NFL prospects safeguarded from inappropriate team questions

NFL prospects safeguarded from inappropriate team questions

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — NFL prospect Jake Andrews answered questions from teams designed to probe his personality and attitude more than his football IQ.

These questions – such as, would you rather be a Super Bowl champion or a Hall of Famer? — are standard issue for teams considering potential draft picks leading to All-Star Games like Saturday’s Senior Bowl and the NFL combine. What is no longer considered acceptable: outlying questions that a player might find demeaning or embarrassing, a nod to the greater attention given to mental health issues in athletes.

Andrews, an offensive lineman from Troy, and other players said former NFL running back Brian Westbrook spoke this week highlighting changes in the 21 years since he arrived in the league.

“When he first came into the league, if you wanted to see a psychiatrist or something, if you had an off day, when it was time to negotiate that next contract, you knew that (the general managers) were going to talk about it,” Andrews said. “And that kind of stuff just can’t happen these days.

“I think it’s a good thing. A lot of people have mental health issues and it’s really important to keep that under control. Questions can really expose people, so I think it’s a good thing that they protect us.

The league warned teams in a memo last January that they could be forced to forfeit a draft pick between the first and fourth rounds and be fined a minimum of $150,000 for questions. off-limits. Individual club employees could also face fines or suspensions.

There have been isolated reports in recent years of inappropriate questions being asked of potential candidates.

In 2010, then-Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland apologized to Dallas Cowboys first-round pick Dez Bryant for asking during a pre-draft visit if his mother was a prostitute.

In 2016, then-Atlanta Falcons coach Dan Quinn apologized to Eli Apple because one of his coaches asked the cornerback about his sexual preferences.

Two years later, former LSU running back Derrius Guice said one team at the combine asked about his sexuality and another asked if his mother was a prostitute.

“Whether you’re a professional athlete or not, there’s a level of dignity and respect that comes with an interview,” NFL executive Troy Vincent said during owner meetings in December. “I think we can all appreciate that.

“Sometimes they (the players) share things with you and you scratch your head. Other times you’re embarrassed. Those are things we can fix.

Mental health professionals say the move is a step forward at a time when the spotlight has shone on the psychological well-being of athletes like Olympians Simone Biles and Michael Phelps, NBA star Kevin Love and l former NFL wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

“Certainly, organizations seek to protect their integrity and their financial investments in players,” wrote Dr. Stephen Ferrando, director of psychiatry at Westchester Medical Center Health Network in New York City, in an email. “Efforts to uncover such issues, however, do not warrant intrusive questioning of athletes. Indeed, such questioning is likely to lead athletes to hide their problems for fear of reprisals.

“Furthermore, such intrusive questioning can be based on assumptions, which is likely to compound negative emotions. The NFL has taken a major step to reinforce boundaries when interviewing players.

Joshua Norman, a psychiatrist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center, said “it’s important to maintain the dignity of potential employees” in any type of job interview.

“Throughout the years in the NFL, there were always these kinds of offhand questions that came out of the interview process as college prospects rose through the ranks,” said Norman, who works with Buckeyes athletes. “I think it’s good that they put a bit of structure behind it to kind of preserve the dignity of the players. And also to be respectful of any type of mental health issue.

Both Ferrando and Norman said studies have shown athletes have about the same incidence of mental health issues as the rest of the population.

Illinois safety Sydney Brown agrees to face tough questions from NFL teams, saying his worst offenses are old parking tickets or speeding tickets.

“I think ultimately as a player you have to be ready for those questions and everything you’ve done in your history is going to follow you,” said Brown, playing in the Senior Bowl with teammate and brother Chase. Brown.

“If we don’t ask them today, we will ask them eventually. It’s good that they support us, but these are informal job interviews. It’s football, right? You just have to be ready for whatever awaits you.

Kansas defensive end Lonnie Phelps said he wasn’t asked any questions he thought were wrong, but he appreciates the effort to protect the players.

“I see they actually care about the mental health of the players,” Phelps said. “They have psychiatrists and stuff like that for free.

“They really care about mental health.”


AP sportswriter Schuyler Dixon in Irving, Texas, contributed to this report.


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