Peter King is on vacation until July 20, and he lined up some guest writers to fill his Monday spot on Football Morning in America. Today, it’s Michael Thomas, who plays safety for the Houston Texans.
Three months into the 2016 season—my friend Colin Kaepernick’s last in the NFL—the 49ers came to Miami for a game. The Niners were 1-9. We were 6-4 and headed for the playoffs. I entered the NFL on San Francisco’s practice squad in 2012; by 2016, I was in my fourth season playing safety for the Dolphins, and I took the field that afternoon in south Florida knowing our biggest priority on defense was to stop Kap.
In the last four years, Kap’s been blackballed from the NFL and has become an international hero for the oppressed. I’ll get to that subject in a moment, but I want to express what a great player he was when he last played, and why I believe he absolutely must have the chance to get his job in the NFL back. Now.
The pressure on Kap that hot afternoon was enormous. We had won five games in a row. Though he was a great player, he was getting a lot of attention for other reasons. Kap started protesting during the National Anthem that preseason, to draw attention to systemic racism and police brutality, first sitting during the anthem and later kneeling. Eric Reid joined him in San Francisco. It was not a popular stance with the public. Kenny Stills, a wide receiver on our team, and I joined in solidarity in Miami so during the anthem before that game, while I was kneeling, I could look across the field and see Kap doing the same.
That feeling was monumental. We were getting nothing from the league, no statement of support, no willingness to back the players. There was more tension that day, because Kap had previously worn a T-shirt with a photo of a meeting between Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. In south Florida, with such a large Cuban population, anything pro-Castro does not go over well. So that was a massive thing for the Miami media, and he had a heated discussion with a reporter from the Miami Herald during a mid-week press conference that got a lot of attention. That game had extra juice before we lined up on Sunday.
Kap played an incredible game. It might have been his last truly great game in the NFL. He threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and he had his last 100-yard rushing game in the league, with 113 yards on the ground. We were up 31-24 but they had first and goal at the six-yard line with five seconds left and Kap was looking to get them into the end zone, tie the game and send us to overtime. He got the snap and tried to run it in, and for a minute it looked like he was going to do it. But he got tackled by Ndamukong Suh and Kiko Alonso at the two-yard line, and that was the game.
We rushed the field, we were celebrating, and I remember being mad at myself afterwards because by the time we were done with all that, I’m pretty sure Kap was off the field, and we didn’t get to chop it up. Obviously, I was glad we won. When I’m playing against Kap, when I’m playing against anyone, I’m trying to make my plays and win the game as my absolute first priority. But at the same time, Kap’s my guy, and I want him to ball. And I was really happy that he balled, because there was absolutely nothing negative anyone could say about that game. We know the added pressure that came with us taking a knee. If you give them any excuse, they’ll tear you down and demand you get cut. You’re just a distraction.
That season was life-changing for me. Following the back-to-back unjust murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling in the summer of 2016, I knew I had to do something. I was done with t-shirts and hashtags. I was ready to fight, because this was bigger than me. I had zero guarantees in my contract at the time. Miami could cut me at any point and not owe me a thing, not even owe me a goodbye.
I had to make a decision. My parents always raised me to be a leader, to take a stand for what was right regardless of potential punishment, but even they were scared. My wife Gloria and I prayed about it. Here’s what it came down to: If I say that I care about my people, if I say that I care about the Black community, I needed to do something. My daughter would be watching.
To be honest, I had no idea what exactly that something was going to be. Until I saw Colin Kaepernick kneel during the National Anthem. When I heard why he was protesting, that he was fighting against systemic oppression and police brutality, it was an incredible moment of clarity.
Kenny, who has conviction like no other, said to me, “Mike, that’s what we need to do.” Players across the league were having conversations about locking arms, raising fists, but we knew that would distract from the message and allow it to be co-opted. We had to kneel in solidarity with Kap, and we had to have that conviction to know that even if we were going to get bashed, we were in it with our brothers. In our hearts, we knew it was the right thing to do.
In 2016, Colin Kaepernick woke me up.
I pray that we figure out a way to make this NFL season work safely amidst the coronavirus pandemic. I’m a vice president on the board of directors of the NFL Players Association, and we’re talking about that right now. If and when it does, I have no doubt that we’ll hear any number of statements and sentiments from the teams, from the league and from Roger Goodell about racial injustice, about Black Lives Matter, about making change. We’re already hearing them now. Great. It’s the middle of July. But I don’t think any player will really believe the sentiments of the NFL if Colin Kaepernick doesn’t have a job in the league this season.
