NFC North weekend mailbag

March, 19, 2011
3/19/11
9:00
AM ET
After the NFL labor situation took a few unfortunate turns last week, let's once again check in with Vince Lombardi: "Once you have established the goals you want and the price you're willing to pay, you can ignore the minor hurts, the opponent's pressure and the temporary failures."

I'll be here all week via the mailbag, Facebook and Twitter.

Clay of Minooka, Ill., wants to comment on Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson's use of the term "modern-day slavery" to describe players' relationship with NFL owners: I feel everyone is making it up to be something bigger than what it is. If you read the entire statement, he discusses how the players, like most employees under owners, are making fractions of what the owners make. He seems to be saying that without the employees there is no business, and yet owners constantly try to take away from them.

This is very true for a majority of today's business. (Hence modern-day slavery.) He wasn't making any remarks toward race, simply making an analogy which really is not off base. Given that we are in a world where everyone gets to have an opinion (as I am doing right now) I think it is too bad that people with a forum that has a following (such as ESPN) are trying to make this a story. I guess I miss the days where ESPN wasn't such a gossip-filled media.

Kevin Seifert: Typically I don't choose questions or comments that long, but I think Clay has given us a relatively level-headed perspective on exactly why this is a story and why using the term "modern-day slavery" in the context of NFL labor relations is inappropriate and indefensible.

First, let me reiterate what I originally wrote. My dealings with Peterson over the past four years have revealed him to be a thoughtful and charitable man. He chooses his words carefully, is fully aware of public perception and always projects himself professionally. Almost without fail, he represents the Vikings in a positive manner.

I also think NFL players can justifiably argue that they, as Clay writes, make a fraction of what team owners make. And like many businesses, the NFL wouldn't be as successful as it is without the unique skills of its players. Perhaps players should be rewarded more, not less, for their efforts.

Here's the problem: That debatable inequity isn't slavery, either in the modern or historical sense. It's a predicament. A bad deal. A discrepancy.

People often use the term "modern-day" to denote the evolution of something historical into a faster-paced era. "Modern-day romance" can spark via internet dating services. "Modern-day warfare" takes place in areas far removed form the traditional battlefield. "Modern-day medicine" is ruled by insurance companies, not doctors.

And "modern-day slavery" is known as human trafficking. Anyone who thinks that it's analogous to the NFL should check out the U.S. State Department's 2010 report on human trafficking. It estimates that 12.3 million people worldwide were in forced or bonded labor, or forced prostitution during 2010. The report includes countless victim profiles that describe the work forced upon abducted children, among other atrocities.

Here's one that details a woman abducted in Kenya and enslaved in Saudi Arabia:
Salima was recruited in Kenya to work as a maid in Saudi Arabia. She was promised enough money to support herself and her two children. But when she arrived in Jeddah, she was forced to work 22 hours a day, cleaning 16 rooms daily for several months. She was never let out of the house and was given food only when her employers had leftovers. When there were no leftovers, Salima turned to dog food for sustenance. She suffered verbal and sexual abuse from her employers and their children. One day while Salima was hanging clothes on the line, her employer pushed her out the window, telling her, "You are better off dead." Salima plunged into a swimming pool three floors down and was rescued by police. After a week in the hospital, she was deported. She returned to Kenya with broken legs and hands.

If you can find a parallel between Salima and an NFL player, let me know.

I agree that Peterson's comments in no way invoked race, but slavery has never been just about race. It's about class, sexism and many other issues.

The big point -- and for me it's so obvious that I don't know if I need to make it -- is that NFL players aren't forced into anything and do nothing against their will. Owners might have a monopoly on their profession, which might be unfair, but it's hardly a moral atrocity.

As for the issue of using the ESPN forum "to make this a story," I think quite the opposite. In this case, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to (hopefully) push people away from comparing everyday bummers to illegal evils.

I was going to let this issue slide until Pittsburgh Steelers tailback Rashard Mendenhall expressed support for Peterson's statement via Twitter, saying: "Anyone with knowledge of the slave trade and the NFL could say these two parallel each other."

Actually, even the most cursory knowledge of slavery -- either historical or modern-day -- reveals there are no parallels whatsoever. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this isn't an issue of subjective interpretation. To me, it's frightening to see social misinformation spread in the name of an economic cause. NFL players might feel minimized, condescended to and used. Enslaved? Please.


Anthony of Clinton Township, Mich., writes: Remember at the beginning of last season your NFC North faithful readers had an NFC North ESPN fantasy football league? I won, I think I should get a little blip in a story.

