Every-Thing Sports

Jermaine Every: Is the NFL controlling the narrative, or catering to media partners?

Is Roger Goodell overreaching with his media policies? Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Monday was another average day at Gow Media. Some of the personalities have taken vacation, so some of your favorite shows had fill-ins. The Bench had Lance Zierlein and Raheel Ramzanali instead of John Granato with Del Olaleye producing. Charlie Pallilo was replaced by Raheel and Del, with Tyler Scott producing. The Usual Suspects are the Cal Ripken of ESPN 97.5 because they’re always there. Joel Blank, Barry Laminack, and producer Nick Sharara held down the 1-4 p.m. slot as usual. Barry wasn’t even on his typical world tour doing comedy. Even when he is, he’s on-air from a remote studio. The Blitz, the No. 1 one show in the market so far every month in 2018, was intact with Fred Faour, AJ Hoffman, and producer Jong Lee. These shows have more than held their own in this market, often times they occupy most of the top slots.

Seeing as this station has occupied most of the top slots in the ratings, you would think the Texans would be more than happy to grant them media credentials for the season, right? WRONG! Word came down today that for the third year in a row (possibly fourth, I’ve lost track of the count), ESPN 97.5 will have to apply on a game by game basis for FOUR credentials! They most likely won’t even offer up parking passes. I know. I know. Parking passes are first world problems. But if you’ve ever had to pay for parking at a Texans’ game, you’d know how much of a hassle it is to park further away at a cheaper rate, or to pony up the money to park closer. So who exactly are they saving all this space for?

Their radio partner, A.K.A. “Houston’s Sports Leader,” gets everyone credentialed, including Tammy from accounting. And we all know how Tammy from accounting acts in public after a few drinks. Their television partner gets the same treatment. I’ve also been in the press box when The Beaumont Telegraph, KPPH-TV of Nacogdoches, and KBHY of Jefferson have had at least one or two seats. Not to say the smaller newspaper, television, or radio outlets don’t deserve access to cover the team, but what about one of the most successful, locally-owned media companies?

At one point in time, I thought this was strictly a Texans issue. My thought was: Kevin Cooper is gone, now they’ve put someone in his place that wants to control things and let that power get to their head. However, after looking into the situation by consulting with industry professionals around the country, other media outlets are having similar issues with other NFL teams granting them access via credentials. Yes. I know the NFL has its own network to put over. I know they want people to put eyes and ears on their version of the product, but what about the honest opinions and analysis of others?

Some may be thinking “here’s another fluff piece in-house,” and you’d be wrong. I can write my Texans column without having to be at the game. Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t like crowds or dealing with an overwhelming amount of people unless absolutely necessary. I can also write my NFL column more effectively from home since the NFL bars you from watching Sunday Ticket inside an NFL stadium. Yet another attempt of them to control how you consume their product, I might add.

This was about the NFL setting a dangerous precedent. If an entity can control what media is allowed to cover said entity, it shapes the public perception of that entity. If they’re allowed to control who covers them, how they are covered will be dictated as well because media outlets given access will feel pressure to cover them favorably to maintain access. Look no further than what President Trump did to a CNN reporter recently. CNN’s rival news network Fox News even issued a statement of solidarity. This is akin to a teacher giving the class a survey on his/her teaching methods/style, but hinting at the results of the survey affecting their grade. It’s blackmail in a suggestive form. Commissioner Roger Goodell has enough to worry about. From CTE, to the national anthem, to disciplinary problems, his plate is beyond full. Unnecessarily adding total control of media access won’t help his cause. It’ll only make him more vilified than he already is and the media will happy to cover his downfall.

 

Day two of the work for the team as their spring work is well underway

11 observations from Texans OTAs

SportsMap/Cody Stoots

Here are my 11 Observations from the second day of work for the Texans during OTAs but their first open to the media.

First round, first taste for Tytus Howard

The Texans top draft pick from this year's class doesn't look out of place with other offensive lineman. His body is there. He did have some rookie moments and a couple of welcome to the NFL moments at the hands of Whitney Mercilus.

Howard said he doesn't mind the work at various positions he is getting. The Texans have been known to throw a lot at their rookies but especially their offensive linemen. Brian Gaine and Bill O'Brien have made no secret they want to see where Howard and fellow draft pick Max Scharping fit and how they can help the team different ways.

"He learns well," Bill O'Brien said. "He's just getting acclimated to the speed of how we practice over the last two days. For every rookie, that's a big jump. But I think he's a guy that, if he continues to work the way he works, he'll get better every day."

Lookout for Lonnie

It isn't hard to find the Texans second round pick Lonnie Johnson Jr. The Texans haven't had a cornerback in his mold probably in the entire time Bill O'Brien has been the coach of this team. He towers above most his defensive back teammates. His base is a lot more solid than you would think for someone who has such good length to his body.

He diagnosed some plays pretty well today and even when the rep looks lost his makeup ability is clear. He looked like he was going to get beat on a play today and the next thing you know he knocked the ball down. It will be interesting how much the Texans trust him early in his career and his development from now through training camp will be something to watch closely.

"He's a real big kid," Justin Reid said. "He's a big kid. Almost bigger than me. You see it when he plays. You see it on the practice film. He knows how to use it as well, which is one of the good things about having good corners, is they know how to actually body receivers, especially if they're going against a big guy. He's someone that we can see as a potential matchup for those type of situations."