When I initially spoke with Peter King about writing this column, he wanted to know if I might propose a creative solution to make that job happen for Kap. I said no. The NFL created this problem. The NFL has to solve it. It’s not my job to do that. If the league really feels like it’s going to back the players when it comes to ending racism, Colin should have a job. That’s the only way that the Black community and the players are going to truly believe the NFL is serious about what they say. Otherwise, people will always reference what you did to your own. You have to look in the mirror and clean your own house first.
Like I said, I’ve played against Colin, and he’s a winning quarterback. He wasn’t winning the last time we faced each other, but he’s proven he can compete, and he’s taken his team to the Super Bowl. People love to talk about how long Colin has been out the game, how hard it might be for him to get back to that NFL level. But I know he’s been working and staying in shape. That’s different than actually playing, and I don’t know if his first role when he comes back will be the starting quarterback for a team. But I know for a fact that of all the backup quarterbacks on a roster right now, he’d be one of the best, if not the best. And probably better than some of the second-tier starters.
Like the rest of us, he’d have to come into camp and prove himself. That’s the beauty of our game. Respect is earned by your play. He built up a lot of that respect in the past. I have no doubt that with all the work he’s been putting in, even since he’s been blackballed out of the league, that he’d be able to come in and compete. And then it would be up to him to prove his worth and earn that respect again.
Beyond that, he’s the type of quarterback that today’s NFL is built for. It’s built for the mobile quarterback, it’s built for the quarterback who can run but also throw. He’s that dual-threat option. He’s mobile, and he has a big arm that can hit the deep threat. He causes confusion for defenses if he gets into any kind of zone-read option. And obviously the RPO game is bigger than ever. Set aside for a second what the league would gain in terms of credibility by bringing him back. From a pure football standpoint, his style fits the league perfectly.
Colin is always going to be the name and the face of this movement, and he should be. But I don’t think his stance is anywhere near as monumental without the unwavering support of Eric Reid. With Eric, you have a first-round draft pick, a Pro Bowl type player who’s young, who’s checking off all the boxes on the list of things you need to get to free agency and kill it on the open market.
Eric and I both hit free agency in 2018, he’s two years younger than me, and for him, nothing? He struggled to get a job in Carolina, and now he’s without a team again. All because he used his platform to fight against police brutality and systemic oppression and align with Colin Kaepernick. When you talk about Colin, you have to talk about Eric. In the same breath that I’m calling for Colin to by employed, I guarantee you Colin will be calling for Eric to be employed this season as well.
In conversations I’ve had with other players, even the player who didn’t take a knee, everyone is overwhelmingly in agreement that these men need to be playing in the league. If there’s a group that’s opposed to that, I certainly haven’t spoken with them. Most people, myself included, feel like Kap is a hero for what he did. He woke up the next generation of players to use their voice and their platform to protest police brutality and systemic oppression.
Four years removed from 2016, there has been real change, and it’s come from the players. Players are realizing their power, and they know the impact it has when they speak out against social injustices and racism. The young stars of today and tomorrow are doing it, and it’s so necessary because everything starts from the top. If the faces of the NFL – Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Lamar Jackson, Michael Thomas (the other one, of Saints fame) – are calling for an end to systemic oppression, and saying it publicly? Putting their faces behind it? Demanding the league back them while doing it? The video Michael Thomas engineered, featuring so many young stars, was so powerful, and Roger Goodell responded. That was a start. Now there’s more to do.
If it’s not the faces of the league—the big stars—calling for these things, it’s easy to dismiss. I’m not going to name names, but for so long the top players in the NFL of the past, many of whom were not Black, weren’t going to use their platform to fight for these causes. The league felt okay to talk about faith, family and football and to have players only support the causes that they said we could support. Players got trapped and confined to this cliché. And even if you wanted to address non-polarizing issues in our country, this was the feeling: You know I care about these issues, you know that I’m Black, you know that I care about the Black Community. But at the same time, there was a serious fear: If I speak out and say something, I’ll mess up my money!
