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Two months ago today was Groundhog’s Day, where the world (or at least a small percentage of it) was interested in how much longer winter would potentially last based upon Punxsutawney Phil’s ability to see his shadow. It’s a time-honored tradition in the meteorological world.
Just as Groundhog’s Day is the official beginning of the countdown to spring, April Fool’s Day is the official countdown to the lying, deception and subterfuge that will mark the weeks leading up to the 2016 NFL draft.
While NFL coaches and general managers are never overly forthcoming about what they do, what they think and what they plan – the media is a necessary evil to many of them – the level of deceit that comes in April is legendary.
The Minnesota Vikings are no exception to this rule. Eleven months out of the year, general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer are much more likely to tell you the truth, or some version close to it. In April, lips go tighter or play loosely with the facts.
In the Bizarro World of the NFL, disinformation is king and hyperbole is its queen. The Vikings are far from alone. It runs rampant throughout the league. If anything, the Vikings are tamer in that respect. You don’t hear a lot of national draft gossipers dropping dime on the Vikings for who they’re likely to take. A lot of teams make statements or intentionally leak information to media lapdogs that claim “an insider,” “a team source” or “someone with knowledge of the situation” has the scoop on who the team is or isn’t interested in.
Make note of every statement you hear from different teams.
Don’t believe a word of it, or least the majority of it.
Sports always has a cloak-and-dagger nature to it. Honesty is never the best policy in the eyes of the high-revenue leagues and information is on a need-to-know basis and, in most cases, the media never needs to know, according to most sources.
Anything you hear can reasonably be determined to be a fabrication or full-on falsehood. If some unnamed team source claims an organization is very interested in a particular player, that organization will ferret out the rat and he likely won’t have a job much longer.
It’s the CIA. It’s La Cosa Nostra. You have one loyalty – to your boss.
There’s no freelancing with the media. Family business stays inside the family. Given the importance of not tipping your hand or having a draft day “tell” that others can pick up upon is vital. You never hear the stories of teams waiting for a player they covet to drop into their lap only to see him taken with the pick in front of them. Those secrets go to the grave – or until the coach or executive writes a book.
The importance of the draft can’t be understated. The Vikings have built a nucleus that, if you go back in your history and look at how a champion was built, fits the footprint.
Thanks to social media, it’s difficult for a parent or sibling of a draft prospect not to brag out a visit to an NFL team. If a player is visiting, even under the Baltimore Colts exit strategy cloak of darkness, it doesn’t often go unnoticed.
One way or another, any interest a team has in players will surface – the Vikings' annual cattle call will be present and accounted for. And it will be reported and accounted for.
To quote thousands of players – past, present and future – “It is what it is.”
The 2016 NFL draft ends on the last day of this month. Between now and then, believe little to nothing you hear. It’s deception season and everything that comes out of the mouth of a coach or a G.M. should be treated with a skeptical filter because they should be keeping their cards close to the vest and anything talk about prospects they like is more than likely going to be more of a red herring than a legitimate interest.
Welcome to April. By May, the truth will be known.