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

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

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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