But now with all the top players speaking out, they’ve applied pressure to the league and left them no choice but to join the fight. They’re the new faces of the league. If they’re speaking out on systemic oppression and racism in this country, then that opens the door for every other player. And they also know that the next generation of stars is watching. The college athletes. You’ve seen players at Texas A&M, Clemson, Oklahoma State, HBCUs across the nation, and at my alma mater, Stanford, using their platforms. It doesn’t matter where they are. They’re seeing their big brothers in the NFL fight to end systemic oppression. They feel strongly about making real change for the Black community too.
In 2016, we looked to the league to back us up. Even if they didn’t want to use their platform to express solidarity for our cause, we at least wanted them to come out and say that they supported their players. We couldn’t even get a statement with that bare minimum of backing.
But now we’re hearing from Patrick Mahomes. The league MVP and Super Bowl MVP is starring in a Black Lives Matter video and has made his support for the cause part of who is he as a player and a person. Last week, he signed to a 10-year extension worth about half a billion dollars, one of the largest contracts the sports world has ever seen (rightfully deserved). To have somebody of that caliber stepping up to say something for the Black community is a tremendous thing. The NFL is nearly 70 percent black. He knew they had to pay him. The NFL knew they had to pay him. And to hear him and Lamar and Deshaun speak on this topic is powerful and monumental.
Of course, I’m no Patrick Mahomes. When I took a knee in 2016, I was still under a minimum contract, bound to the Miami Dolphins. My daughter was two years old at the time. I had to make a decision knowing that I’m not the face of the NFL and that I don’t have any sort of guarantee in my contract. My first time hitting free agency came ahead of the 2018 season and I remember communicating with Eric Reid every morning, praying. Teams wouldn’t even respond to us. It was a tough time. I’ll say this: I was blessed to ultimately be able to sign with the Giants.
There was another team, and I won’t name names, that wanted to sign me and thought they could capitalize on my off-field situation. They thought I’d be seen as undesirable and that they’d get great value for me. Thankfully I was able to sign with the Giants, and I have nothing but great things to say about that organization. I accomplished a lot of career goals in New York: I made my first Pro Bowl and I finally signed a deal that had some type of guarantee. Some might argue that I didn’t get my true market value or that I missed opportunities with other teams because I chose to take a knee. I’ve said all I’m going to say on that for now, and I’ll leave that to everyone else to debate.
Some people make the argument that Colin would rather be a martyr for this cause than be a quarterback in the NFL. They’ll talk about recent news of his docuseries with ESPN and his deal with the Walt Disney Co. to argue he’s more interested in telling stories than playing football. But the people who are making those things mutually exclusive are feeding into the same system that keeps players from standing up for their communities. Colin used his voice and his platform to speak out on police brutality and systemic racism on his own terms and the response from some was to assume that means he doesn’t want to be a quarterback in this league.
That’s why I love the fact that this next generation is so woke. I have no doubt that Colin’s initial stance helped plant the seeds and inspire those young stars to realize what happens when you use your platform to fight for causes in your own neighborhood. And that is so powerful. Oh, and here we are four years later and the narrative in our nation around protest, racial injustice and police brutality has changed enormously. Colin was right!
Beyond sports, on a national scale, everyone wants to know where we should focus all this energy. Not just every Black person, but every person period. The protests are great, the activism is important, but how do we really fight to end systemic oppression? To me, that next step is for everyone committed to this fight – players, league partners, protestors, politicians – to try to attack systemic racism at its core and demand that our government, at both the congressional level and in the Senate, pass H.R. 40, the bill to study and develop proposals for reparations for African-Americans.
Representative John Conyers of Michigan first introduced H.R. 40 in 1989. Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee introduced the current bill in June of 2019. The “40” in the bill’s name is a reference to the promises made to freed slaves following the Civil War that were never delivered. Those freed slaves were supposed to be given “40 acres and a mule” from land and resources formerly held by the Confederacy, a systematic government initiative to rectify the ills of slavery and help rebuild the lives it had irreparably damaged.
But that promise went unfulfilled. Instead, slavery merely gave way to Jim Crow segregation and continued systemic disenfranchisement for Black people in America. As Rep. Jackson Lee said, “Slavery is America’s original sin, and this country has yet to atone for the atrocities visited upon generations of enslaved Africans and their descendants.” It’s time.
