Sikkema’s Stat of the Week
By now, most of you know that I’m an NFL Draft nut. Every year since about the time of my middle school days, the ingredients of Draft Weekend, for me, have been me parking myself on a couch, ordering takeout food (or having my mom bring me food back in the day) and watching every single pick I could. That borderline obsessive mindset brought me to be involved in all kinds of discussions with friends, written mock drafts of my own and even job opportunities I have now.
I’ve seen a lot of NFL Drafts since then, but nothing, and I mean nothing, was or ever will be like the half hour before the 2016 NFL Draft when a video was leaked on Twitter that showed highly-touted prospect Laremy Tunsil smoking weed through a gas mask.
I was almost too shocked to react. I think I laughed hysterically, at first, because there were so many elements to the video (the mask, Tunsil’s reaction, the fact that there were these flags in the background) that made it funny. But, of course, I couldn’t help but think of what this was about to do to Tunsil’s draft stock, too. Tunsil was thought of to be a Top 3 player in the class, and as we all reacted on Twitter, the world and the NFL began to get notice of it, too, which did, in fact, cause Tunsil to slide in the draft all the way to No. 13 where he was selected by the Miami Dolphins.
As the dust began to settle on the whole incident, at least from the initial wave of it, myself and others couldn’t help but think, “How in the world did that video make it to the Internet?”
Why does any of this matter for the Buccaneers? Well, because one of their own, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, has just had a similar video leak of him smoking an unknown substance – though not through a gas mask.
So, now that we don’t have to be as vague with things in a breaking news article, let’s get down to business on what this video could mean, will mean and anything about Hargreaves’ situation moving forward.
First off, yes, it looks like Hargreaves could be smoking pot, although it’s impossible to tell and we’re not going to accuse him of anything definitive. Second, I could care less about the fabricated negative outcomes of a grown adult human being doing something harmless on their own time whether that be watch TV, taking dance classes, drinking at a local bar, woodworking with stock cars, smoking weed, drag racing at a nearby track, recreational fishing, becoming a home-brewer or learning a second language. It does not matter. I do not care. None of those things have anything to do with each other and I listed them as such on purpose because interests and preferences among human beings can be vast and all still okay when enjoyed appropriately.
Now, for Hargreaves, a professional athlete, it’s a little bit different, at least as of today.
Hargreaves is employed by the National Football League, and even in the states in which marijuana is becoming decriminalized or used for medical purposes, athletes under contract are still prohibited from having any kind of banned substance in their system, which includes marijuana. The league has “random” drug tests in place to ensure that is not happening.
Now, do football players employed by the NFL still smoke weed? Yes, some do. It happens all the time – the NFL knows that, too, and yet they don’t enforce their own rule as much as they could because they know it’s not that big of a deal and really is more of a PR rule for sponsors and shielded appeal and enforcing it to its maximum would actually do more harm than good. But, oh, wait, I’m getting down the corrupted rabbit hole here. Sorry I’ll get back on track.
Your favorite players could smoke weed. I hope that’s not breaking news to you.
For Hargreaves, however, there is a lesson. The main one: don’t film yourself doing it or let yourself get filmed. I’m all for these athletes being treated as much like normal people and being allowed to live normal lives as much as anyone, but there comes a point in that to where you’re not a normal person; you are in the spotlight.
I don’t know where that video came from and I don’t know who posted it. But, it was obviously someone who obtained the video either from him or from a friend who posted it anonymously (likely after a blackmail attempt) because Hargreaves has a lot to lose. As a former first-round pick, Hargreaves is the one with the money, the platform and the lifestyle. Many football players have spoken about the positive uses of marijuana both on their body and brain after enduring such a violent, traumatizing game week-in and week-out, so if nothing else I understand the desire to use it there. But, don’t film yourself doing something illegal, man. And don’t text it to someone.
Marijuana is being decriminalized for a variety of different reasons at varying levels all over the country. States like Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have all legalized the recreational use of marijuana. States like Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia have all decriminalized its uses for medical purposes.
I list all of those states to say that this is not nearly as big of a deal now as it used to be. The public thinks that, the lawmakers think that, and you know who else is starting to think that? People in NFL offices. When was the last time you heard an NFL player was being suspended over marijuana usage?
From talking to different people on the other side of the business, they’re well aware that probably half the league’s population smokes weed. The reason I bring that part up is because many people have been reacting to the Hargreaves video like he’s going to get cut or traded or something. Hargreaves isn’t going anywhere right now. The need for this team to draft or add to the defensive back existed before this video came out and it still exists now, but in both a best case and worst case scenario for this situation, Hargreaves will still be on the Buccaneers come Week 1.
Hargreaves’ struggles as an outside cornerback have been well documented. In his rookies season, he gave up the most catches and the most yards out of any cornerback in football. This was sort of to be expected with a rookie cornerback on one side and Brent Grimes on the other. Teams were obviously going to try to get their best receivers lined up against Hargreaves and go at him.
The 2017 season didn’t start out much better for Hargreaves. He notably got torched by the Vikings’ passing attack and looked helpless against the Arizona Cardinals, as well. But, once he was move to the nickel cornerback position, he played well. In his first week on assignment in the slot, Hargreaves had four passes thrown his way and yielded zero catches with zero missed tackles, too, against the Buffalo Bills.
The following week against the Carolina Panthers, Hargreaves gave up just two catches for 13 yards on the seven passes thrown his way, once again in the slot. Next, against the Saints, as most of the defense had a rough day, Hargreaves did not. He was targeted three times and allowed just two passes to be caught for a total of just eight yards and a 70.1 passer rating when targeted.
Those were the only three games that we got to see of Hargreaves in the slot, as he injured his hamstring the following week against the Jets and missed the remainder of the season. So, if we go off that, there was a lot of promise there, plenty of promise for the team not to move on from him due to a leaked video of him smoking something that could be marijuana. We also don’t even know the date of the video. It could be much older than this offseason. It could have been made before he entered the NFL.
In the grand scheme of things, drafting a nickel cornerback No. 11 overall isn’t great value, but Hargreaves is on the team now and it’s organization’s job to put him in the best position. His career is salvageable, and the Bucs were in nickel defense about 65 percent of the time last year. That’s about two-thirds of any game.
Leaked video, date of the video, substance of the video aside, Hargreaves isn’t going anywhere this offseason – and he shouldn’t.