Kevin Seifert: I vaguely remember someone asking if I would organize and participate in a fantasy league. I passed, mostly in fear of being revealed as an uninformed fraud. But I'm glad to hear you all organized amongst yourselves and I offer my hearty congratulations to you and yours.


Jim of St. Paul noted I wasn't sure of the Green Bay Packers' season ticket payment deadline and wrote: I am a season ticket holder at Lambeau. Their payment deadline is March 31.

Kevin Seifert: Several other readers noted this date as well. I'm still interested to see if the Packers, or any other NFC North team, follow the New York Giants' lead and push back deadlines until after the NFL and its players reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). That's the fairest way for teams to treat their best customers during a time when the business has been shut down.


Kyle of Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: I am still hot about this draft boycott idea by the NFLPA. I don't get it. The prospects being at the draft is far more for them and the fans than for ANY team or owner. What exactly is boycotting going to accomplish? To me it just shows even more that the players' claims to be concerned about the fan are either lip service or they are generally disconnected with what fans want.

Kevin Seifert: In the event any of you missed it, the NFL typically invites 15-20 players to attend the draft in New York City and shake commissioner Roger Goodell's hand upon being selected. Kyle is referring to Adam Schefter's report that the NFL Players Association will "ask" those players to decline their invitations. Instead, there have been indications the NFLPA will hold a parallel event for them to attend.

Honestly, Kyle, I'm not caught up in the outrage over this request. I'm sure it's probably cool for the 15-20 players who attend. But I'm sure it's much cooler to deposit that first paycheck a few months later. If this labor strife has shown us anything, it's that this game is all about the money.

And I have to ask how devalued the draft broadcast really would be without those players. Will people really tune in to watch Cam Newton hug his agent and proceed to a photo op with Goodell? Or do you watch to find out who your team drafts? To me, that is and will always be the true drama of the draft.


Nathan of Phoenix writes: Todd McShay's draft scenario is a dream come true for me as a Lions fan and as a Baylor graduate. However, try to imagine this scenario: The Vikings picking at No. 12, where they are about to take _____ and then they realize, "If we take _____, then Detroit will take Prince Amukamara. Do we really want that?" To your point, do they let a division rival get an elite cover cornerback with 4.37 speed?"

Kevin Seifert: It's a very interesting point and scenario, Nathan. In the end, however, I don't think you can play defense in the draft, especially in the first round. At that point, there should be no motive other than picking the best player for your team.

The trickier question is whether the Vikings should pass on Amukamara for their own purposes. The only certainty they have at cornerback is veteran Antoine Winfield, who turns 34 in June. Cedric Griffin is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, his second in as many seasons. Chris Cook showed some promise last summer in training camp but two knee injuries held him back during the season.

The Vikings would have to think hard about taking Amukamara. The Lions' needs shouldn't have anything to do with it, but their own might provide enough motivation.


Lou of Yuma, Ariz., writes: Thanks so much for your comments on the "Calvin Johnson Rule!" I'd totally forgotten about Bill the Cat, and his normal comment exactly describes how I feel about the entire situation. I haven't laughed so much in years -- it was a "funny-always" line (as opposed to "funny-once" or "funny-never").

Kevin Seifert: Glad someone got it! I'll tell Milo and the gang next time I see them.


Andy of Chicago writes: Much has been made about the Packers' roster depth. Along with the 53 they had at the end of the season, they could return as many as 15 players from IR and perhaps Johnny Jolly from suspension. Throw in another 8 or 9 draft picks, and those first-year gems that Ted Thompson seems to find outside of the draft before the season (Sam Shields, Frank Zombo, Ryan Grant, etc.) and that's a lot of bodies in camp. Figuring they'll probably lose 7 or so players to free agency, do you think Thompson might change his strategy and package picks in the draft to prioritize quality over quantity, i.e., move up on the board?

Kevin Seifert: It's an interesting perspective that more than a few of you have asked about. The first thing to remember is that from a pure numbers standpoint, no team is allowed more than 80 players in training camp. That number could change in the new collective bargaining agreement, but I realize you're referring to a lot of players who could/should make the team, as opposed to just a lot of players.

So is this the year that the Packers can afford to sacrifice multiple draft choices if there is a player they really feel strong about? A few of you have asked about Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who Scouts Inc. is ranking as the second-best prospect in the entire draft.

If the Packers think Miller is as good as media analysts suggest, would it be worth them to trade multiple picks to get into the top 5 and draft him? The idea would be that any players the Packers take on the second and third days of the draft are going to have a hard time making their roster.

It makes some sense, but I it would require a significant departure from the way Thompson has built the team in the first place. I think the chances of his staying course -- adding more and more talent on annual basis -- are much higher than a one-time philosophical shift.

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