I’m only 30 years old, but throughout my lifetime, we haven’t even been able to truly have a conversation about the framework for reparations, let alone reparations themselves. The conversation always stalls on how we would do it, how much it would cost, what it would possibly look like. And that’s what H.R. 40 is for, to answer all these questions.
It horrifies me that it’s taken such drastic events for us to get to the place where this idea starts to enter the mainstream. But, okay, we’re here now. People are starting to talk about it. That’s great. It took protests in the streets. It took countless people being unjustly murdered at the hands, knees and guns of police to finally have a real conversation. But that’s what it took.
I’ve seen lots of athletes speak out on specific issues that they want to tackle. LeBron James, for instance, has put his focus on fighting voter suppression. I think that’s great. The fact that it’s 2020 and we’re still talking about the right to vote? That sucks. There are a million single individual battles that need to be fought and won. But does that approach create generational wealth for our kids and our grandkids? I don’t think so.
We keep dancing around the conversation. We keep getting incremental little wins, symbolic wins. That’s not enough. The average white family in America has 10 times the wealth of the average Black family. That’s why it’s not enough to take little pieces of the pie. We have to push for change at the core.
What we really need is for people to accept that this is a system that limits what Black people in America can achieve and accumulate. For everyone asking what’s next, let me say it unequivocally: We need to pass H.R. 40 and begin a serious conversation about the framework for reparations for Black people in the United States. We can’t let this energy, this moment and this momentum go to waste.
Reading this column thus far, you might decide that I only care about social justice issues, that my life as a football player isn’t important to me. That’s not true. I love football, and I love the life it’s allowed me to lead. I’ve been in the NFL since 2012. I came in undrafted, made my way from the practice squad in San Francisco to spend five years in Miami. I became a Pro Bowler with the New York Giants. I’ve been a captain and a leader for my teams, and I’ve been a leader in the NFLPA. Everyone wants to find safe ways to get back to work and we’re no exception. And this season is particularly special because I’m coming home to Houston—where I was born and raised—to play football in my town for the first time since high school. Here are some things I think from my life as a football player.
1. I think it’s going to be really strange to see Tom Brady play for Tampa Bay this year. Playing for Miami, we came up against the Patriots regularly and in his prime, I think Tom Brady is arguably the best of all time. My very first time facing him was actually my very first game in the NFL, when I was signed off the practice squad from San Francisco in December of 2013.
Early one Monday morning that December I woke up to a bunch of texts and missed calls from my agent, who told me that I had to decide right now if I wanted to go to Miami, because otherwise they were going to move on to the next guy. She’d called 10 times already. So I said of course, got to Miami Tuesday night and by Wednesday I’m with the team.
That Sunday, I played in my first NFL game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. I wasn’t supposed to be touching the field on defense. The fourth quarter comes around and the starting corner is hurt. Okay, so then they need me to run down on kickoff. I run down on kickoff, make my first tackle. I’m thrilled, I know that my name is going to be on the stat sheet and there’s going to be evidence that I really played.
The next play, another DB gets hurt. We only have seven DBs and we have to play five at a time, so the DB coach comes up to me and says, “Mike? That’s your name right, Michael Thomas? I see you played slot in college. You’re going to have to play slot again.” Okay. So Tom Brady sees that and literally every play he’s coming to me. They’re either running the ball or he’s throwing it to Julian Edelman or Danny Amendola or whoever I’m guarding in the slot. I’m holding on, I make a couple plays, but they’re driving down the field. They’ve got a first down at the 19-yard line with 27 seconds left and I’m guarding Amendola and he’s running a go route to the end zone. I look up and the ball’s coming. Amendola actually gets it in his hands in the end zone but I fight until the end, fight until we get to the ground and the ball pops out. It’s an incomplete, the crowd goes crazy, and now I’m juiced.
And now it’s fourth down. Coach calls a timeout and tells me they’re going to help me out and put me in double coverage with the safety. I’m thinking, thank God. Even if they win, just don’t let it be on me. It’s my first game in the league!
We get out there, they line up. Tom Brady says hut, they snap it, and whoever was in the slot dove underneath to the safety, so I free up. I start backpedalling a little to offer some body pressure to the outside corner. I look up and the ball is coming, intended for Austin Collie. It’s like a movie scene. Everything is in slow motion. I leap up in the air and catch it and after I fall down in the end zone it hits me. I just caught the game-winning interception! That’s Tom Brady! I just won the game! All my teammates are jumping up and down, cameras are in my face, the crowd is going crazy, I start crying and yelling for my mama. It was absolutely like a movie. That was my welcome to Miami moment, my welcome to the NFL moment, and fans ask me about that play, I kid you not, every other day. I’ll never forget it.
