Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky
When I was younger and more rash, I’d hear rumbling about personal stuff affecting a player and wonder how he could let it happen. A big check and a great job should automatically create focus, I believed.
Older and mellower -- not mellow, mind you, but mellower -- I have a much better understanding of how it's not so simple. Stuff happens at home and can’t help but spill over. Who among us hasn’t had at least a couple of bad work days as a result? And why should we expect a professional athlete to be wired differently?We expect young, well-paid NFL players to be able to compartmentalize and leave their home life outside of team headquarters.
But that’s one of many unrealistic expectations we can have for them. It’s something they have to learn to do, just like they have to learn how to best study film, cover a certain receiver, react to a certain coverage or make or get off of a certain block.
Titans safety Michael Griffin is a talented player who’s been playing poorly this year. At times he's bit on play-action fakes that have resulted in big plays.
I had been critical of him early when I didn’t feel he was being especially accountable for it.
I’m praising him now for the tone he’s taken coming out of the bye week, when he talked about off-the-field distractions without attempting to justify his performance.Here’s what he said:
“If you watch tape from last year and this year, it’s not the same body language, it’s not the same attitude. It’s just not the same person out there on the field. There are other things that have been going on, things that I took care of this bye weekend. This was a good opportunity for me to go take care of a lot of things and go from there …”
“It’s like having a bad day on the job. Some people go to work and may not be having a good day, may have other things going on. It’s not an excuse. It’s like I am letting my team down by letting other things bother me. This is the Tennessee Titans’ facility, things that are bothering me outside this facility shouldn’t be bothering me inside the facility."This is a great place to be with a lot of fun guys to be around. Think about it, this game right here takes care of a lot of your problems. If you’re frustrated, if you’re upset about something -- or if you’re happy about something -- this is a great place to be.”
Jeff Fisher pointed out that the team and the league have full-time employees dedicated to helping players with life skills, providing resources to help them handle, resolve or deal with whatever issues they are facing.
“Their ability to produce on the field is directly related to their ability to deal with distractions. When a player has things in his life that become difficult, it’s incumbent on him to either get the help or get them taken care of because they can create difficulties that carry over on the playing field…”
“They’re real people and they’re not immune to difficult situations. Regardless of what vocation you’re in or how much money you make, things happen. Now it’s not an excuse. But it can affect a player’s production and performance and as a result we try to stay on top of it through communication and counseling and whatever means we feel necessary.”