love-hate relationships with this game slot. On the one side they aren’t fully recovered from the Sunday game played the week before. Yet, they enjoy the long weekend following the game in which their coaches usually give them an extra day off. Many fans on the east coast think the game is too late and some fans on the west coast think it’s too early. Many fans don’t have time for them at all with work the next day or family requirements at home.

So what’s the solution? How about a Friday night? Why not? It’s a great night for everyone and doesn’t hurt college football. It gives the players some needed recovery time, there is little competition in terms of programing on TV, everyone can stay up later, sports bars and restaurants will benefit, and there are no angry bosses on Friday morning.

Super Bowl Saturday Night: In a perfect world wouldn’t it be great if the Monday after the Super Bowl was a national holiday, like Presidents’ Day which is only a few days after anyway. Can you imagine the popularity of any President who makes that happen?

Unfortunately, I don’t think it will happen but maybe we can move the Superbowl to Saturday night. Thus, we will have recovery Sunday.

Access to all games regardless of provider:

This a comment from a fan disgusted about limited access to games:

XXXXX writes:
Jun 5, 2013
“Dear NFL, please end this ridiculous system of the DIRECTV deal which blocks the out of market fan from watching their team unless they can and want to have a DIRECTV dish (I can not because of trees). In this day of technology, there is no reason for it other than the NFL’s bottom line in the DIRECTV deal. That $$ is better than the hit they would take from the big networks if they allow games to be pay-per-view (or something similar). The NBC/CBS/ESPN/ABC deals reduce in value the less exclusive the games are, so the NFL does the math and says we can charge x max for a pay-per-view and collect that from mostly out of market fans (in market would be at the game or get it on TV assuming no blackout) and our Big Network contract will be reduced by y. I guess they calculate that x is not bigger than y, so it’s better to keep more exclusiveness to the games via no pay-per-view and the DIRECTV (which btw is a small fraction compared to cable subscribers), keep the value of the big network contract up and take the big $ for the DIRECTV contract. Fans? Who cares!?

See, at the end of the day, it’s not about the fan, it’s about the bottom line. How long ago should we have had pay-per-view type of football games? There are certain teams that have a huge following everywhere, and many other out of market fans of every team.

Now they give us preseason on the internet only, and not on DIRECTV so if you want to see your team’s new draft picks after a long summer drought from football, you can’t even make a night of it at the sports bar…you have to pony up $20 or whatever to buy the full pre-season internet stream from the NFL. This bites. It bites real bad.

This situation is up there with the full price preseason tix issue as a pure money grub that sticks it to the fans…with an NFL smile.”

We as TV consumers of the game are being funneled to a few select providers who paid the NFL for the privilege of being “exclusive”. I do get the economics of it but there are ways to divide the pie, keep the provider fees high and give fans more choices on how they have access to games. Other sports have accomplished it. I know we are getting more access on our phones and tablets, which is great when you have to travel. However, that’s not a great consumer experience. We need access through our current providers and in all markets; in the long run it will benefit the NFL by building a long-term loyal fan base.

Owners should focus on traffic in and out of stadium, bathrooms and fan behavior: The TV experience has become so good that the in-stadium experience is becoming less appealing for fans. Since 2008, fan attendance has been relatively flat to below its heightened average during 2007 and 2008 peak. Fans cite unruly behavior, ticket prices, stadium accessibility, Parking and long bathroom lines as major issues.

Much of the local stadium issues fall on the team and/or city that own the venue and not the league office. Many owners are insensitive to the time it can take an average fan to get in and out of a stadium, a bathroom and/or food line. They valet and have private suites. Fans will pay the price of current admission but they want to feel safe, not be inconvenienced and don’t want to wait hours in lines (in or out of their car).

What’s your beef with your owner, your team, your stadium, or your access or the NFL?

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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3 Reasons to Watch Preseason Games

As an active agent with 16 clients, I try to watch every preseason game I can to see how the coaches are managing my players. Many seasoned agents can read between the lines as to the prospects of our clients starting, playing a lot/or a little, or making it to the opening day roster.

As an active agent with 16 clients, I try to watch every preseason game I can to see how the coaches are managing my players. Many seasoned agents can read between the lines as to the prospects of our clients starting, playing a lot/or a little, or making it to the opening day roster. Therefore, I watch preseason games with intensity and a purpose. However, some fans may find them boring because the star players they love are not playing as much and the play can be sloppy in the second half.

Well before you give away your tickets or flip the channel to an HBO special, try looking deeper into some of the other storylines of August:

Don’t put much thought into why some players are playing or not playing: There is a tricky balance between keeping starters healthy and yet getting them sharper with playtime. The more they play in the preseason, the better. However, more than 50% of the players on the field are desperate to make their team, are unsure of the playbook and don’t quite understand the subtle ways players from other teams take care of each other. Actually, I would estimate that half of the injuries sustained during the preseason come from friendly fire in games and practice. Those young desperate players are flying around the field looking to hit anything that moves. It’s not a place a quality vet wants to be.

Every head coach and GM wants to get through the preseason without any major injuries. However, as we’ve learned time and again, players will get hurt (Kendall Hunter, Donald Thomas, Glenn Dorsey, even Sean Lee and Sean Weatherspoon in offseason activities). Only being in camp for two weeks, the injuries are already piling up. So, coaches have this unique challenge of getting players reps while preserving their health. Additionally, they don’t want players who won’t make the team to get hurt either. Why is that? Because they would have to carry a contract for a player who they were going to cut anyway. Therefore, a lot of the back-ups are taking most of the reps during the preseason. I had a TE who is still in the league get hurt 3 times in the last four years. Each time it was in the fourth quarter when he should have been on the sidelines with the other starters. However, there were injuries at his position so he had to take the reps.

So when you are watching a preseason game, take note of how coaches like to protect their projected starters. Some head coaches even talk to each other before preseason games so they can match up their starters against each other. Another reason why you can’t judge a team based on their preseason performances.

For those fantasy football players, I would especially keep an eye out for young running backs and wide receivers.

Watch the interaction between the Quarterbacks: We’ve all heard the stories that Brett Farve didn’t spend much time helping his underlings like Aaron Rodgers and Kurt Warner. True! Drew Bledsoe on the other hand had no problem helping Tom Brady. Why? It’s strictly a personality thing. Some guys are competitive to a point they don’t care about their competition developing. Others are so team oriented that they will go above and beyond doing what’s best for their team.

Watching the QB interaction on the sideline is always a good sideshow to the game. A seasoned and cerebral QB can really help a young QB even more than his coaches. Many vet backups are under contract just to do that. The QB meeting room is also an intimate place. The players spend more time together than any other position. A cohesive QB room is sign of a mature unselfish team. Body language on the bench and sidelines is always telling.

Special teams plays are a game within the game: Kickoffs and punts are not just an exchange of possession, but also a war of mercenaries fighting for their football lives. To put things in perspective, there will be 37 players cut from each team. There will be another 20 who make their team because they can play a position and contribute on special teams. So there are about 50 players per team all trying to get or keep a job on the roster. The intensity of special teams play during the preseason is at its highest level of intensity for the entire season. Young healthy players looking to make the team will sacrifice their body for a big play or hit. The majority of concussions and fractures happen during these plays. The next Heath Farwell, Kassim Osgood, or Steve Tasker will emerge during these battles.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 ways the agent business has changed

<p> With the new CBA somewhat simplifying things, it really has taken a lot of the fun out of the business. At one time, negotiating contracts was an abstract business for the agent to be creative in constructing contracts, but much has been streamlined. Sure, the top players in the league have multiple layers in

<p> With the new CBA somewhat simplifying things, it really has taken a lot of the fun out of the business. At one time, negotiating contracts was an abstract business for the agent to be creative in constructing contracts, but much has been streamlined. Sure, the top players in the league have multiple layers in their contracts that require finesse and expertise from a seasoned agent. But after that the negotiation can get pretty vanilla, yet it does still leave enough room to be inventive for those players below the echelon of “top” billing. </p> <p> <strong>1) All 32 teams are reading from the same script: </strong>For years, the NFLPA has accused the NFL for illegally colluding on contracts (terms, signing bonus language, structure). If you talk to the agents, we will tell you, there aren’t 32 different styles of doing business as there once was. If definitely seems that GMs and salary cap mangers have been schooled, and well, at the exact same school using the same philosophy. The result; player contracts are getting shorter, guaranteed language is getting more complicated, and patterns of how and when deals get done are consistent around the league.</p> <p> <strong>2) Draft is more tightly slotted, less tools to work with in constructing contracts: </strong>Under previous CBAs, there were multiple tools agents and teams used to allocate bonuses within a rookie contract and create more money. Now the battle lay within the structure of the money rather than with the amounts themselves (predetermined). In addition, rookie deals cannot be renegotiated until after a players 3rd year (see Russell Wilson). The length/term of deal is now fixed.</p> <p> Under the last CBA, we could negotiate how long the deal would go. The previous CBA language specified maximum term limits rather than set terms. I for one used to do four-year deals for my 2nd rounders and three-year deals for my 3rd rounders and lower. In doing shorter deals, I took a little less of a signing bonus than those who did five year deals but got my clients to free agency sooner. Client Jonathan Babineaux is a good example. He’s a client who landed his 3rd NFL contract this year at age 32.</p> <p> Now every draft pick is given a four year contract. The exception being first round picks with a team option for a fifth year (Fifth Year Option). Undrafted free agents are given three year contracts.</p> <p> <strong>3) More concierge services:</strong> Derivative services outside of contract negotiations and marketing took a huge jump about ten years ago. Agents who may have never negotiated a contract before became really good at teeing up some freebies for players. Free phones, calling plans, hotels, flights, tech products, use of cars, Vegas trips, clothes, sports equipment and/or concert tickets. Many of these are just inducements to sign with said agent but it’s common place for all agencies to offer some level of concierge services.</p> <p> <strong>4) Social media coaching, counsel, management and/or clean up: </strong>The advent of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook put the power of the media in the hands of the players. Many players, with or without a plan, have been using these tools to talk with their fans, start controversy, voice their opinions, start arguments with other players and/or promote their brand or charitable affiliates. Agents quickly had to become proficient and learn how to help players manage their social ambitions.</p> <p> <strong>5) Doing more back end management on medical, lawsuits, etc:</strong> With the new CBA came some additional benefits like the cognitive injury benefit. Agents have more work to do on the back end of a player’s career. In addition, with players having more latitude on choosing a second opinion doctor and less pressure on them getting back on the field, agents are even more involved in the setting up, researching and scheduling of medical services for our clients. This is actually a good thing for players with agents who understand the importance of managing the medical component of the business. Knowing when and how to get the most from a player’s benefits and firmly exercising their rights can help set a player up for life.</p> <p> <em>Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”https://twitter.com/jackbechta” target=”_blank”>@Jackbechta</a></em></p>

