NFL.com had done a really nice job covering Jared Veldheer's ascent from Division II football player to NFL third-round selection by the Oakland Raiders. The keys words are HAD DONE.
This week, reports of the Oakland Raiders being punished for too much contact in Optional Team Activities (OTAs) turned into a spin-fest of half-truths and quote plucking with former Hillsdale All-American Jared Veldheer somehow shouldering all of the blame...absolutely undeserved blame that can be easily tracked back to NFL.com.
Here is a brief rundown of how this whole mess got started. On Wednesday, the NFL in a joint statement with the players' union informed the Raider organization that it had to forfeit its two final OTAs because of too much contact in practice. By rule, OTAs are performed without full pads and are not to include live contact.
One of the first news sources to report on the story was the Oakland Tribune. NFL Writer Jerry McDonald led the article "Raiders not on the same page after all" with a quote Veldheer made on May 2nd at his first Raiders' press conference. (Watch full press conference to see comment)
The article used Jared's remarks as an example of reported contact but clearly stated it was made 5 weeks before any such decision by the League. All of this clarification was missed by NFL.com when it posted "Raiders forfeit two OTAs, rookie says contact was allowed":
Following the first day of practice the Raiders’ mandatory minicamp following the draft, I asked rookie third-round pick Jared Veldheer about the intensity of the “no contact” practices.
He laughed out loud.
“Well, it’s a lot of contact right now,” said Veldheer, who went on to talk about technique, pad level and how you don’t quite finish a block even if you fire out to start one.
He said, “Besides that, the run stuff is pretty full go.”
Rookie offensive tackle Jared Veldheer told the Oakland Tribune on Wednesday (June 9) that there was "a lot of contact" in the voluntary practices and "the run stuff is pretty full go." That would violate the OTA guidelines, which prohibit hitting.
No NFL, Jared Veldheer did not tell the Oakland Tribune anything on Wednesday....maybe 5 weeks ago Wednesday...but not 3 days ago. Also, it is important to note Veldheer was discussing mandatory rookie mini camp and not the OTAs, as the two are completely separate sessions. A source close to Veldheer confirmed today that the only mention he ever made about contact was at his first press conference and that he had not talked to any media in a long time. The original question was indeed asked by McDonald from the Tribune, but he was speaking to a large collection of media assembled. The Raiders obviously didn't seem too scared by the comment as the club posted it on the front of Raiders.com.
In all fairness, reporters do make mistakes. Unfortunately when you are NFL.com, the website for arguably the king of all professional sports leagues, you wield...however unwillingly...an amazing amount of influence.
Blogs, message boards, and Twitter-ers seized the story and as it captivated the imagination, the spin began. Although NFL.com hyperlinked to the original Tribune story, most readers and future reporters failed to click it and rolled with the idea that Veldheer was speaking out in the wake of the NFL ruling not nearly 40 days prior. Even outlets as respected as NBC Sports and Sports Illustrated perpetuated the misinformation. Fans took this and on their own Twitter pages or on message board posts like the one at RaiderFans.net, somehow Veldheer became the snitch.
Jared Veldheer is no snitch. He has spent the last 5 years living by Hillsdale College's honor code and was the considering by his Hillsdale teammates as the consummate team captain.
Go back and watch when and how the original question was posed. Veldheer laughed out loud just as McDonald stated. The original question about non-contact is laughable (but still a very legitimate question) because any practice lacking pads at any level from elementary school to the Oakland Raiders is going to involve "a lot of contact". Excuse Jared for liking the intensity at his first practices.
The only thing more laughable than the original question is the hack job NFL.com did on this story. Unfortunately there is nothing laughable about a promising NFL rookie ending up the whipping boy for a fan base because the NFL treated the story in a total amateur hour fashion.
C'mon NFL, you're better than that but you owe Jared Veldheer an apology.