Coutee right where he left off

Keke Coutee was one of the most dynamic offensive weapons the Texans had last season. Unfortunately injuries plagued his rookie year limiting his time on the field and his production. If he is healthy, my goodness.

Coutee never had a defender around him very long. He looked every bit the key piece he did last season. He is going to be a fun watch and will be a great matchup for the Texans defensive backs to work against.

Warring showcasing skills

Watching a handful of reps for Kahale Warring it is clear why he is here. He played at a school that didn't throw the ball much and when they did the talent throwing the ball wasn't great. He was the best pass catcher they have and oh by the way he has only played football for a few years. You can't tell that's the case.

I will be anxious to see more of him. He looks fluid and smooth in his movements which often indicates he is picking things up fast and not thinking much. Blocking when the pads come on will be something to watch, but watching him run routes is fun. Athletes aren't usually moving as well as he does at that size. These tight ends might be pound-for-pound the most athletic group on the team.

Lots of bodies catching lots of passes

​Johnnie Dixon showed off in rookie camp but there are plenty of other players to watch in the quest to make this time as a wideout. Tyron Johnson from Oklahoma State as well as Dixon both earned kudos from quarterback Deshaun Watson.

They join names like Steven Mitchell Jr., Isaac Whitney, Floyd Allen, Jester Weah, and second-year wideout Vyncint Smith among others vying for a spot on the team. There will be plenty of reps to go around as Will Fuller continues his recovery from injury and if Deandre Hopkins has his work load managed similar to last preseason. It might come down to who can help the most on special teams as well.

Special Adviser to the Head Coach and General Manager Andre Johnson was on hand helping out with the wide receivers.

It's a long name but worth learning

Briean Boddy-Calhoun is a veteran trying to make the Texans at cornerback. His previous stint was with Cleveland where Browns fans were surprisingly a little sad to see him leave this offseason.

He was all over the place today. His experience with pass defense packages will be key in his efforts to make the team. He also has experience playing safety as well. He was talking to all the defensive backs from safeties to rookies and veterans and corners. Being a veteran sponge will help him stick.

Mercilus begins contract year

If they Texans had to play a game tomorrow without Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus lined up across from J.J. Watt as the other pass rusher it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. Mercilus was all over the field in the workout. He looks to be in great shape, but of course he always is, and he wasn't winded at any moment.

He is in the final year of his second contract and most NFL players don't see a third. Certainly not with the same team. Mercilus will have to have a nice year to reach that situation after a year lost to injury and a down year statistically. He is a veteran and a leader on this team and should the team not have Clowney at any point Mercilus can pick up some of the pass rushing slack.

Do your job, make the team, stay on the team, repeat

Peter Kalambayi was a little bit of a surprise to make the Texans last year to me. He ended up on the team as a do-it-all linebacker and played pretty well in his special teams reps. He looked really good today.

His name was called out for accolades on one play and he found himself around the ball in the reps. He also showed off good basics and movement in a drill against skill players who were trying to shake defenders. There is absolutely room for him on the roster and his contributions can be even more than last year with his rookie year under his belt.

D'Onta Foreman 2.0

D'Onta Foreman looks like a totally different guy. I have been seeing the hard work on social media but until you see them in person you aren't sure if it is paying off. It paid off. His body looks different and the burst, albeit in a low-to-no contact environment, looked solid. He has more wiggle than he has previously shown.

He has to be good for the Texans and the lack of investment in the position shows the team's faith in him. He and Lamar Miller, who looks to be in great shape as he was a year ago maybe even better shape, will have to guide the ground game. There is too much uncertainty behind them and even at this point a new face would need to do some catching up.

"I think he's had a very good offseason," said Bill O'Brien. "He's worked very hard. Sometimes it takes time, especially when you're injured your rookie year with a significant injury. You have something you're dealing with like he did with the Achilles. It takes a while to come back from that. Young player, getting used to pro football, then you have that. So, I think he's had a really good time away from us, when he wasn't with us, and that has parlayed into a good spring."

If boxing classes paid off like this for D'Onta Foreman I need to get me some gloves.

Speaking of body transformations...

Martinas Rankin looks a lot different. Slimmer in the lower midsection and maybe even thicker up top. Remember, he had a foot injury that slowed his time on the field before the season got started last year. He is a potentially key offensive lineman with his versatility. It will be a fun watch when the pads come on to see what Rankin brings to the table.

Jordan Thomas is another player who looks to be in even better shape than last year as well. Watching him run still feels like a sleek bouncer chasing down an unruly patron. I say that with the most possible endearment I can. He's a crazy good athlete.

Justin Reid...more like Justin Leader...

Justin Reid has seen the field as a member of the Texans more than any other safety on the roster. Now, that's not to say the second-year player has the most experience, but he has the most experience as a member of the Texans. That seems wild for a second-year player to have that designation but it is the truth and a testament to how well Reid played last year.

"The room is a little bit different now but we have phenomenal guys like T-Gip (Tashaun Gipson Sr.), (Bradley) Roby, (Briean) Boddy(-Calhoun)," said Reid. "The guys that we've brought in, the rookies, have been doing well. I'm impressed with how they've played these last two days. So, we've been building as a unit and our chemistry has been getting better every day."

He and Tashaun Gipson have formed a close bond already. Reid said he feels like he has known his fellow safety for a long time when they haven't actually been teammates that long. Reid mentioned they almost feel interchangeable in their skills and is excited to play with the former Jaguars safety.

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