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NFL Conversations

<p> <strong>Tony Dungy’s comments on Michael Sam:</strong> Everyone in the NFL (players, coaches, execs, media, etc.) who knows Tony Dungy, also knows that Tony is as solid of a man as there is, in/or out of the league. He’s direct, honest, modest, thoughtful, considerate, accessible, and a bigger man than most people who have coached

<p> <strong>Tony Dungy’s comments on Michael Sam:</strong> Everyone in the NFL (players, coaches, execs, media, etc.) who knows Tony Dungy, also knows that Tony is as solid of a man as there is, in/or out of the league. He’s direct, honest, modest, thoughtful, considerate, accessible, and a bigger man than most people who have coached in the league. The people that know him knew exactly what he meant when he made those comments about not wanting to draft Michael Sam.</p> <p> When I saw his comments I knew exactly what he was saying. You see, Tony is so honest that he speaks without a filter. I remember at the Combine in 2005 he told me he was drafting my client, DT Jonathan Babineaux, in the 2nd round if he was there. However, the Falcons drafted him a pick before the Colts could snag him. Later on, I had several people within the Colts organization tell me that they were going to take Jonathan with that 2nd round pick. I was surprised Tony told me that they were going to pick my client but as they say, “he’s honest to a fault”.</p> <p> So the fact that Tony’s comment got so much national attention, reiterates what he sincerely meant. He was simply saying, “it’s NOT Sam who would cause the distraction, it will be the media that will aggressively, persistently, obnoxiously and sometimes recklessly, be the distraction and constant maintenance for the head coach and his organization. Tony obviously wouldn’t want the responsibility of dealing with the added work in dealing with the media if Sam were on his team. Because Tony knows himself too well, he knew that if he did draft Michael Sam, he would have gone the extra mile, spent the energy needed, and made it a very personal responsibility to protect Sam from any media circus that could follow him or distract his team.</p> <p> The reality is that many GMs and head coaches didn’t draft Sam this year because of the same reason Tony said he wouldn’t. But unlike Tony (who is retired), they can’t and won’t voice it publicly.</p> <p> There are many head coaches who didn’t sign Tim Tebow (as a backup), Chad Johnson, Michael Vick, and/or Brett Farve for the same exact reason. They are media maintenance intensive.</p> <p> <strong>The Falcons and Hard Knocks:</strong> GM Thomas Dimitroff, HC Mike Smith and company were not HBO’s top pick for Hard Knocks this year. They sought out the Browns (Johnny Manziel), Seahawks, Eagles, Raiders, Redskins, Niners, and several other teams before shaking down the Falcons to ‘yes’.</p> <p> The Falcons will end up being a good choice though for several reasons. For one, football fans are going to get a good look at why Mike (Smity) Smith, is one of the most loved coaches in the league. His players absolutely love him. We are also going to see one of the more seamless and sound organizations in the league, where everyone is on the same page. Everyone from the owner to the equipment manager is reading from the same script. The Falcons are considered one of the top organizations in the league from a management standpoint. Agents trust and like them, coaches respect them and the owner truly cares about his players. They might not be the most entertaining group, but we are going to get a good look at a solid organization.</p> <p> <strong>Two teams on the move?</strong> Will the Buffalo Bills be moved at some point, regardless of who ends up buying them? And what about the Jaguars? Will they be the London Jaguars within the next five years? What I am hearing from people within the league is this: The league office wants the Bills to stay put. They feel that a new owner moving the Bills will send the wrong message to fans everywhere around the league. The Bills, being one of the league’s foundation teams, should forever remain a fixture in Buffalo.</p> <p> As for the Jaguars, my bet is that they end up in London. The new owner, Shahid Khan has made a valiant effort to make things work in Jacksonville. He’s doing and saying all the right things. However, if he decides to move the team across the pond, the league would give him a police escort to London.</p> <p> The league has proven that they are committed to international expansion and the Jags are the prime candidates to make the move.</p> <p> Another interesting component of this conversation is the article written by <a href=”http://www.latimes.com/sports/nfl/la-sp-nfl-la-qa-farmer-20140720-story.html” target=”_blank”>Sam Farmer of the LA Times</a>. He builds a nice case of why the league may build and own a stadium in LA. Even if it is just talk by the league, it gives those teams who need/want a new stadium or want improvements leverage with their current landlord.</p> <p> <em>Follow me on Twitter: <a href=”https://twitter.com/jackbechta” target=”_blank”>@Jackbechta </a></em></p>

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The Contract Conundrum

Playing NFL football is truly an insecure job. Sure, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and just a handful of players feel secure about their paychecks. However, the vast majority of NFL players have sleepless nights about the fear of being seriously hurt, released, beat out, asked to take a pay-cut, traded, demoted

Playing NFL football is truly an insecure job. Sure, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and just a handful of players feel secure about their paychecks. However, the vast majority of NFL players have sleepless nights about the fear of being seriously hurt, released, beat out, asked to take a pay-cut, traded, demoted and/or all of the above. Why do they feel this way? It’s simple; the lack of guaranteed contracts gives the team the ultimate power to swing the axe at any time. Having that axe over your head leads players to do some unorthodox things, mostly to their body.

The ripple effect can be a painful one

Keeping the body moving at all costs: In my 27 years as an agent there has always been a major consistency for all my clients; that’s managing, dealing with, hiding, and nursing injuries. The fear of being cut leads to players making sure they don’t miss games and even practices. In case you missed it, the DEA is investigating how medication/painkillers/pills are and have been distributed to players. Is this problem so bad the DEA has to get involved? I don’t know, but it’s obviously big enough to get their attention.

The bottom line is that players are going to over-medicate to practice and play. Making a half million dollars to ten million per year is an incentive to do so. Being cut at any time is incentive to do so. Having job insecurity is incentive to do so. Having your dream taken away because you are physically beat up is incentive to do so. Thus, players are doing what they can to keep their train (body) moving down the tracks.

Playing in the NFL is a painful business. Short recovery times between practices and games do not help matters either. Trainers and team doctors are paid by their respective NFL teams. Their job is to keep the players on the field. The end goal of their job is not aligned with the long-term best interests of the players’ health. (As a side note, medical care in the NFL is growing up and getting better).

The use of alcohol and marijuana are also used in dulling the daily pains and insecurities of the game.

So the big question is, if more players had guaranteed contracts would those players medicate less? Both current and former clients I spoke to recently all said “yes”, they would definitely be more patient in letting their bodies heal, miss more practices and/or even games as opposed to medicating themselves to get on the field.

Would NFL players “cruise” with guaranteed contracts? There may be a very small handful that will. Those same players are cruising now with and without guaranteed contracts. Hockey players, baseball players, soccer players and other athletes don’t cruise while under guaranteed contracts. I would say some NBA players do but they have longer seasons, it’s a different animal.

The NFL owners have it made right now with a carrot and stick contract philosophy. If the majority of contracts were guaranteed, teams would just have to do a better job in scouting and evaluating the players they sign to a contract. Teams would also just do shorter-term contracts for players they have suspicion of cruising and/or not giving maximum effort. Teams can also choose to incentivize players in addition to a guaranteed salary. The bottom line is that, hard working players will keep working and playing hard.

Under the current system, there are signing bonuses of course and the top ten to twenty percent of players in the league are scoring nice ones. But the rest are working off piece-meal deals and are still under their rookie deal (four of five years). A third or fourth round pick scoring a signing bonus between 600k and 450k is way under paid if they become a starter in the first two years of their contract. You don’t ever see NFL teams ripping up a contract of an underpaid player and giving him a fair market deal. On the flip side, they are frequently asking players to take a pay cut when he gets north of thirty, hurt and/or they have another player who can fill his shoes. They get their cake and eat it too.

The NFL Players Association has to make guaranteed contracts a priority in the next CBA. Guaranteed contracts will take pressure off players to put their bodies at extreme risk. Players will manage their bodies better and will have longer careers. Teams will also be incentivized to give their players the best medical care possible to protect their investment.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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The NFL Summer Solstice

We are right in the middle of a summer solstice of sorts for the new NFL12 month sport. With the entire industry on vacation there is very little going on in the world of pro football. I too am semi-checked out as I pen this post from a café in Istanbul while

We are right in the middle of a summer solstice of sorts for the new NFL12 month sport. With the entire industry on vacation there is very little going on in the world of pro football. I too am semi-checked out as I pen this post from a café in Istanbul while watching internationals walk the same path as the Ottomans, Romans, Persians and Alexander the Great.

The business of pro football is a small community of coaches, execs, media, scouts, agents and players. It has its own language, understandings and written and unwritten rules. Being such, there is little outside stimulus and exposure to garnering and experiencing intellectual, personal, and worldly growth, especially for the players. The NFL solstice is a great time to get some of that exposure.

Time for some culture: Players grow up in a tight knit bubble. Many of the coaches that influence them have never left the field or the locker room. Everyone they are exposed to on a day-to-day basis has grown up walking the same old football path. The downside is that there aren’t a whole lot of cultural world experiences dripping into the young minds of the players. I for one encourage my players to travel far, read a lot, and develop cerebral hobbies and interests. Unfortunately many players don’t. Nothing educates like visiting different cultures and countries.

The Babineaux brothers, Jonathan and Jordan are an exception to the rule. They have travel far and wide and even produced a movie. Dhani Jones turned his passion for travel into a second career while still playing in the NFL. Players only have two windows to travel. One in February and March, and the second in late June to early July. However, many are afraid to leave the country with the physical demands of camp on the horizon.

Players can follow the lead of their owners. While staying in Sothern Turkey last week (Bodrum area, which I highly recommend everyone put on their travel list), I noticed an NFL owner and his family at the next table. They were traveling around by yacht but the cultural effort was there.

I think players get in trouble, spend their money and get unmotivated when they don’t go anywhere or do anything this time of year.

Jacksonville to London: The more I hear, see and understand what the NFL is trying to do with marketing their product; the more I see a team playing half their season in London. It’s a reality and will happen in the next five to seven years. We all know the Jags are the prime candidate. This is actually a good thing for the NFL and our favorite sport.

