BRISTOL, Conn. - I was at ESPN's annual football media day on Wednesday, and was looking for a reasonably unique storyline from the analysts talking to us. Considering that the room was full of reporters in search of the same thing, I suspected it wouldn't be easy.
I managed to pull that off by way of an exclusive conversation with NFL analysts Tedy Bruschi and Trey Wingo about concussions in football that you can read here.
There was also a more entertaining moment that I wanted to pass along. Early in the event, the speakers – Bruschi, Wingo, Adam Schefter and Keyshawn Johnson - were asked what they were looking forward to in the coming NFL season.
Bruschi was asked what he does during the week to prepare for Sunday, and he answered that he focuses on the psychology of coaches. The former New England Patriots star said that coaches tell "blatant lies" about what they're doing when the cameras are off:
I always think about how creative I can be in terms of watching film, and seeing finally what teams are doing on game days. Because so much can be said during the week, and you all know it can just be blatant lies in terms of what they want to do. But what they do on the field is always the truth to me.
Well, that got my attention real quick. Especially because of the reputation of the football team in this town for for being... well... let's call it... less than transparent. Especially under the previous administration.
Now, I am pretty sure you all don't like being lied to. And you shouldn't. You put a lot of time and money and emotion into supporting the Eagles, and you deserve the truth.
So why don't you get it? And how should you know when you're being lied to?
I asked the panel for their thoughts on those questions. Here's what I got back. I'd like to know if you find the remarks satisfying. Post your thoughts in the comments section below.
Bruschi: A lot of times you don't get that information from coaches - coach [Bill] Belichick didn't want to [do that]. We had team meetings and we talked about what should be discussed and what shouldn't be discussed, this is our message coming out of the locker room. And then boom, you release, and you're there with the media and hopefully everyone stays on the same page.
But as an analyst, I really count a lot on my interpretation of what's being said. A coach may say this, but this is what he really means. So then it's can I get any type of evidence of that from watching film? Because football is cloak-and-dagger. For a lot of these football coaches, they really don't want to give any information, and it can be hard.
Sometimes I wonder at some of the inside information that comes out. Somebody says, “I've been told this by a member of the organization.” And I wonder, did [the team] want him to tell him that, so it could be put out there? Is it really true? Because I'm looking at what kind of message the coach is looking to put out there, contrary to what they really feel.
Schefter: I think that anybody watching any coach or any player talk has an antenna that goes up when you know they're not being truthful. I just think, in my job, I once covered a team [the Denver Broncos] for 16 years, so I'm sure I've been lied to my fair share of times.
But I think the way I do my job now, the people who I've dealt with, I've dealt with them for so long that while I may be completely naive here, I believe that they are almost always being truthful. If there's something they can't tell me, they just won't tell me.
I can say, hey, are you trading that guy or is this guy getting suspended or what happened here? [The answer is] well, I can't talk to you about that.
You know how to read certain things if a player's hurt and you're trying to track that information. People who respond right away when they typically don't respond – you know there's almost always something to it.
It's just a feel that you have for people over time.
Bruschi: Even when I've talked to players from various teams, they still really don't know. Players who I trust and have known before and am asking straight up: what's the answer to this? And they don't even know. They're on the team. But still, the coaches will keep information from them.
Schefter: There was a time back in the 2000s* when I knew the Broncos were trading Clinton Portis to Washington for Champ Bailey, and I couldn't get it pinned down to the point where somebody would let me write it. So I wrote it as a column: here's a trade that would bear watching.
And I remember going back from the combine and I flew with the Broncos' running backs coach. He saw it and said to me, “Where do you come up with this garbage?” The next day, the trade went through.
So a lot of times they don't know. A lot of times in an organization, there might be one decision-maker who knows and a confidant who knows, or maybe somebody else. But a lot of times, people in the organization don't know.
* - The trade happened in the 2004 offseason.
Johnson: It's a little different for me. I think I probably know at least one guy who's a player or in upper management on every single team I've crossed paths with. I trust the players a little more than I do coaches in terms of things that they would give me, because I've been in the locker room and kind of understand what the coaches are saying.
I can look at a coach in a press conference and tell you in a heartbeat that he's lying. And along the way, I can find out from somebody in that organization exactly what he's saying.
Then in terms of film, if something is there and he says a player missed a block or points a guy out, I can look at the film based on the plays – all the plays are pretty much the same – and I can make my own interpretation of exactly what he was supposed to do.
It's just being around it, playing in it, and I have my own gut that I don't necessarily have to go to that particular player or coach to know exactly what it is I need to deliver on TV to get that message across.
Wingo: To that point about getting a message across, we've done this a couple of times: sometimes a coach is not only being not truthful, but he's really speaking to somebody else when he's speaking to the media. You and I have had those conversations before, where we'll play a coach's soundbite and ask what he's really saying, who he's really talking to.
Sometimes he's talking to opposing coaches, sometimes he's talking to other players, trying to get the message across without actually getting the message across.
Schefter: Coaches don't speak to the media, they speak through the media.