2. I think I’m a Jim Harbaugh guy through and through. He brought me to San Francisco when I went undrafted out of Stanford. He’s a hilarious guy and he’s a guy who knows how to win. He’s very tough. Some might even say he’s an a-hole. But he knows how to get the most out of his players, how to put the best guys out there and how to evaluate talent. He’s a great coach and I’m glad I had the opportunity to say I played for him.
He recruited me to Stanford too, and I’ll tell you the line that got me hooked, because full disclosure, as a 15- or 16-year-old kid, I had no idea what Stanford was, and no idea where it was. I thought it was in the Ivy League or something. My dad had just showed me an article about Harbaugh coaching at Stanford and had told me all about his playing career. I kid you not, I got a text probably 20 minutes later saying: “This is Jim Harbaugh. There’s going to be a lot of teams out there that want you, Mike. But we need you.” And that’s when I said, okay, let me pay attention to this guy. I saw that the school was in California, that they played in the Pac-12, and the rest is history. Jim Harbaugh knows how to recruit.
3. I know I just got through saying that Tom Brady is the greatest of all time. But I think I’ll never forget playing the Packers in Miami in 2014, facing Aaron Rodgers, on the last play of the game, in the red zone. We’re up 24-20. He breaks the huddle, looks at our defense, smiles, doesn’t even buckle his chin strap, says hut and throws the game-winning touchdown. That guy was so smooth, and his arm talent is unbelievable.
Now when you’re talking arm talent, you have to include Patrick Mahomes. But I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Rodgers and Mahomes are doing State Farm commercials together. They have the one-two punch in the league when it comes to pure arm talent. But Rodgers has that thing where he can just make any throw. I think most DBs would tell you that he’s one of the absolute best and most dangerous quarterbacks we’ll face, ever.
4. I think Rob Gronkowski was that guy where it didn’t matter how great you defended him all game. The defense knew that he was going to find a way to seal himself off or get himself open and find a way to score. He was definitely the toughest tight end to face, because he knows Tom Brady is going to find a way to get him the ball. He was a mental problem because he had a great quarterback (and this season he’ll have him again) and he’s a big dude who can move and be physical. It was always a battle. But we knew to keep guarding him, keep battling, because otherwise he’s going to make plays.
5. I think that the fact that I had to come into the NFL the hard way, undrafted, practice squad, building my way up from nothing, is the reason that so many players around the league respect me. They know nothing was handed to me. I wouldn’t change anything about my career. I’ve had to work hard for everything I got. But the fact that I’ve had so many great experiences, met so many great people and been able to give back to my community helps me feel like I’ve done it the right way. I have veered outside of the box in many things, whether it’s business or activism, when the moment calls for it. But to me, it’s all a blessing. My life and career are things I’ve been graced with, and I don’t take any of it for granted.
6. I think that one of my favorite parts of living and playing in New York was being able to see Broadway shows on date nights with my wife. The last two we saw were two of my favorites, Ain’t Too Proud, about the Temptations, and Tina, the Tina Turner Musical. Those left a lasting impression on me.
Before I actually signed with New York, we saw Hamilton on Broadway with the original cast. I’d heard so much about it and I’d seen how high the ticket prices were, so I knew there was hype, but when the curtain went up and they started rapping? It blew my mind, it blew my wife’s mind. My first thought was the play was something classes should be taking their students to see, to start that conversation on U.S. history.
I have a bunch of different playlists on my phone depending on the mood I’m in and Wait for It, where Leslie Odom Jr. sings as Aaron Burr, is on my “Inspiration” playlist. It gives me chills and goose bumps. Sometimes that’s what I’m listening to before games, it’s that good.
7. Like I said, I’m coming home to play in Houston this season, and I think my quarterback, Deshaun Watson, will be this year’s league MVP. You can call me a homer because he’s my quarterback and my hometown quarterback. But I believe he has the skill set and the weapons around him to play at that level. He has a team that’s built to win right now.