Rehab: The hardest working people in football during this time of year are the players who are rehabbing their injuries from last season trying to get ready for camp. There is no vacation. They push every day and it’s a race to get healthy. Many are forgotten names but for most of them their work will pay off and they will have a chance to continue their career.

Agents can never totally check out: Although I am traveling the world my phone is always on and I stay tethered to my clients. Every agent has to or they will find themselves selling insurance (no offense to insurance agents as we need you guys too). Nothing bothers a player more than not having their phone call returned immediately.

As for me, back to my Turkish coffee and Efes.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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How the NFL became a 12 month sport

We forget about most sports in their respective off-seasons but the NFL has crept into our lives on a more permanent year-round basis. Was it a fluke? Absolutely not!

This is how it happened:

Fantasy football: The growth of the competitive fantasy football player spawned ownership in players. Like owning a stock

We forget about most sports in their respective off-seasons but the NFL has crept into our lives on a more permanent year-round basis. Was it a fluke? Absolutely not!

This is how it happened:

Fantasy football: The growth of the competitive fantasy football player spawned ownership in players. Like owning a stock portfolio, you have to pay attention to the stocks you own or want to purchase. So ten years ago there was already an estimated twenty million fantasy players (upwards of 32 million now) talking, consuming, debating, watching and listening for offseason news on their players.

The internet/bloggers: Credit has to go to sites like profootballtalk.com, kffl.com, arrowheadaddict.com and 700level.com (founded in 1999) as well as The700level.com (started in 2003 now under the control of Comcast). As bloggers like Mike Florio fought in his early days to keep his one-man site afloat he kept track of DUI’s, injuries, hirings and firings. Many of these incidents and transactions would normally slip through the media cracks.

Additionally, the internet became very competitive for news and that meant local beat writers, bloggers and year round sites had to dig for even more news and when there was no news they kept the conversation going with organic content.

The NFL Network: I think most forget how the NFL Network struggled when it was initially launched in 2003. They were starving for live relevant content and mostly showed reruns of older games and tapped into the NFL Films vault for even more content. The numbers initially showed that people weren’t interested in sitting home in May or July tuning in to watch an NFL playoff game played in 1990. The owners’ vision of a money making year round network was initially crumbling before their eyes. Then as they started adding more coverage of the Combine, All-Star games, college pro days and the draft, they realized by linking these activities together with promotion, build up and more coverage they could keep the NFL fans engaged.

The bottom line is that the NFL Network is an investment made by the owners they want to see as a twelve months of the year moneymaker. So if you wonder why the draft was pushed back two weeks into May, look no further than the NFL Network, not the Rockettes.

The Draft: The NFL draft is the bridge between college and pro football. It has undoubtedly taken on a life of its own. The anticipation of whom your team is going to draft with their first pick is now just one leg of why we watch. The producers have created storylines that create even more drama. In the past it was, “will it be Bledsoe or Mirer?” “Who will make a blockbuster trade and whom were the Jets fans going to boo”. Now it’s the Michael Oher (Blindside), Tim Tebow, Michael Sam, and Johnny Manziel type stories etc. The producers have trained us to watch the draft to see whose dreams may be crushed as well as whose will come true. Again, there is content to sell to their partners like ESPN and to feed its own baby, The NFL Network.

Stretching the cycle: When I started in the agent business my clients were usually reporting on or about August 1st through 5th. Now it’s as early as July 18th. We also have five preseason weeks, a bye week making the season 17 weeks vs. 16 and now talk of an extra playoff week.

When the draft was pushed back into May this year we had unanimous reactions to bring it back to April by coaches, GMs, and agents. If the draft remains in May it’s an obvious sign who is calling the shots and why.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 bold predictions for the 2014 season

1) Johnny Manziel sees very little playing time during the season: I want to see “Johnny Cleveland” play as much as anyone but I think the powers in Cleveland will take their time and groom him slowly. If he does play it’s out of necessity due to injury.

The Browns own Johnny for

1) Johnny Manziel sees very little playing time during the season: I want to see “Johnny Cleveland” play as much as anyone but I think the powers in Cleveland will take their time and groom him slowly. If he does play it’s out of necessity due to injury.

The Browns own Johnny for five years (and more with Franchise tags) so they can milk his arrival day until next season. If they put him out there this year and he struggles, Browns fans may lose hope once again. Remember, they’ve seen this movie before where the hope of a playoff future is tied to a young arm. So from a development standpoint, marketing and economic philosophy, Browns decision makers will take their time.

2) Big year for Tight Ends: Fantasy football geeks, listen up; Offensive coordinators are busy this off-season designing more multiple TE packages. Don’t be surprised to see some teams using more two TE’s on the field at a time (remember what Harbaugh was doing with TE packages at Stanford).

With defenses spending the last twelve years drafting, coaching and developing corners to cover three and four receiver packages, the pendulum may start swinging the other way. Offenses can create great mismatches by having two and even three TE’s on the field at once. Most defenses don’t have the personnel to defend two big fast and talented TE’s.

I represented a top TE in this year’s draft and was surprised by the teams that were interested in drafting all the top TE’s. Most of these teams already had two good TE’s and wanted more. The top five TE’s taken in this years draft will see plenty of playing time as will those drafted in the first three rounds last year.

3) We will see fewer concussions: Although concussions saw no significant decline last season, I feel like player awareness is higher than ever in terms of avoiding helmet to helmet hits. Constant education, bigger fines for helmet first hits and acceptance of the serious dangers of head trauma seem to have arrived.

The mentality of players was always to hide head trauma when they could, but now they know that nobody is going to think they are weak when they get knocked in the head. With all of the public disclosures from older retired players and coverage lawsuits filed, current players realize it’s something to avoid at all costs.

4) Fewer injuries this season: I’ve taken notice that NFL teams are starting to spend more money and put more resources into the health and well-being of the players. More teams are hiring yoga instructors and body gurus in both the season and off-season. My clients are telling me they are seeing more health options, resources and experts around the building to help them stretch more, eat better and prepare their bodies for the rigors of a season.

I don’t think this is just an NFL owner wanting to take better care of their players. It’s actually coming from the competitive corner from newer head coaches such as Jim Harbaugh, Chip Kelly and Bill O’Brien. Head coaches are getting more involved with things like lunch menus, designer recovery shakes, diet, supplements and bringing outside consultants in to help get the most out of the players bodies. GMs are hesitant on spending their owner’s monies. Coaches on the other hand will spend away.

5) Super Bowl tickets will be astronomical: It doesn’t matter which teams are in the Super Bowl but it will be costly for those looking for tickets. With the Phoenix (Waste Management) Open the same weekend, dependably great weather and a locale in driving range from LA, San Diego and Las Vegas, a warm weather Super Bowl could be explosive. This stinks for the average fan that wants to see his/her team play in the big game because they may not be able to afford it.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta 

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5 Toughest Challenges for Rookies

1) Saying “No”: The hardest thing for any young pro athlete to do is say the word “No”. The requests will come from every direction.

In-season: Appearance requests, friends/family wanting to come in for every home game (also wanting to know if they can stay with him or where they should stay), tickets,

1) Saying “No”: The hardest thing for any young pro athlete to do is say the word “No”. The requests will come from every direction.

In-season: Appearance requests, friends/family wanting to come in for every home game (also wanting to know if they can stay with him or where they should stay), tickets, errands for vets, autographed memorabilia, charitable appearances/donations, interviews (TV, Radio, digital, newspaper), loans, make an investment, pitch from professional services (financial consultants, insurance agents, accountants, endorsement agencies), being sold on a brand new expensive car, a good clothes and jewelry salesperson, long expensive dinners with vet teammates, and a lot of other miscellaneous requests.

Off-season: Most of what is on the in-season list but add these: Weddings, bachelor parties, football camps, drinking (everybody wants to hang with a pro athlete), come speak to our team/class, even more charitable events and spending time with friends and family.

I’m not saying a rookie should say “no” to everything listed above. However, if he is not selective on what he does say “yes” to, he will burn through time, money and energy and it will effect his performance, emotional stability, and bank account.

2) Maintaining healthy eating/nutrition habits: Many draftees learn great nutrition habits when they are training for the Combine. Many teams offer structured meals and guidance in the off-season during mini-camps and OTA’s. However, once the season starts, the structured regimens go out the window.

Rookies can easily spend twelve hours a day for five days a week at the team facility. While some meals like lunch are provided, players find themselves starving on the way back and forth from the facility. Driving while in a hurry (for fear of being fined for being late) usually equates to stopping for fast food through a drive-through.

One thing I encourage my players to do is to spend money on having quality food around. Whether it’s having pre-cooked meals delivered to their house, shopping at Whole Foods and/or having a chef stop by a few times a week, don’t skimp when it comes to getting quality nutrition.

3) Paperwork/staying organized: Becoming a professional athlete also comes with responsibility. You have a lot of money coming in all of the sudden, and you need a good CPA, you most likely have a financial consultant at the age of 22, and you have the same amount of bills and general paperwork as someone who is 32. When the mail starts piling up into huge bundles, young men get overwhelmed and let the piles grow while they focus on learning a playbook and contributing to the team.

4) Reporting injuries: You don’t make it to the NFL without having some level of toughness. Football players are taught from a young age to play with pain, fight through injuries, be tough, act tough and don’t complain when they get hurt. The problem is that they carry it through to the pro level and are hesitant to report injuries. My biggest frustration as an agent and also my biggest challenge is to coach players through properly managing injuries.

Many players (about twenty to thirty per team) who are at risk of being cut are especially fearful of disclosing injuries because they fear it can lead to them being demoted or cut. I had a starting AFC linebacker finally call me about a foot injury he said he couldn’t play on anymore. I called the trainer and my team contact and requested they shut him down and put him on injured reserve. A few hours after my call his coaches were at his locker begging him to play the rest of the season (5 games). Being the tough young man he is he couldn’t say “no” and took some pain shots and played. Nursing the foot led to a knee injury and two eventual operations on the foot and the knee.

5) Asking questions/asking for help: This may be true for most young people in many professions but it’s prevalent in the NFL. Some teams set up a learning environment for players where they are encouraged to ask questions and use the team resources to get their problems solved. Unfortunately, rookies feel they should operate with a sense of self-sufficiency as to not bother anyone. They don’t want to be made fun of by teammates for asking what may be an embarrassing question. They also feel like a man because of all the attention they have already received. When they do ask a question, it’s most likely a whisper to a veteran teammate who may or usually may not have a qualified answer.

