Print and Go Back More Sports

Saturday, February 23, 2013
Social media concerns abound at the combine

By Jane McManus

INDIANAPOLIS -- Just after noon in the media center of the NFL combine, a tweet projected that Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o would soon appear for his much-anticipated news conference. Reporters clustered around the main podium and waited.

And waited. Another tweet set Te'o's appearance for 3 p.m., and suddenly a hundred or more catfished reporters realized how easy it was to be duped by social media.

NFL teams have been watching the drama unfold around Te'o with an eye not just on the linebacker but on how aware they need to be of social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just as the phenomenon gives fans a direct line to the day-to-day thoughts of their favorite players, it's also an opportunity for prospective players to make ill-considered statements that force teams into damage control mode.

Does a tenacious competitor also have a penchant for starting Twitter beefs?

"One thing we've done this year, too," said Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, "is that we've done a lot of digging on social media and have a pretty in-depth picture of these players that are involved or not involved in social media, how many times they tweet or twit -- I don't know the technical [term]; I'm not a technical guy. But it's interesting to see the patterns on some of these social media players, as well."

So along with the traditional measurements, height, weight, 40 time and number of bench presses, prospective NFL players also could be judged on tweets per minute.

"Our security guy does a Twitter and Facebook count," said Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider. "It goes both ways, though. There are some guys on Twitter, and it's like they're trying to be Eddie Haskell now. They're putting out, 'Oh, I'm going to work out and it's 3:30 in the morning.' That's kinda weird, you know? But it does go both ways. You see some things that are very alarming. The Facebook stuff -- a couple years ago, you had that one guy who had a pile of coke and a couple guns sitting there. I don't think that bodes very well. I know my boss wouldn't really like that."

Plenty of teams have long monitored Twitter accounts. The Jets had a poster of dos and don'ts hanging in their locker room three years ago. But New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese -- who had to have some details of the Te'o story explained to him by his social media-savvy kids -- said you can go too far in the other direction.

"I think you can have too much information," Reese said. "You talk yourself out of some good players by what somebody said on Twitter or what somebody said on Facebook. 'This guy said this on Facebook, let's not take him,' and he's a Pro Bowler for 10 years."

The Giants will have their 15-minute Q&A with Te'o as if it would be possible to unravel the strange threads of his personal story in that amount of time. But Reese doesn't sound as if he has a great deal of interest in talking about cat -- or any kind of -- fishing.

"We're more interested in what kind of football player he is than anything else," Reese said. "I think that these things get blown out of proportion a little bit."

San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said there is only one thing that would immediately disqualify a player from consideration during the interview, and that's lying.

"Somebody that's not truthful, that's big, to me," Harbaugh said. "I'm a big fan of the Judge Judy show. And when you lie in Judge Judy's courtroom, it's over. Your credibility is completely lost. You have no chance of winning that case. So I learned that from her. It's very powerful, and true. Because if somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they ever say after that? Ronald Reagan, another person of great wisdom and advice, 'Trust, but we will verify.'"