If nothing else, part of me wants to thank your Houston Texans for giving us something to talk about during the dregs of the sporting calendar year. Sure, I wish it was something more positive, but beggars can't be choosers. Especially in post-Super Bowl February. After having a bit of time to digest the allegations levied against the organization and/or coaching staff, I have a few thoughts:
1. Are the allegations true? I have no idea. Gun to my head, I'd bet they are. Coaches are constantly looking for every edge they can get, and I wholeheartedly buy the notion that these sort of prohibited contact drills are far more commonplace than not. That leads to the question of whether "everybody's doing it" is a legitimate defense. Your opinion may differ, but that sort of justification rings hollow to me. It reverts back to the old question my parents always used to ask about whether I'd jump off a bridge just because everyone else was doing it. The herd mentality doesn't persuade me that there's an excuse for breaking the rules.
2. Are the allegations serious? Absolutely. Rules are rules. You break 'em, and you pay the consequences. Here, the consequences range from a monetary fine to possible loss of team activity time to the forfeiture of a fourth-round draft pick. Obviously, that last penalty is the most serious. Imagine, if you will, your Houston Texans missing out on the chance to add another player of Owen Daniels' or, to a lesser extent, Xavier Adibi's or Fred Bennett's caliber. Each of those current Texans were fourth-round picks. We all love to pat Smithiak on the back for their middle and later round draft finds, so the thought of losing the opportunity to add another diamond in the rough in April should underscore that this transgression has the potential to really sting.
3. Are the allegations a bit tougher to believe considering the source(s)? The veracity of the allegations, not really, though you have to question Dan Stevenson's motivation for coming forward. The guy was a fringe player in the NFL, and this whistleblowing (including but not limited to the subsequent lawsuit against the Texans he's purportedly set to file) could simply be his way of earning a living and/or saving for retirement for the next few years. I definitely don't buy the notion that Stevenson is some sort of crusader for workers' rights. Do you think he'd have blown the whistle if he had a guaranteed contract or roster spot? In other words, would he really bite the hand that was feeding him if it was still feeding him? I don't think so. Call me a cynic.
4. I do know this: Stevenson, Jordan Black, and Fred Weary just made it a whole lot more unlikely that they'll be plying their trade in the NFL come September 2009. When deciding on those last few roster spots, I have a hard time believing NFL teams are going to stick with guys who now have a well-publicized history of raging against the machine. Superstars can get away with being the squeaky wheel. These guys aren't superstars.
5. Smartest dude in the bunch? Chukky Okobi. His silence has been golden thus far.
6. I am a bit disappointed in the Texans organization, though. I know there are all sorts of policies that govern responding to these sort of allegations, and I respect the idea of waiting until the issues are evaluated thoroughly before disseminating some half-cocked response. Still...the Texans know if they broke the rules. If they did, Bob McNair, Rick Smith, and Kubes need to issue statements apologizing for their conduct and take their medicine. In short, they need to be the stand-up organization that we believe they are. Any sort of waffling or tap-dancing is weak sauce.