On the football side, practices, meetings, camps, and team activities move extremely fast. Rookies are intimidated to be the one to stop things and ask a question, which can break the momentum of the team activity. Additionally, each team has what’s called a Player Development Director whose job it is to get rookies stable and acclimated to their new job and environment. They too are frustrated that the players don’t come to them for help. As one put it to me, “its just the way they are programmed.”

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Working In Football

I think if you ask most college students if they had a chance to work in the sports business they would jump on the opportunity. Here lies the problem, too many resumes chasing too few jobs. Actually very few sports jobs ever get posted because most people get in the door on a “who

I think if you ask most college students if they had a chance to work in the sports business they would jump on the opportunity. Here lies the problem, too many resumes chasing too few jobs. Actually very few sports jobs ever get posted because most people get in the door on a “who you know basis”.

But don’t give up hope just yet, the sports industry is littered with determined individuals who had no connections but found a way to get in the door.

Since I am an NFL agent, I will focus this article on the football business but it can definitely be applied to other sports.

1) The first thing job seekers have to do is think outside of the box, and realize the sports landscape is bigger and more diverse than it appears. There are career/job opportunities in the most obscure places of the sports spectrum.

In focusing on teams, NFL clubs have a growing roster of employees. There are positions on two sides of the fence. The football operations side and the non-football operations side.

For example, the football operations side usually includes: Scouting, scouting and coaching support, salary cap, accounting, video, tech support, nutrition, travel, strength and conditioning, player development, medical, and equipment.

The non-operational side usually includes: Stadium seat/luxury box sales, community/foundation, public relations, legal, game day operations, stadium management and marketing, sponsorship sales, accounting, facility management, secretarial, digital operations, partnership liaison, and team marketing.

On average each NFL team may employ hundreds of employees, not counting players. Turnover isn’t high, but as the NFL grows so does the amount of employees of each team, the league office, and the NFL partners. So when trying to break into working in sports/football keep an open mind of what types of jobs there are and try to match your skill set to a specific department within an organization and or NFL partner.

2) Another place to get a job in sports is to work for a team/league partner. Companies like Verizon, Coke, Pepsi, General Motors, Papa John’s pizza, DirecTV, Sony, General Motors, Visa, Gatorade, Bridgestone, Bose, FedEx, Mars, and even Microsoft. When applying for a job with one of these companies, specifically ask to be on the sports interactive side of their business.

3) Seek an internship while you are young: The best time to land an internship is actually while you are still in college. I helped a friend’s son land a pre-season camp internship with the Raiders sixteen years ago. After he graduated and four camps later, he was offered a job in their scouting department. He is now going on his 12th season (with another team) and just got promoted.

People in the business love helping young college kids more so than older job seekers. If you are older and have some work experience you may want to explore other fields that work with athletes such as: Agents, marketers, accountants, financial consultants, concierge client services, or real estate.

4) Be creative in making contact and getting in front of a person of hiring power. Send correspondences to department heads (ex: Scouting directors, facility managers that you want to work for). Also, send a personal letter to their assistants, who are usually very protective so it’s important to win them over. And that’s the key; win them over by getting their attention by standing apart. I once hired a guy who sent me a hand written letter every day for 26 days (don’t try this on me, it’s not original to me but it may be to others). So how do you do that? Stand out. If you send a cover letter and a resume to a team, league or company, you will be like 95% of everyone looking for a sports job. However, if you do something different you will stand out.

5) Just about everyone loves sports and alot of people want to work in the industry. Because there is such a buyers market for sports employers, jobs are hard to land, hours are long and the work is not as glamorous as people think. When you see the end product on TV it looks like it’s amazing and fun to be a part of. Truth be told, working in sports means you are probably sandwiched between the needs and agenda of demanding and powerful high profile individuals (coaches, players, owners). So before you dive in the shark-infested pool of landing a sports job, be realistic about what you are getting into.

Most people make the mistake of choosing a career without matching it against the lifestyle they want for themselves. Sports careers are demanding, stressful, and competitive, be sure it’s the right career for you. 

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta  

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Why rookie deals are getting done!

Over the last thirty years, most rookie deals were negotiated within about two weeks prior to the start of pre-season camp. In 1996, I got Eagles’ 1st rounder Jermane Mayberry done about mid-June. He was only the 2nd pick done in the round, only one of about ten within the first four rounds and

Over the last thirty years, most rookie deals were negotiated within about two weeks prior to the start of pre-season camp. In 1996, I got Eagles’ 1st rounder Jermane Mayberry done about mid-June. He was only the 2nd pick done in the round, only one of about ten within the first four rounds and the media was shocked we got a deal done so soon.

As of this post, we have over 60% of the draft picks signed and I suspect it will be 75% plus by the end of May. 80% of first round picks, prior to the new CBA, usually got inked right before or after the start of camp.

So why is this happening?

1) For one, the new CBA signed in 2011 has been streamlined and simplified the rookie deals. Previously, agents could negotiate multiple components of the contracts. Today, there are only a few worth haggling over. Secondly, the variance between slot/pick to slot/pick is tightening up and becoming more and more predictable each and every year. For example, if the rookie pool of dollars allocated by the agreed upon (NFL and NFLPA) formula barely increased by a percent or two, then the rookie deals will have a built in increase in the minimum base salaries only and the signing bonuses will remain static. So for simplicity reasons, in 2014 a mid-second round pick will have an identical signing bonus as that same slot received in 2013. The only change in his year one formula allotment amount will be $15,000, the amount the minimum base increased from 2013 for a rookie ($420,000 in 2014).

2) Salary cap managers and agents are both incentivized by the marketplace to build congruency and consistency of all slots’ specific compensation for each pick. In doing so, we get draft picks under contract quicker, less time is spent haggling and front office execs can have vacations in late June and July without having several deals still hanging over them. Head coaches don’t have to wonder if their top picks will report on time and it also eliminates media circuses that come along with holdouts.

Now don’t get me wrong, negotiations between teams and agents aren’t easy lay-ups. A disagreement on splitting contracts amounts for a player being on the Injured Reserved vs the 53-man roster, the payout schedule of signing bonus, what determines if a player receives a credited season when put on injured reserve and if there is a $1,000 difference or a $100,000 difference, trust me, it will be fought over.

3) Theoretically speaking, rookie deals should get done earlier and earlier every year going forward under this CBA. However, when a substantial double-digit bump comes to the salary cap and the rookie salary pools, the margins will substantially widen from one year to next, thus giving agents and cap managers more dollars to haggle over.

Furthermore, as what happened under the last CBA, over time, more and more dollars migrated from the overall pool for all picks into the first round. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this slowly happen again. It only takes one outlier deal to start a trend and/or disturb the rhythm or dollars distributed fairly.

As a side note, ironically, owners still aren’t quick to dish out the signing bonuses earned by the players. Many owners and top execs don’t want to see 22 year old players running around all summer with cash burning a hole in their pocket for the first time in their lives. Even liberal owner Jerry Jones believes keeping money out of the players’ pockets will also keep them out of trouble.

4) Many of the agents and salary cap managers have pretty much grew up in the business together. We know each other well, socialize at the Combine and all star games and most likely have done many deals before so there is an element of trust that already exists.

To date, I have half of my rookie deals done. One deal is being held up because it is an “outlier”, meaning there is a component of the proposed contract that the team wants in there but no other pick in that round has the same component. The team says they have always done the deal this particular way in that round. However, as the agent, it’s still not fair for the player to have something less than what his peers will/did get. This is an example of what holds up deals from getting done. All other terms may already be agreed upon but it can be just one term that prevents the deal from being signed.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 Things Every Rookie Should Do

To be successful in the NFL, rookies have to work hard, study film, make sacrifices and take care of their body like a Formula 1 race car. For a player to get drafted, he already must be doing many of these things. It’s elementary that hard work and focus while under the eyes of

To be successful in the NFL, rookies have to work hard, study film, make sacrifices and take care of their body like a Formula 1 race car. For a player to get drafted, he already must be doing many of these things. It’s elementary that hard work and focus while under the eyes of a coaching staff will lead to getting an opportunity and having a decent NFL career.

A player’s genetic make up and his talent gets him in the NFL door, but what usually exits them prematurely is what they do on their own time away from the facility. The formula to having a prolonged NFL career can be simple but also hard to stay committed to because of temptation, distractions, bad advice and/or even the weight of family and friends wanting to ride along the journey.

Here are 5 ways rookies can maximize their opportunity to have a successful rookie season:

1) Do not put anything in your body without doing the research first:

The stakes are high (getting and keeping a job), and players are always looking for an edge. They want to be more alert, get bigger, faster and stronger. Unfortunately, there are alot of products that promise they can deliver on safe, natural, and clean performance enhancement. The truth however is that many over-the-counter supplement companies farm out the production of their products and/or use the same vats and processes to produce all their products. In doing so, they can’t guarantee what’s actually in their products.

In regards to prescription drugs, there is protocol for the use of such drugs that rookie players (even Vets) aren’t clear on how it works. So it’s best not to take anything without talking to their team doctor, trainer and/or agent first.

So to be safe, don’t put anything; I mean anything in your body, with the exception of an NSF certified product like EAS or an informed choice product like Advocare, even then always use the NFLPA resources to check the products label/ingredients, as nothing is 100% guaranteed.

2) Stay off Twitter and Instagram:

In the movie “Draft Day”, there was a line about twitter and how much teams hate when players use it. It’s so true, especially for young players. NFL teams can’t take away a players right to express himself socially but they can and will encourage them not to.

When Jim Harbaugh was at Stanford, he was a twitter darling with the opportunity to exponentially grow his personal following by millions upon taking the Niners job. Growing a massive following can translate into endorsement dollars. However, Jim quit twitter once the Niners hired him. He told me, “It’s not something he wanted to encourage his players to do and didn’t want to be a hypocrite by still doing it.”

Many of the Patriots players also avoid twitter because they know Belichick can’t stand it. The NFL is very competitive and teams don’t want anything proprietary leaked to the general public.

Furthermore, when a player voices his personal opinion of football and non-football matters, an unpopular tweet can mean damage control for a team. GMs, owners and head coaches despise dropping what they are doing and going into damage control mode. So it’s just best for rookies to stay away until they’ve been in the league for a few years and have established themselves. Even then, I would advise to limit the use of all social media tools.

If a young player is compelled to use social media, use it to bring attention to the community, charitable causes, congratulating teammates, promoting the team, and/or to thank well-wishers.

3) Don’t believe the advice you get in the locker room:

If NFL players collectively have high rates of bankruptcy/going broke (75%), divorces, and/or many social mishaps, they probably aren’t a good resource for advice.

