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Saturday, March 24, 2012
The NFL's fine whine tasting

By LZ Granderson
ESPN.com

There are few men I admire more than Drew Brees. His professional career is one thing, certainly worthy of admiration; but it's more than that. Away from the field, time and time again, the guy just shows that he gets it.

But I had to roll my eyes this week when I read his tweet regarding the yearlong suspension of his head coach, the Saints' Sean Payton, over the way Payton handled -- or rather, didn't handle -- his team's bounty culture.

Here's the tweet: "I am speechless. Payton is a great man, coach, and mentor. The best there is. I need to hear an explanation for this punishment."

Drew Brees
A stand-up guy in almost every other aspect, Drew Brees is off the mark with his Twitter support for Sean Payton.

Really, Drew? You need an explanation?

I understand that, when you're the face of the franchise, you might feel obligated to show a level of public support for the man who escorted you from questionable free-agent signee to Hall of Fame candidate. However, I'm thinking there had to have been a better way of doing that, something other than reacting as if the league's punishment is somehow unjustified. Be loyal, yes; but shocked? It is not a good look.

Yet I can't single out Brees right now. It's been a not-a-good-look kind of week for a number of folks connected to the NFL.

Warren Sapp, sounding as if he was fresh from a marathon viewing of "The Wire," tweeted that Jeremy Shockey was the "snitch" who initially told the league about the bounty practice in New Orleans. (Shockey disputes the claim.) Now, having an NFL Network analyst who goes by the Twitter handle "QBKilla" refer to Shockey -- or whoever the bounty whistle-blower was -- as a "snitch" is not a good look because it's counterproductive to what the league is trying to do: namely, make the game as safe as possible for the players.

Bad enough. But making matters worse is how Shockey rebutted Sapp's claim -- specifically, telling Yahoo! Sports, "I would never do that to [Payton] or to the Saints."

Nice.

So, not only is Sapp suggesting that informing the league about these despicable team bounties is wrong but Shockey is saying he would never have exposed them. That's totally different from saying he knew nothing about it, meaning it's possible he and other players on the Saints' offense knew what was going on but kept quiet.

Is it possible that a stand-up guy such as Brees -- who denied knowing anything about the bounties -- actually did know and chose not to say anything?

As I said, it's been a not-a-good-look kind of week in the NFL.

Matt Forte
It isn't much of a stretch to see Matt Forte's response to the Michael Bush signing as petty.

Matt Forte is upset that the Chicago Bears signed his backup, running back Michael Bush, before they re-signed him. Here's his tweet: "There's only so many times a man that has done everything he's been asked to do can be disrespected! Guess the GOOD GUYS do finish last … "

Meanwhile, backup quarterback Drew Stanton is demanding a trade from the New York Jets because he now appears to be No. 3 on the depth chart after the Tim Tebow trade. His frustration might be understandable if his career numbers (five years, 12 games, four touchdown passes, nine interceptions) weren't those of a player who should be happy to still be in the league. As bad as Tebow has looked at times, at least he was the starting quarterback for a team that won a playoff game. Stanton couldn't even beat out an overweight and old Daunte Culpepper for the Detroit Lions' job in 2009, the year after they went 0-16. Stanton whining in this situation just doesn't look good.

Just as Forte whining over the Bears playing hardball in the negotiating room doesn't look good.

And the whole Brees/Shockey/Sapp mess? Well, it's just that -- a mess.

Despite the negative publicity this week, all of this attention on the NFL serves to underscore what we already knew: Football is the most popular sport in the country. We're in the heart of March Madness; baseball is about to start; and the NBA and NHL are in their regular-season homestretches -- and what is the sports world talking about most? The NFL: Peyton Manning, Sean Payton, Tim Tebow and a "snitch" in the Saints' locker room.

And it's only March.

We haven't even had the draft yet.

I guess the old saying -- any press is good press -- has a lot of truth to it. Even when it doesn't look good.

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