Wednesday, May 2, 2012
An early endorsement for Michael Floyd
By Mike Sando
The protocol becomes the same for nearly every freshly minted NFL draft choice, from first-round quarterbacks to seventh-round punters.
Not long after their selections, their new employers will connect them to local NFL reporters via conference call.
A surprise awaited the Arizona Cardinals after the team made Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd the 13th overall choice in the 2012 draft.
Floyd's college coach, Brian Kelly, made an unsolicited call to the Cardinals, availing himself to media questions regarding his former player.
Kelly has vouched for other players, including Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Harrison Smith. A college head coach certainly has a recruiting interest in getting his name out there in association with prominent draft choices.
But in publicly testifying for Floyd, whose draft file includes three three alcohol-related incidents and a resulting team suspension, Kelly extended himself to an extent that wasn't necessary. It was a notable early marker for the Cardinals, who have never drafted a player with such significant baggage since Ken Whisenhunt arrived as head coach in 2007.
Floyd could not have scripted Kelly's testimonial more favorably:
- On Floyd in general: "Well, a kid who got his degree in three-and-a-half years from Notre Dame. Probably in my 23 years now as a head coach, the best practice player that I've ever had. He just has a passion and a love for the football."
- On Floyd as a teammate: "Whether he is getting the football or not, he is a guy who has never complained. He certainly always wants the ball in critical situations. He has never been a diva, if you will, in terms of not getting his catches. If we're successful and we're making plays, he's on the other end making blocks. That's why it was such a pleasure to coach the kid."
- On what changed in Floyd following a suspension: "To have an opportunity to come back and play at Notre Dame and get a degree and be successful in the NFL, he had to make some choices. And he made some great choices. Now, you've got a young man who had been through some adversity, has handled it, has been humbled because of it and the best is in front of him now."
Authorities cited Floyd for underage drinking in 2009 and 2010. A DUI conviction last year made for three alcohol-related incidents in three years, raising obvious questions about judgment and the potential for a more serious problem.
College programs can become enablers for troubled star athletes. Handing millions to those troubled athletes usually doesn't help.
Those are generalities. Floyd's situation stands on its own. Whether he has a problem or carries a heightened risk cannot be known for certain.
The Cardinals' decision to draft Floyd was an organizational one, with team owner Michael Bidwill, a former federal prosecutor, participating directly in the vetting process.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the team asked tough questions, thought Floyd provided honest answers and felt Floyd made a positive statement by returning to Notre Dame for his senior season amid quarterback uncertainty that could have hurt Floyd's status.
"I just basically told them it was a bad decision," Floyd told reporters following his selection. "I learned from it and I moved on. I know I can't be like every other college student, just doing what a college student does, because the spotlight is on me. They wanted to see if I had improvements since that time, and I have."
There is less uncertainty over the Cardinals' on-field plans for Floyd. They anticipate him becoming their flanker opposite split end Larry Fitzgerald, who had been the most recent first-round wideout chosen by Arizona. With Floyd projecting as a starter, Andre Roberts becomes a candidate for additional playing time from the slot, where Early Doucet was already a factor for the team.
Fitzgerald and Floyd present matchup problems with their size alone. Both are nearly 6-foot-3. Floyd weighed 220 pounds at the scouting combine. Fitzgerald weighed 225 upon entering the league in 2004. He has preferred playing at a lighter weight recently.
Size matters for receivers in the NFC West, a division featuring punishing safeties and Pro Bowl credentials in the secondary. Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman, Adrian Wilson, Patrick Peterson, Carlos Rogers, Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, Cortland Finnegan and Quintin Mikell come to mind immediately.
"You could consider Mike to be still a raw receiver in that he can get better in all the technical elements in route running and things of that nature," Kelly said of Floyd. "He is certainly a guy that attacks the football and attacks defenders and blocking -- he is an outstanding blocker."
Any rookie open to input from veteran players stands to benefit from joining a team with strong leadership at the player's position. Fitzgerald sets an impeccable standard for the Cardinals' receivers and the team in general. From that standpoint, Floyd couldn't have found a better working environment.