On the contrary, NFL players do take good care of each other and there are a few guys worth listening to. I had a mid round pick last year that ended up playing a lot and looks to have a promising future. By mid season, veteran teammates were making fun of him for driving his old beat up college car. They were actually “encouraging” him to buy a car costing over $60,000 and up to $100,000. He held off until after the season and bought a modestly priced Jeep and he’s very happy with it.

It’s okay to take advice from vets on certain matters but always get a second opinion from someone else you trust.

4) Live like your peers and don’t forget who they are:

I encourage my players to live below their means and don’t mirror the lifestyle of their teammates. I also remind them that their peer group are those they graduated college with and not the players in the locker-room. The locker room that’s full of temporary millionaires is an apparition not to be mimicked. Young players have to pull into a work parking lot every day full of $100,000 plus vehicles, admire millions of dollars worth of jewelry and watches being adorned daily, and thousand of dollars being gambled away. It’s easy to get sucked into the lifestyle.

I remind my clients that their peers are making between $40,000 and $65,000 a year right out of college. They are making ends meet while trying to build a career. In addition, an NFL career can be over in an instant and the odds say the average player will only last about three or four years. Therefore, when the urge to splurge creeps in, just remember you are already exponentially way ahead of them financially but there will be a time your first job after football will be equivalent to where your peers started when they graduated.

5) Limit your social activities:

Once you become an NFL player you will be asked to participate in every social event on the planet. Unfortunately rookies have a hard time saying “No!” The problem is when you over-commit, you have no idea how it will affect you until later.

Weddings, bachelor parties, fundraisers, golf tournaments and family gatherings usually are abundant and concentrated from April through July. These are also the months where rookies need to focus on learning the playbook and getting their body ready for the longest season of their life.

When a rookie commits to these events they don’t realize that each commit involves a flight (or long drive), three to four days, lots of drinking and eating, and everyone wanting more and more of their time. This results in losing traction on workouts, good nutrition, and rest. Even just attending one wedding and two golf tournaments in June or July equates to about twelve lost days of taking good care of the body and getting deeper into the playbook.

Players can still attend some of these things but instead of making a long weekend out of it they can do local events and limit it to one day and maybe a night.

Two years ago, I sat down with one of my clients and we added up his dead days (days spent traveling, weddings, golf tournaments, or bachelor party, etc.). We estimated he had about twenty-five dead days between June 1 and camp. This didn’t even count his personal vacation time.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Post Draft Notes

So how much will the Rookies make?:

Here is what the 2013 picks were paid (*note these amounts will increase with the 2014 cap increase):

1st Round
1st Pick: Total Compensation (TC): $ 22,190,498     Signing Bonus (SB): $14,518,544
16th Pick: TC: $8,885,300     SB: $4,842,036

2nd

So how much will the Rookies make?:

Here is what the 2013 picks were paid (*note these amounts will increase with the 2014 cap increase):

1st Round
1st Pick: Total Compensation (TC): $ 22,190,498     Signing Bonus (SB): $14,518,544
16th Pick: TC: $8,885,300     SB: $4,842,036

2nd Round
1st Pick: TC: $5,469,104     SB: $2,357,528
16th Pick: TC: $4,300,401     SB: $1,507,564

3rd Round
1st Pick: TC: $3,126,304     SB: $703,304
16th Pick: TC: $2,853,876     SB: $598,876

4th Round
1st Pick: TC: $2,739,528     SB: $497,028
16th Pick: TC: $2,605,200     SB: $445,200

5th Round
1st Pick: TC: $2,400,512     SB: $215,512
16th Pick: TC: $2,351,160     SB: $191,160

6th Round
1st Pick: TC: $2,288,820     SB: $128,820
16th Pick: TC: $2,264,852     SB: $104,852

7th Round
1st Pick: TC: $2,254,124     SB: $69,124
16th Pick: TC: $2,219,172     SB: $59,172

Teams will try to spread the signing bonus for each player over a year or two. The Cardinals try to spread their signing bonuses to be paid over three years for no other reason then to hoard their cash as long as possible. Agents will negotiate the payout of bonuses.

Slips and reaches:

It pains me to hear the word “slip” and “reach” by the talking heads in the media. I’m curious as to how many times the words “slide”, “sliding”, “slipping”, and “falling” were used in describing Johnny Manziel, and Teddy Bridgewater during the first round of the draft? Answer: Too many times! Furthermore, ESPN loves having a player “fall” each year to create some made for TV drama at the expense and pain of a hopeful draftee.

In reality, there is no such thing as “slips and reaches” on draft day (weekend). Players go to the team that wants and needs them at a certain pick. Teams have to calculate the risk of waiting another 31 picks to get the player (and/or a position) they covet. Certain players fit certain offensive schemes better than others. The character, medical and football IQ of a player is more important to some teams than others. Our noted mock draft experts don’t always have the same intelligence the teams have so they may rank them differently than a team would. So the only way a player can be judged as to be a “slide or a reach” is about three years from now after we get to see how they’ve developed and played.

Post draft grades:

I hate seeing teams get draft grades by the media. Why isn’t anyone grading drafts 3 or 4 years later? That’s the only time a team can be accurately graded on their draft. When the Pats drafted Tom Brady in the 6th round in 2000, they should have received an A+ that year, but only after Tom played. Post draft grades are worthless!

Note to ESPN and the NFL Network:

Please spend less time on repeated storylines and more time on the picks themselves. When the Cowboys take a player in the 5th round or the Jaguars take a 2nd rounder, their fan bases want to know more about the player and why their team possibly took them. They want to know that with the size of the receivers and TEs Tampa took, it’s going to put pressure on the Falcons, Saints and Panthers safety positions. More importantly, these young men work their whole lives to get to this dream moment (getting drafted in any round) so give those players some TV time and introduce them to their new fan bases. Do your homework and tell us more about these players.

The NFL fan is more knowledgeable than the networks give them credit. They don’t need the same storylines regurgitated over and over, give them deeper coverage on the players and their team.

Congratulations to all the draft picks, undrafted free agents and my clients and their families. Here’s hoping you make the best of your opportunity.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Three 2014 NFL Draft musings

The draft belongs in April

Every single NFL GM, coach, scout, director and agent I’ve spoken to lately CAN’T STAND the fact that the draft was moved back two weeks. As one GM put it to me yesterday, “these two weeks have thrown off the yearly cycle. It just doesn’t feel right having

The draft belongs in April

Every single NFL GM, coach, scout, director and agent I’ve spoken to lately CAN’T STAND the fact that the draft was moved back two weeks. As one GM put it to me yesterday, “these two weeks have thrown off the yearly cycle. It just doesn’t feel right having this thing in May.”

We all know that the NFL Network, NFL.com, 32 team sites and the NFL broadcasting partners get an economic boost by having content to stretch out into May. But for the players it’s just another two weeks of agonizing waiting while every media outlet gets into “picking apart mode”. As another GM put it to me a few days ago, “Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton did it right by going to Vegas for a weekend and clearing their heads. I wish I thought of that!”

The recruiting of undrafted free agents has already begun

Under the salary cap, undrafted free agents are an extremely valuable commodity. If a team can find starters from this group, it’s the cheapest player money can buy and it adds flexibility to the overall salary cap for a team. Teams are well aware of this and the recruiting wars are reaching new heights.

I have two clients (out of five) this year that may be undrafted. Both of them, and myself, have been getting recruiting calls from scouting directors, area scouts and position coaches. The calls consist of making a case as to why they should sign with their team if undrafted.

Recruiting styles vary from team to team. Some teams let their area scouts do most of the talking, as they know this group the best. The area scout will call the agent and player and make the pitch. Some are doing it now, others during the draft (Thursday, Friday, Saturday), and others wait until the last round to begin.

Some other methods we are seeing this year:

There is an AFC North Division head coach who is texting players every day, and has been for a few weeks. This team is also sending out t-shirts and gloves to players along with a letter. Several teams around the league are using similar tactics. They will start calling players/agents about the sixth or seventh round.

The most frequent method of recruiting is simply built on relationships between front office execs and the agent. Nothing is more potent than someone you trust making an early pitch for one of your players. It really comes down to trust. A good agent will ask tough questions about position depth and available roster spots. Some deals may already be done if the player is not drafted.

The Seahawks are making their innovative pitch directly to the agents and backing it up with retention and playtime numbers. On Tuesday of this week they sent out a breakdown of stats of what happens to any undrafted free agent they have signed since the dynamic duo of HC Carroll and GM Schneider has taken over (the last 4 seasons). Here’s a summary;

Average Preseason playtime of an Undrafted Free Agent (Off. & Def.):
2010: 20.1%
2011: 17.9%
2012: 20.6%
2013: 36.2% (Seahawks ranked #1)

Undrafted Free Agents on Active Roster since 2010
– 68 total signings with 15 making the active roster
– 22% of undrafted free agents made the active roster in Seattle since 2010 (Ranks 8th in the NFL over that span)

The Seahawks are making a very powerful statement to agents with these numbers as the best place for any undrafted free agent they call on to sign.

Seasoned agents will already have a short list of teams that best fit their clients’ skill set. The list is based on opportunity in place at a given team. For example, the Buccaneers have a new GM, Head Coach and staff. Therefore, they have a clean slate and every player in camp will be a new face to the decision makers. The tendency of new GMs and head coaches is to clean house. So the Bucs may be a good landing spot for an undrafted free agent this year that fits either their offensive or defensive scheme. And not to mention, with only 6 draft picks and only room to sign about 10 free agents based on their current roster size, each player can get an $8,000 signing bonus on average under the rookie pool cap.

I usually place all teams with a brand new regime high on the short list if the opportunity is there at my client’s position.

2014 is the “character draft”

This year more emphasis will be put on the draftees’ character than just about anything else (with the exception of medical). For decades, character flaws were usually overshadowed by height, weight, speed and production. Not this year. After the mess in Miami, the Hernandez situations, and other high profile social and domestic slip-ups by several players, GMs will err on the side of begin cautious. I know that several teams are developing a zero tolerance policy towards players with character issues. Others are moving highly rated players way down the board because of suspicious activity in college and/or high school.

