NFC North weekend mailbag

April, 7, 2012
4/07/12
8:00
AM ET
This is supposed to be quiet time in the NFL, when teams hunker down to prepare for the draft while its cast their gaze (temporarily) toward the Final Four, the looming NBA playoffs and the start of the baseball season. So naturally we spent the past few days buried in excitement (or lack thereof) over the league's new Nike uniforms, reports of a low Wonderlic score for a top draft prospect and then the revelation of audio that took the New Orleans Saints' bounty story to a new level.

So it goes. Your thoughts are always welcome via the mailbag, Twitter and Facebook. I read everything and respond when I can. Including right now….

VikingQuest channels his inner Johnny Drama and has this to say about reports of LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne's score of a 4 (out of 50) on the Wonderlic: Wow, did you miss the boat. Again. Claiborne's Wonderlic score being leaked should ABSOLUTELY outrage you. It has NOTHING to do with the 32 teams or his draft status. It has to do with his public perception, and this will make him appear "stupid," which I have heard he is not. Public perception is a HUGE part of these kids' lives. Has nothing to do with the draft. Lots of people will now think less of him and MANY of those people won't follow where he's drafted. It's embarrassing to him, I'm sure. And it's NONE of our business what his Wonderlic score was. Especially when Roger Goodell already made it clear that this info was not to be leaked.

Kevin Seifert: For those who didn't see our post on the topic, I wasn't outraged by a leak of information that is widely disseminated within the league -- but would be if Claiborne's draft status dropped as a result. The Wonderlic is one of countless tools the league uses to evaluate prospects, but most football people will point to the tape of Claiborne's college career and declare him the best cover corner available this year. Nothing about that changed this week, I hope.

Team officials have known the results of the Wonderlic for months. What would be truly outrageous is if anyone passed on him to avoid ridicule from a populace who now knows his scores. I can only assume that was the intent of the person or people who leaked the information in the first place.

But with that said, I don't think we need to fall over ourselves trying to protect Claiborne. I understand that the NFL pledges privacy to those who take the test, out of sensitivity to the very reaction his score has caused. Independent media members, however, aren't bound by the league's rules. If some reporters decided not to use the information, so be it. But Claiborne is a man and is headed toward to the top of his chosen profession. He doesn't need the media to protect him.

His score was the lowest by a draft prospect in at least 12 years, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. It's a fact of his pre-draft evaluation. The test ostensibly measures intelligence, but like any standardized affair, it's not unheard of for practice and preparation to elevate scores.

Regardless, if the test is important enough for the NFL to administer, the results are newsworthy whether or not the league releases them. Then it's important to note the appropriate context, namely that Wonderlic scores alone have never correlated with NFL success. Sometimes it's important to understand the level of a player's intelligence and/or test-taking ability. But in the case of Claiborne, the rest of his evaluation is so off the charts that the Wonderlic shouldn't affect his draft status. At least, it better not.


Brent of Madison, Wis., has a different take on the issue: They say that Wonderlic tests are private but I think they should be public. If it's a state school I think that they should be tested and the results published. If not, why even have the illusion that they are going to class or trying and just make college football minor leagues for the pros?

Kevin Seifert: Schools and athletic programs are held to some statistical standards when it comes to the success of players in the classroom. But the Wonderlic wouldn't be a fair tool for that.

I wouldn't expect schools to raise intelligence levels. If you want to judge players and schools, perhaps better tools would be graduation rates and grade-point averages. Those statistics generally make their way into the public eye.


Bruce of Plymouth, N.H., notes my mention of two seven-figure donations from NFC North players to their respective colleges and reminds me of a third: Don't forget Charles Woodson's $2 million dollar donation (2009) to a children's hospital in Michigan.

Kevin Seifert: Yes, of course. The Green Bay Packers' cornerback made his donation to help build the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital near his University of Michigan. The other players, of course, were Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska) and Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson.


Corey of Knoxville, Tenn., writes: In a player's contract, can a team work in a clause about substance abuse? For example, if the Lions were to draft Janoris Jenkins, could they insert a clause that if he gets caught breaking the substance abuse policy, then he is no longer eligible for any escalators or something along those lines?

Kevin Seifert: Not specifically, no. The NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed on the substance-abuse policy for disciplining players and protecting teams from drug abuse. Jenkins and every other player would be classified confidentially in the program. Positive tests would lead to increasingly tough penalties, including fines and suspensions. With that said, a team can have generic playing-time escalators and other devices that obviously wouldn't be reached if a player is suspended as part of a positive test.


Mike of Eau Claire, Wis., notes that the Packers acknowledged last year that receivers creating a "reverse bounty" for dropped passes last season and writes: Not exactly a bounty as it was not done by the Packers or coaches, but not too far removed. I see a distinction but I wonder if this might be too close to the line now being drawn.

Kevin Seifert: Yes, as ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde reported last season, Packers receivers organized a system where a $100 Best Buy card was contributed for every dropped pass. That's a little different than a bounty system, and certainly much less harmful. But if the players eventually disbursed the cards to each other, it would technically count as what Goodell referred last month as "non-contract bonus payments."

These payments, even if they're a fraction of a player's base salary, circumvent the salary cap and could open the door to larger stakes in the future. Moving forward, Goodell has required each team to certify that no players receive non-contract bonus payments. Regardless, given the heightened tension of this issue, Packers players should find a non-financial way to hold each other accountable moving forward.

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