The DeAndre Hopkins trade was a major story for the entire NFL community, and now it’s all clearly on Deshaun. The team believes in him and he believes in himself, and I think that he’s the type of dynamic quarterback who can rack up points for his offense. Like I said, everyone is going to be looking to him now that DeAndre Hopkins is in Arizona, and I feel that he’s built to answer that call. At the end of this season, he’ll not only be in the race for MVP, but he’ll win it.
8. I think Saquon Barkley is in for a record-breaking season in his third year. I remember when I first saw him with the Giants ahead of the 2018 season. This was pre-pandemic times, so everyone was bringing draft talent in for visits. I saw him in the hallway taking a tour before the draft and I said, “That’s the guy from Penn State?” He just looked like a player crafted in a lab, and that was while he was in regular clothes.
When it came to the draft, with Cleveland having the first and fourth pick and us in between with the second, I knew that if they used their first pick on a quarterback, we had to do the right thing and take this kid. And thank God we did. From the day he stepped into our facility, he brought a different energy to the team and I think it was much needed at the time. You just knew he would be a captain. He’s a natural-born leader.
I’m talking about all his qualities off the field. But when you see him on the field, it just feels different. Everybody who’s ever seen him, played with him or played against him knows this kid is a generational talent. He had an amazing first year and made the Pro Bowl. Then he got injured last year and I know it hindered him. Now, he’s hungry. You can see from the workout videos he’s posting that he’s primed to get back to it. He’s the type of guy who can run the ball, catch the ball, bring it out of the backfield, just do it all. With a new head coach and a new system in New York this year, I don’t think anything, short of injury, will stop him from having a breakout year.
9. I think that if you lined up all the NFL players with the fastest 40-yard dash times for a foot race, Tyreek Hill would win. I think he could beat just about any player in the league in a foot race. There are so many guys that are blazing fast, can run a quick 40 or have that speed on the track, but his football speed is just different. Tyreek has the track background and it translates to the game.
To be clear, this is coming from me, a guy who isn’t even in the conversation. Even if we did race, it wouldn’t be entertaining. They wouldn’t even put odds on it in Vegas, because everyone already knows how that story would end.
We always see a lot of competition between players on social media, and it’s especially pronounced right now when everyone has a lot of time on their hands. We’re all itching to just get out there and compete. That’s what we do. That’s what’s separated us from other kids all our lives. He’s been posting to see if anyone will take him up on a foot race, and a few people have weighed in but honestly, I don’t think many people want that smoke. My friend Jakeem Grant did step up and say he’d take the challenge. Jakeem, I love you, I’ll root for you, but I think that Tyreek could beat all the fastest guys in the league on pure speed.
10. I think I want to see defensive players have the same marketability and opportunities as the “faces of the league” as offensive players. Richard Sherman is probably the closest thing we have. He built that larger-than-life persona at the height of the Legion of Boom in Seattle and that’s the sort of thing we need. The bigger a player like Richard Sherman is, the better it will be for the next generation of defensive superstars, like a Jamal Adams, so that they can continue to grow their marketability and raise their platform.
I think about Ndamukong Suh getting an $100 million deal while I was in Miami, and how crazy people thought it was, because he was a defensive lineman. Maybe this is just wishful thinking for our next generation of players, but I’d love to see day of the $200 million contract for a defensive player, a half a billion-dollar contract like we’re seeing for the quarterbacks and offensive players.
Beyond that, it’s about the off-field marketability, and I think to achieve that from the defensive side of the ball, you have to be willing to be the villain. Everyone wants to see points scored, to see the 50-50, high-flying game marked by touchdown after touchdown. Fans need it, fantasy football needs it, Vegas needs it, the television ratings need it. But as defensive players, we’re here to stop all that. We’re here to shut people down. To get as many opportunities as we can, I think we have to be willing to embrace that villain person to become the larger-than-life figure that’s sought after for deals, endorsements and big contracts.
Obviously that persona has to come with performing on the field, and that’s why I think Jamal Adams is probably the next big thing who could fill that outsized role after Richard Sherman. His productivity on the field is there. I don’t know what exactly the hype looks like – maybe it’s commercials, like Troy Polamalu with the hair, or maybe it’s getting to the point where, like Sherm, he’s big enough to make it on the cover of Madden. Whatever it is, I just want that for our defensive players, that shine, visibility and compensation, even if it means leaning in to that role as a villain.
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