One AFC South team is going the extra mile in checking the background of players on their draft board. They are asking for social security numbers and really going way back and digging deep. If you see a player slip, it may be because of a medical issue or that there was a skeleton found in his closet.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Unwrapping the Draft

1) The Clowney Hype: In my 28 years as an NFL agent (my adult life) I’ve never seen a player hyped, talked about, promoted and worshiped as much as I’ve seen Jadeveon Clowney prior to the 2013 season. This kid has been described as “a once in a decade player”, “once in a lifetime

1) The Clowney Hype: In my 28 years as an NFL agent (my adult life) I’ve never seen a player hyped, talked about, promoted and worshiped as much as I’ve seen Jadeveon Clowney prior to the 2013 season. This kid has been described as “a once in a decade player”, “once in a lifetime talent”, “can’t miss franchise player”, “the next Lawrence Taylor”, “unblockable”, and “a physical freak”.

After this college season, Jadeveon has also been described as “lazy, spoiled, underachieving and selfish”.

What I’m trying to say is there isn’t a player in college football that could have lived up to this hype.

Let’s put things in perspective. Did Clowney start believing some of the headlines written about him last year and take his foot off the gas? Probably. It’s only human nature, as he just tuned 21 years old in February of this year. He’s still just a kid, he’s susceptible to doing so as any young vulnerable kid would be.

Secondly, defensive coordinators were also reading the hype as well and spent the summer game planning Clowney. I know for a fact that QBs have been told to shorten their drops when playing against him. Tight ends were told to stay in or chip him and help the tackle. Some teams assigned running backs to him as well.

Jadeveon did not write the headlines himself. He didn’t ask for it, the media put him on a tall pedestal and every coach and player he faced last season spent more time than they normally would on bringing him down. This player is human and most likely learned he has to work harder and never take his foot off the gas.

2) Where are the QBs going? There has been a lot written about this year’s QB class. Many of the people I speak to around the NFL don’t see the QBs going as high as the media and draftniks are projecting. Why is this? For one, when a QB is drafted within the top 10 picks there is an expectation that he is to be a franchise savior. GMs and head coaches don’t like to paint themselves in a corner by making such a pick. It can disrupt the team’s chemistry, negatively affect the current starter’s confidence and divide the locker-room. Don’t expect five or six QBs to be drafted in the first round as many of the mock drafts are projecting.

3) Draft Day, the movie: Not very good, predictable, bad casting and average acting at best. To its credit there were a few reality moments.

For one, when a draft pick is capable of making a “splash” (ex; Johnny Manziel) as an early first round pick, owners usually have a hand in promoting it internally. Owners see their team as a product they must sell to a fan base, so they want the face that helps make the team an easy sell.

Secondly, tension between head coaches and GMs usually have their makings on draft day. Coaches simply work on a different plane than the GMs. Coaches think more about winning right away and GMs think more about the long term and development of a player. It’s not uncommon for coaches to undermine and discredit their GM boss this time of year. The beginning of divorces usually have their beginning around draft time.

Thirdly, the emotions of players on draft day are truly running at an all-time high. The film did a good job of capturing some of them. Draftees have a lot of downtime this time of year to listen to the media, family and friends shout in their ears about how great they are going to be. They’ve worked their whole life for this moment and where they end up (unlike college) is completely out of their control.

4) Reading into team visits/private workouts: Advice, don’t read anything into team visits/workouts. One year, I had a client visit 15 teams and the one who drafted him (33rd overall) didn’t give him a private workout or a visit.

There are some teams who don’t want to bring any attention to who they like so they just bring in guys who they have questions on (medical, character, football IQ).

5) Two extra weeks of diligence: I personally believe the May draft is here to stay. It was moved because of an alleged scheduling conflict but I believe it’s all about the contiguous stretching of the NFL product into a year round product. The NFL Network needs content and the draft engages all 32 fan bases.

Having two extra weeks to prepare for the draft probably means, absolutely nothing.

In 2002, the Houston Texans had almost two full years to prepare for their 13 pick draft. They had the luxury of watching a draft class for two years, not having a season and had nothing to do but focus on the draft. This is what they did:

Round 1/ Pick 1: David Carr, QB (Fresno State)
Round 2/ Pick 33: Jabar Gaffney, WR (Florida)
Round 2/ Pick 50: Chester Pitts, OG (San Diego State)
Round 3/ Pick 66: Fred Weary, OG (Tennessee)
Round 3/ Pick 83: Charles Hill, DT (Maryland)
Round 4/ Pick 99: Jonathan Wells, RB (Ohio State)
Round 5/ Pick 136: Jarrod Baxter, FB (New Mexico)
Round 5/ Pick 153: Ramon Walker, S (Pittsburgh)
Round 6/ Pick 173: Demarcus Faggins, CB (Kansas State)
Round 6/ Pick 190: Howard Green, DT (LSU)
Round 6/ Supplemental Pick: Milford Brown, OG (Florida State)
Round 7/ Pick 229: Greg White, DE (Minnesota)
Round 7/ Pick 261: Ahmad Miller, DT (UNLV)

Needless to say, they didn’t hit on many. So whether a team has an extra two weeks or two years to prepare, time is irrelevant or can maybe even cause teams to start second guessing themselves.

With all the hype going on around the draft you would be surprised how boring some draft war rooms will be. The draft is now a sensationalized spring show that has a life all its own. Oh and don’t forget that after the draft each team will be graded by the media on their draft picks, all who have yet played a down.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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What mock drafts lack

I once had a client, DT Jim Hoffman of the famed early 1990’s Desert Swarm defense, listed in USA Today as going in the first round. He went undrafted because of an undisclosed knee issue discovered at the Combine.

An NFC North GM told me in 2010, a day before the draft that

I once had a client, DT Jim Hoffman of the famed early 1990’s Desert Swarm defense, listed in USA Today as going in the first round. He went undrafted because of an undisclosed knee issue discovered at the Combine.

An NFC North GM told me in 2010, a day before the draft that my client, Iowa LB Pat Angerer would most likely go late round or undrafted. The Colts drafted him in the 2nd round.

Last year multiple writers at bleacherreport.com had Geno Smith going 2nd overall in the first round. He was picked 37 slots later at number 39 in the 2nd round.

Some mock draft boards last year had QB Matt Barkley still going late in the first round. He was a 4th round draft pick.

In 2005, the most well known media draft experts had Pro Bowl Patriots OL Login Mankins rated as low as a 5th round pick. Others had him as a 3rd or 4th rounder. He was drafted in the first round. Mankins and these other examples of how most mock drafts are off the mark, are not outlier examples. They are the typical norm of how inaccurate mock drafts can be.

I’m not picking on any one draft expert or media outlet, everybody, including this site has had its major misses.

Each year, prior to the draft, I have to realistically set my clients and their families’ draft expectations. There is nothing worse than a player having a draft party on Thursday (1st round) and/or Friday (2nd and 3rd rounds), thinking he is going to have his named called in front of his friends and family. These depressing settings, which are usually inspired by mock drafts (along with a dash of the players’ ego and a spoonful an agent’s optimism), result in a very negative embarrassing draft day experience.

So why are mock drafts so misleading? I will tell you why:

The draftees’ medical condition: There is not one so-called draft expert or media outlet that has access to all the players’ medical information. A well connected former NFL evaluator such as Greg Gabriel, Daniel Jeremiah, Charlie Casserly, and/or a even a well-liked Mike Mayock, may get some whispers on which players are damaged goods. But the fact is that college medical files and Combine physicals are not for public consumption. Actually, if any of this information was released to the public without the player’s permission, it could mean lawsuits for anyone who does.

Another interesting fact about medical information is that different teams have different tolerances for different injuries. For example, my retired client OL Eric Steinbach (2003 33rd overall pick) was red flagged by several teams for having a bad knee and was moved way down their draft boards. Other teams never saw an issue. He played 9 years only missing six games on that knee before retiring due to a back issue.

Furthermore, teams rarely ever share medical findings with agents and players.

Seasoned area scouts can also get medical information from college trainers or coaches they have good relationships with. This information rarely trickles down to the media draft experts.

Medical information also includes drug testing for performing enhancing drugs, stimulants, and other banned substances. 

Character/work ethic: With the exception of those who work for NFL media partners, most draftniks don’t even get college coaching tape but just some TV or highlights film, nor do they attend the all-star games and/or Combine and/or pro days.

In addition, they don’t have access to the players’ college coaches who know the players well. Some draftees may be great game day playmakers but they may lack intangibles that will help them excel in the NFL over a sustainable amount of time.

Character, work ethic, and their love of the game will ultimately determine the depth of a draftee’s career. Talent may get you on a draft board but the intangibles will determine how long you play in the league.

Most top NFL evaluators/scouts have access to coaches throughout college football. This helps them to collect detailed information about each and every player in the draft. Not all teams are complete in this area but most do the diligence needed to see the whole picture of a player’s make-up. So while the mock drafts have a player ranked high or low based solely on their talent and production alone, team draft boards have accounted for the intangibles as well.

Football IQ and fit: There are players who did horribly on the Wonderlic, don’t come across as intelligent but have amazing football IQs. This may be one of the toughest areas for evaluators to project and some teams do a better job at it than others. There are players in each draft who struggled learning their college playbook. Those same players will struggle even more at the next level. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NFL is an impatient league and they want fast learners.

As for “team fit”, some LBs and DBs just aren’t good fits for most schemes. The same goes for some TEs and RBs. Players who are one-dimensional wont have draft values as high as other players who are multi-dimensional. Most draftniks don’t have the personal experience and football IQ to project a player to be a fit for all 32 teams.

So while some draft experts have great experience, watch hours of film, and have an eye for evaluating, they simply don’t have the same buckets of information that teams have on draft prospects. So while entertaining and sometimes accurate on the beginning of the first round, don’t take projections of a player too seriously.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Resetting the draft board

Now that all the hype associated with the shorts and underwear Olympics (Combine, pro days and individual workouts) is over, a reset of evaluating draftees is underway. It’s time to sober up!

During the football season, the majority of GMs, and all the coaches are immersed with the day to day of running

Now that all the hype associated with the shorts and underwear Olympics (Combine, pro days and individual workouts) is over, a reset of evaluating draftees is underway. It’s time to sober up!

During the football season, the majority of GMs, and all the coaches are immersed with the day to day of running the franchise and trying win. For ten months, the focus is on shaping a roster, managing and having answers for injuries, claiming, cutting, forward scouting, self-evaluation, hiring/firing coaches, budgeting the cap, signing/resigning vets, free agency and dealing with the media. Although the decision makers attend the Combine and the Senior Bowl their focus is on managing the big picture, not specifically just on 500 potential draftees.

