Titans’ Johnson losing $$ with visual image
Posted: Monday, July 19, 2010 9:03 pm
By RACHEL COHEN
AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing the last two seasons, so why is Peterson in seemingly every commercial while Johnson is rarely seen?
“It’s all about image and perception,” Jerry Horowitz, the NFL’s director of youth tackle football, told a group of high school players after making the point about the two running backs at a league-run clinic in Queens last month.
“The days of hoodlums are over.”
As commissioner Roger Goodell has cracked down on player misconduct, he’s made clear his aim is not only to punish lawbreaking but to prevent actions that tarnish the league’s reputation.
Horowitz left no doubt he sees a link between the NFL’s efforts to clean up behavior and the more than 125 High School Player Development clinics the league is running around the country this summer.
Speaking to nearly 150 kids at the start of the camp in Queens, he opened his remarks with this: “The landscape of the NFL is changing.”
“Commissioner Goodell is very stringent in how he hands out punishment,” Horowitz told them.
The HSPD programs, co-sponsored by the National Guard, generally run for 10 hours over five days. In their 10th year, the free clinics will reach more than 20,000 high school football players in 34 states. Participants practice football skills, but also take part in “character development” lessons.
Horowitz, a former New York high school football coach who oversees the programs, said NFL officials recognize that by the time many players reach the league, the seeds of misconduct already have been planted — and changing behavior requires more than disciplining players after they go astray.
“Once they come to us, it’s too late,” Horowitz said in an interview with AP.
“I blame a lot of colleges for enabling these kids,” he added.
Johnson, incidentally, has never been in trouble off the field. But he conceded in an interview that “I know people think I’m a bad guy because of my dreads and gold teeth.”
As Horowitz said, it’s all about image and perception. Goodell suspended Ben Roethlisberger for six games even though prosecutors decided not to charge the Steelers quarterback in a case involving a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Milledgeville, Ga., nightclub.
“You are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans,” Goodell said in a letter to Roethlisberger.
Horowitz’s point about Peterson and Johnson might not have fully registered with the teenagers, though. Asked later why the Tennessee running back is in fewer commercials, one player said he figured it was because Johnson’s Titans didn’t win as much as Peterson’s Vikings.
But Goodell’s crackdown hasn’t gone unnoticed at the high school level, either.
“It’s unfortunate, when you’re blessed to play in the NFL, to have it taken away,” said Da’Quan Williams, a freshman at Queen’s Bayside High.
Published in The Messenger 7.19.10