I represent five draft picks this year and I, like many other seasoned agents, are working hard to get teams to focus on my clients and their individual traits, resume and story. It’s a lot like campaigning. We know the evaluation process from team to team is imperfect. If it were even 75% accurate there would be no real “bust”, no underachieving 1st round picks, and every middle round pick would become a eventual starter. Unfortunately, it is a process driven by human nature and emotions with lots of noise and distractions.

On that note, do football decision makers listen to agents? Most do, some don’t! Do they listen to their own area scouts who usually know players the best? Most do, some don’t. Do they make pressured emotionally driven picks influenced by hype, the media, their owners and their coaches? Many do, some don’t. However, this is the time in the process where things start to settle down for the top decision makers and they can focus on the draft picks without many distractions.

This is the time of year where everybody starts hunkering down in draft meetings and focusing on the draftees. Most important of all, it’s the time where everyone gets back to watching tape and giving the draftees the attention that they deserve.

Watching more and more tape starts to erase any hype and helps to clear out the biases that develop during the Combine, pro days and individual workouts in shorts. Emotions start to settle while the debates, discussions and rechecks on players’ character, health and intelligence takes center stage. While the media is still hanging on to bad pro days or a negative one liner by a talking head expert, the best evaluators are letting the tape influence them the most.

It’s also the time where area scouts make their pilgrimage back to headquarters to voice their opinions. As a side note, some organizations really let their area scouts have a lot of input on shaping final grades for a team’s draft board. Others simply take the information they’ve gathered and say “we’ll take it from here”. The latter styles are usually detrimental to a team having success on draft day. 

In a few weeks, we will also have the medical recheck in Indianapolis. For any player, who has suffered an injury, is recovering from an injury or there is suspicion of a serious medical issue, they will be flown to see team doctors and be reexamined. Those findings are then sent to each and every team. For those teams who really do their homework and dive into the details of the medical issues they will find players who many teams have red flagged but by now are completely healed.

A player such as my client OT James Hurst from UNC is a great example. After playing in and starting most of 49 straight games for the Tar Heels, he suffered a non-displaced fibula fracture in his left ankle in his bowl game/last game of his college career. The injury took him out of playing in the Senior Bowl, participating in drills at the Combine and only being about 80% back to form for his pro day. Prior to his injury James was consistently in the conversation for being a top 5 O-lineman pick. Now 100% healthy, only those teams going in to work him out and revisit the medical will reset his proper draft value

Many teams don’t peel the onion back enough and/or are too lazy to go back and learn the details of the medical issues. Those teams who do, end up getting steals on players that other teams still have discounts on due to a perceived medical issue that has been cleared up.

Other teams are diligent about calling college coaches, trainers, strength coaches and agents to get even more details on character, work ethic, football IQ, and leadership traits. Once again, those teams who do get rewarded with additional intelligence will have more success on the majority of their picks.

There are teams in the NFL who are consistent in hitting on about 75% of their draft picks. Most teams are happy with hitting on 50%. Those who are successful aren’t swayed by: hype, average or sensational testing numbers, one big national game, a few highlight plays, their owners or even their own coaches. The successful drafting teams tune out all the noise, keep digging and digging, debating, and keep watching more film right up the last day before the draft.

This is the time of the year where the college players who were great on film will start stealthily rising back to where they belong.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Draft Myths

We in the trenches of the industry get plenty of laughs this time of year. The amount of speculation, sensationalism and misinformation floating around is entertaining. The NFL Network, ESPN, team beat writers, bloggers and websites have to keep football season alive. To do so, they have to get your attention. So when it

We in the trenches of the industry get plenty of laughs this time of year. The amount of speculation, sensationalism and misinformation floating around is entertaining. The NFL Network, ESPN, team beat writers, bloggers and websites have to keep football season alive. To do so, they have to get your attention. So when it comes to the draft, don’t believe anything you hear or read from now until draft day.

Here are a few draft related headlines I read recently that are trying to get your attention:

“Chiefs can steal perfect QB in 3rd round”: First of all, any QB drafted in the 3rd round is not a steal. QBs, regardless of where they are drafted take some time to develop. Furthermore, the concept of a “steal” is over going into the players 4th season when the team has to pay up on a new deal. Who knows what QB will be available in the 3rd round?

Manziel made good impression during Raiders visits: Of course he made a good impression. He’s a charismatic, confident and can talk football with anyone. 95% of all players make great impressions on their team visits. We agents make sure of that. Furthermore, a team isn’t going to tell a national reporter the guy made a horrible impression. Trying to match the Raiders to Manziel on a visit comment is well, entertainment.

When a team brings a player in for a visit that most likely means they already love him. Or maybe his pro day was during the owners meetings and the GM and HC couldn’t make it and want to visit with him just to ensure a comfort level.

Player X’s stock is slipping due to poor pro day: (not going to use his name) Representing three to five new draft picks every year I hate seeing these types of headlines. Some poor kid and his family are trying to live out their dream and some reporter/writer/blogger, who most likely wasn’t even in attendance, is announcing to the world that his dream is being slowly crushed. Firstly, pro days count very little towards a players overall value. If a high-profile draftnik like Mayock or Kiper make one negative comment about one component of the player’s pro day, the lemmings follow suit.

Some First round sleepers to keep your eye on: It’s extremely difficult for players to hide these days. Players do fall through the cracks of the system, but true sleepers don’t get drafted in the first 4 rounds. Any players drafted in these rounds are most likely on all 32 draft boards. A sleeper is an unknown player who flies deep under the radar. Actually many NFL people will tell you there is no such thing as a sleeper. Lets take Tom Brady for example. Tom was on many draft boards as a late rounder or undrafted free agent. However, there was a consensus around the league that he needed time to get bigger and stronger. Therefore, if you drafted him, he couldn’t help your team right away you so don’t draft him high. Had the Pats not drafted him another team would have before the draft was over.

A sleeper is a player who when one team takes him in the late rounds, about twenty teams are asking, “who the hell is that”. The sleeper pick or undrafted player is usually the work of a seasoned area scout. Area scouts know they can’t fight for every single player they like, so they usually pick one they have a special feeling about. They then recruit the director and coaches to watch film until he can get everyone to agree they want him.

I once had Jerry Angelo, then the scouting director for the Bucs, tell me to go to East Texas State and sign a safety named Curtis Buckley. Jerry told me this guy could turn out to be a great special teams player. I found him and signed him. There were no other agents pursuing him and only two teams I spoke to knew him. He made the Bucs in year one and went on to several Pro Bowls as a special teamer.

Other notable sleepers: Broncos RB Terrell Davis – A transfer from Long Beach State to Georgia, where he played in the shadow of RB Garrison Hearst and was often injured his senior year. Many NFL teams wrote him off as a major medical risk.

Vikings and HOF DT John Randle is my favorite sleeper of all time. The Bucs actually had him as an undrafted free agent but he didn’t fit their scheme so they let him go a few weeks after the draft. The Vikings regional scout named Fitzpatrick loved him and brought him in. The Vikes were one of the first teams to run the 3-4 which John’s skill set was a perfect fit. Now that’s a true sleeper.

So enjoy the entertainment for the next month.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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The dam is going to break

There are sweeping changes coming down the pike for college sports, specifically for football and basketball. This movement has been turbo charged by the actions of the Northwestern current and former players and will accelerate in the near future. The right attorneys are lining up to pressure the NCAA and universities to

There are sweeping changes coming down the pike for college sports, specifically for football and basketball. This movement has been turbo charged by the actions of the Northwestern current and former players and will accelerate in the near future. The right attorneys are lining up to pressure the NCAA and universities to make sweeping changes.

I believe the average college football fan will initially be appalled by tampering with one of the great last pure amateur sports. However, if the traditionalist/purist will listen to the facts I believe they will stand behind the student athletes in the quest for adjusting the current system.

I know from the outside looking in you think college athletes have it made with free tuition, books, room/board, popularity, playing on TV and a chance to go to the pros. Well that’s what the NCAA and conferences want you to see. However, there is so much you don’t see outside of Saturdays in the fall and winter months.

This is what you don’t see and needs to be addressed:

Medical issues and treatment: I suffered three concussions in college, one so bad I didn’t know any of my teammates’ names for 24 hours or even what state I was in. I never saw a specialist and was back at practice three days later with a splitting headache. This is very typical of how college football players get treated. While many universities and their coaches have just recently progressed, the medical treatment for student athletes is subpar throughout most programs.

Most university protocol relies on student-athletes to use their own insurance if insured and will supplement with university insurance on a need basis. You would be surprised to learn how rarely a student athlete will NOT be given an MRI because of the time and high cost involved with the test. The superstar QB or RB may get one but the rank and file players rarely ever do. Most NFL Combine attendees for example are damaged goods. After four seasons, the many injuries and the year round pounding they sustained get uncovered only after they declare for the draft.

NFL players have rights to a second opinion and are able to choose their own surgeon for care. College players have very little control as to who they can choose for their care (this does vary from college to college now with Alabama for example getting a top specialist on call).

Many football players will leave college football with battered bodies from the toll of camp, the season, spring ball and year-round strength and conditioning programs, but will have little recourse for ongoing medical care once they leave the university. I have NFL clients whose careers were cut short by injuries they sustained in college that finally caught up to them. Every college player I know from my generation until today has some kind of ailment they are living with and have to manage on their own. Football is a brutal sport and does leave a lifelong scar on the body.

Full-time year round employees: That is what college football players really are. Here’s the facts: During the season a college football player puts in about 32 to 40 hours a week dedicated to football activities during the season and camp. During the spring it may be about twenty hours a week on average. This does not count any classroom, studying or tutorial time. In contrast, a student who is awarded an academic scholarship is just required to go to class and maintain a certain grade point average.

In the summer, college players aren’t required to go to summer school or workout but guess what; they all do because it is expected of them. I’ve never met a player who didn’t attend summer school and spend just about four to five days every summer week working out on the field and in the weight room. If a player bucks the system he will most likely lose his starting job or scholarship as the coaches keep an unofficial record of who is there and who is not. College football players don’t get to visit Europe in the summer like most college students. Spring ball usually starts right after spring break just to deter players from going and letting loose for a week like every other student in America.

Billions of dollars are filling the coffers of college football and basketball. That money usually trickles down to support other non-income producing sports, facilities, alumni/donor boxes, coaches and administration salaries. Why shouldn’t players get a little more of the money they are producing? A few extra dollars a week, better training tables, premium medical care during and after playing, rights to partial jersey sales and/or endorsement income, free masters program cost, and other benefits typical employees of the university may receive.

This formula of trading a scholarship for play is outdated, insufficient and even unfair to the athlete. If the big conferences, their universities and the NCAA doesn’t get proactive on these matters the dam will break on them. College football players need a seat at the table which they never had. If the powers that be aren’t careful the courts are not only going to give players a seat but may force them to give players all the seats.  

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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Imperfect Pro Days

For a draft prospect who played a full season, attended an all-star game and the Combine, pro day will only count as a small part (5% to 20%) of his overall draft grade. However, for those who didn’t, it’s their Super Bowl and their only opportunity to get in front of scouts. Pro day

For a draft prospect who played a full season, attended an all-star game and the Combine, pro day will only count as a small part (5% to 20%) of his overall draft grade. However, for those who didn’t, it’s their Super Bowl and their only opportunity to get in front of scouts. Pro day can account for 40% to 50% of their grade. I have had many players discovered and confirmed at pro day in my early years of being an agent.

Even for established high profile prospects, their pro day can be a fruitless effort. Here’s why:

Facilities: At most big schools, the football program has their own dedicated facilities. However, you may be surprised as to how many universities have to share their practice fields and practice bubbles between sports. Those schools that don’t have a dedicated field or indoor bubble facility will usually reserve it for pro day. This may cause problems with the lacrosse coach or other sports who use those fields for practices. Additionally, some schools indoor bubbles are too small for punting and kicking, their surfaces range from being soft and cushiony (slow) to hard and bouncy (fast). Thus forty and drill times can vary greatly from surface to surface making for varied times compared to the Combine.

By NFL rules, players can only be worked out at their college or hometown. Many agents, players, and scouts would like to have regional performance facilities where players train, as an additional workout location option.

Weather: For schools located in Arizona and California, pro days can be predictably sunny. this puts scouts and players in good moods. As for the rest of the country the weather usually plays a part in whether or not the event takes place indoors or out. I just left the North Carolina pro day and the players didn’t know where they would be running until the morning of, because of expected rain that didn’t show. At Iowa State on Tuesday, five scouts walked outside to watch their top rated Punter perform but three of them turned around and went back inside once they felt the 20 degree air and 20 mile per hour wind.

In addition to players getting cold during many indoor and outdoor workouts, scouts and coaches get cold too. Thus, they are usually focused on staying warm and the players don’t have their undivided attention. Inclement weather can also affect their flights in and out of many cities around the country. So when the weather is bad many scouts/coaches can miss a workout.

The other part that cold weather plays is that it tightens players up between drills and position work. The more seniors a school has the longer the pro day goes. Players may have to stand around for up to an hour and a half between doing combine drills and position drills. This is why a lot of players pull up on pro day.

With the draft moved back to May, many northern and eastern schools may want to push their pro day into April.

Logistics/timing: When a college sets a pro day it’s really just a courtesy to NFL teams (they know if they didn’t set one it will hurt recruiting and cause a backlash). If you’re a scout located in the mid-Atlantic region, attending four pro days in a row at South Carolina, UNC, Duke, and NC State is easy because the schools are located just a few miles from each other. It also works well when the schools work in unison of piggy backing each other’s pro day, which more and more schools are doing based on the suggestions from scouts. However, some schools have to work around spring football, baseball, lacrosse and other sports and may be limited to just a few days in the month of March to have a pro day. If one school’s pro day is the same day as an LSU, Ohio State, Alabama, USC, Oregon, and/or Florida (schools with many prospects) then they won’t garner top evaluators from each NFL club.

Another problem that scouts have is getting from school one school to another. Most universities are serviced by small airports that have a limited number of flights and require a layover to get to them. If a pro day at one school runs too long then numerous scouts usually miss a flight to the next school.

Several NFL execs I spoke to would like to see pro days coordinated through the league player personnel office to ensure that there is no overlapping and there is ample time for scouts to get from one school to another.

League meetings and free agency: There were some schools that had scheduled pro days in the first few days of free agency and during the owners meeting. Well guess what? That usually takes the GM and head coach out of the picture for attending pro day because they can’t be two places at once. Sure, each team can still send a scout, position coach and/or scouting director but having a heavy decision maker see a player for a first, second or even third time will make all the difference come making a decision on draft day.

Going forward, I would encourage universities to take the dates of the first week of free agency and the owners meetings off the board when scheduling pro day. It would help if the NFL would send a memo to these schools on these dates.

You’re not welcome here: Some schools simply don’t welcome scouts/NFL teams. There is one SEC school that doesn’t let scouts talk to coaches, trainers or any people associated with football and limits scouts to coming to the school just a few days a year. Scouts dislike this head coach and always leave this school with a bad feeling. Well guess who loses out, the draft prospects because scouts are human and they will at times penalize the player, or feel they can’t get enough information on the prospect so they can’t sell him with conviction. Ironically, this school and some others use pro day as a national marketing tool for recruiting. But as far as scouts are concerned it’s just window dressing for recruits.

Another frustrating problem for scouts and agents is that many big schools don’t let players from smaller schools work out at their school. Small school players will suffer the most if scouts can’t get to them.

Northwestern for example is gracious in helping letting local kids workout at their school. Missouri Western lets all the small school players in their area work out there to consolidate several schools’ pro day into one. Alabama even serves lunch to scouts and encourages them to talk to coaches. Coach Doyle at Iowa runs a very organized pro day as does Shannon Turley at Stanford. Scouts leave these schools with detailed evaluations, especially on character becuase they get access to more information.

While some strength coaches at some schools flex their ego and turn off scouts/team execs, others yield to letting the NFL scouts run the pro day. When Jacksonville scout Tim Mingey (aka “the General”) shows up and takes charge, it puts a smile on all the scouts’ faces because he runs a legendary super efficient pro day.

If you ever wonder why some players fall through the cracks on draft day, a faulty pro day set up can be part of the culprit.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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5 Free Agency Staples

I love the free agency period because I get to do the business things I love best; negotiating, deal making, adding value, and fulfilling clients’ fiscal security. It’s not always a rewarding and fun time for the agent or the player as things don’t always go as planned. However, sometimes they go even better

I love the free agency period because I get to do the business things I love best; negotiating, deal making, adding value, and fulfilling clients’ fiscal security. It’s not always a rewarding and fun time for the agent or the player as things don’t always go as planned. However, sometimes they go even better than planned.

As I thought, this free-agent period has been slightly more active than the previous two years but nowhere near the glory days of the previous CBA. Today’s team execs are looking more for shorter-term deals, trying to get younger as a team and are more conscientious to public scrutiny for printing a bad deal. Therefore, they are taking less risk with their owner’s money.

In my 27 years as an agent here are some of things I learned about free agency that hasn’t and most likely will never change:

The best deals get done the day before, and/or after free agency: In any negotiation, it’s good to have a deadline to give both sides a sense of urgency. It usually never makes sense to do the deal too early. The best deals happen for a player when fear of losing that player sets in for the organization.

Both sides constantly bluff each other: Although agents, GMs, and cap mangers have personally grown close over the years on a social level, we still look each other in the eye (or via text, email, phone) and bluff our *butts off. The team makes statements like “we are ready to move on if you don’t take this offer”, “If he can get that $$ with another team, we wish him luck”, or, “Well if he doesn’t want it to be us then we will find somebody who does”.

From the agent, “I have five teams interested in my client and the list is growing fast”, “If you don’t sign him back your division rival will and you will see him twice a year” and/or, “The offer is offensive and I don’t even want to show it to my client”. It’s a constant volley of recycled statements until somebody makes a serious move.

The side with the most conviction usually wins out. As does the side that is truly ready to walk away. The reality is, that when both sides get uncomfortable, meaning they go above and below their prospective contract goal, a deal is usually struck.

You better have plan B in stone: Both agents and teams have learned the hard way that over playing your hand and/or your bluff can cost you. For the player/agent, if the team calls your bluff and lets you test the market and you don’t already have a plan B (another team/deal) in place, the market dollars for your client can shrink quickly. Thus, accepting a deal below what the current team offered you.

In addition, teams may put out multiple offers at once to several players of the same position and pull the others once one is accepted. So a good agent will sense this and not count on any prospective offer.

On the team side, if they let one of their own premier players walk to free agency, their plan B player better be on a plane to their facility the first hour/day of free agency.

Some teams don’t like their plan B options available in the market place so they may be stuck paying more for their potential free agent. That’s a perfect situation that agents covet of course. When a team thinks they can fill a large void in the draft or in free agency and it doesn’t work out, that particular team just went backwards in talent level. Additionally, sometimes they have to overpay for a player they really didn’t even want but they realized they don’t want to take a risk and “hope” that a draft pick just works out and replaces their starter they just lost.

The pro personnel director is so valuable to a team because they can identify young upcoming talent that may have been just a role player or backup for another team.

Listen to the market, not your ego (or client sometimes): The free agent period can be a testy time for both sides. The salary cap manager is trying to appease his GM, head coach, position coach, fan base and owner. The agent is trying to make his clients fiscal dream come true while the media, the players union and his competitors watch with scrutiny.

Over the last three years the pendulum has swung in favor or the teams when it comes to knowing the market place and price tags for positions and players. There is actually a growing concern by the players union that teams are colluding and price fixing veteran salaries.

Most agents don’t really trust each other so the exchange of information is limited. Sometimes the free agent market can move so quickly it’s like an invisible game of musical chairs. Meaning there may be only four premium contracts available for a left tackle but there are ten free agents (and their agents) thinking they are going to get one of them. So agents really have to rely on experience and intuition and know when to pull the trigger on a deal.

For teams, a head coach, owner, and/or GM can get really emotional and defensive when an agent is making lofty demands. Coaches are competitive as are many GMs and they can just shut down a negotiation because they are in a bad mood and want to send a personal message to the agent.

For agents, some just can’t let go of the value they projected for our players and if they didn’t get it we just keep trying to sell it. In the meantime, cap dollars are getting depleted and teams associate time spent on the market as a growing discount. Also, agents can easily paint themselves into a corner by promising their clients riches in free agency. So when it doesn’t materialize their ego gets in the way of trying to make it happen and just won’t listen to what the market is saying. Players will also keep reminding their agents what other players have received believing they should get the same or better. Some agents don’t have the courage to tell them the market is not valuing them as they thought and it’s time to do a deal before the market dollars shrink even further.

Who can you trust? For agents and team execs, it sometimes just comes down to who you trust the most. Even for players. If A GM tells me he has a deal at X dollars for my player I really have to trust that team and its execs that they will follow through. If I don’t trust them enough then I won’t count on the deal as being a real option. The team side can say the reciprocal about the agent.

As free agency steadily unfolds, some things rarely change.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta

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