Home / Sports World / Players skipping bowl games was a big deal in 2016, but people seem to have gotten used to it already

Players skipping bowl games was a big deal in 2016, but people seem to have gotten used to it already

Remember all the controversy surrounding Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey?

It’s bowl season, and while you’re getting ready to watch a ton of glorious games over the holidays, there’s another thing you’ll probably hear about — players sitting out on bowl games.

Here are a few players who have so far announced they are skipping their games to prepare for the NFL draft:

  • Texas safety DeShon Elliott
  • Florida State safety Derwin James
  • Texas tackle Connor Williams
  • Oregon running back Royce Freeman

Players sitting out isn’t nearly as big of a controversy as it was last year, when former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and former LSU Tigers running back Leonard Fournette sat out of their teams’ bowl games. For example, here are some typical fan responses to Derwin James’ decision to sit out:

As a whole, the reaction to players missing bowl games this year is one of relative indifference, suggesting that last year set a new trend. Instead of viewing it as quitting on the team like we saw many do last year, missing the game to protect a draft stock is seen as a logical decision this year. Which it is!

We’ve also seen future NFL draft picks come out and say they won’t be sitting.

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley made up his mind in November:

And Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson had a similar response when asked about it:

“Absolutely,” he said.

“He’s gonna play,” added cornerback Jaire Alexander, sitting next to Jackson. “He’s playing.”

“Just like I’m playing next week,” Jackson said.

LSU RB Derrius Guice is playing, too.

Remember last year, when skipping bowls was a big controversy? Now, no one seems all that angry.

There were wildly mixed reactions to Fournette and McCaffrey’s decisions.

Here’s an NFL personnel executive summing up the case:

“Put yourself in their shoes, an injury could change the course of the rest of their lives,� the veteran NFL personnel man said. “We’re not talking about a left guard here. We’re talking about a skill (position) player who is a huge target. That’s the reality of it.

“Look at what these coaches are making now. Those guys are making $5 or $6 million a year and they may pressure these kids to play? Look at what these coaches and ADs are doing. It’s OK for them to leave, but it’s not OK for players to think about their futures? For coaches to (be critical), that’s incredibly selfish. Hold on a second here, guy. You pressure these kids to play, and then one of them (suffers a career-altering injury) and it’s, ‘I love you, and you’re a great teammate. Sorry about that.’ And it’s all for some bowl game who no one cares about? That’s a joke. I’m looking at it practically. If it was your son, what are you gonna say? It makes sense.�

And former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a career-derailing knee injury in a regular season game during his senior year:

Not everyone was on board with it, though.

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians was one who didn’t seem enamored:

“That would concern me. Depending on what their situation is as a team, because this is a team sport. But you’ve had a couple of guys get injured in the last couple years. Agents have a lot to say about it. Parents have a lot to say about it. But, it would concern me.�

Nor was former NFL MVP Marshall Faulk:

Playing in bowls and getting injured can cost you a bunch of money.

This is exactly what happened with former Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith in 2015:

Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith was expected to be a top-10 NFL draft pick — until about halfway through the first quarter of the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Smith suffered a gruesome knee injury, tearing both his ACL and LCL.

The injury greatly affected his draft stock. Instead of having his name called within the first hour of the NFL Draft, he fell to the second day, and was taken at No. 34 overall by the Dallas Cowboys.

Smith ended up signing a four-year deal with the Cowboys, one with a $2.9 million signing bonus that is worth roughly $6.1 million. It’s still a solid amount of money, but had he been taken, say, third, his contract in total would be close to $26 million, per Pro Football Talk.

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It’s fine to skip a bowl game

Skipping a second-tier bowl to prep for the NFL, especially if you’ve been injured?
Probably not the world’s biggest problem.

Posted by SB Nation College Football on Monday, December 19, 2016

In 2016’s season, Michigan TE Jake Butt saw his draft stock suffer when he got injured in the Orange Bowl. He had to wait until the No. 145 pick to be taken by the Denver Broncos after suffering a torn ACL. This greatly affected his stock, as Dan Kadar pointed out in his pre-draft tight end rankings.

Had he not tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl at the end of the season, Butt would be potentially the second or third tight end in these rankings. He had to sit out the combine and Senior Bowl while a player like Howard dominated both events.

Skipping bowls didn’t hurt McCaffrey or Fournette, as both were taken in the top 10.

Remember all the yelling at the time, about these two college students skipping group projects in order to prepare for their professional careers?

The sanctity of games sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and Hyundai!

Letting their teammates down (despite their teammates supporting them publicly)!

Showing the NFL they don’t like football!

Aaaaaaand then both went in the top 10, Fournette to the Jaguars and McCaffrey to the Panthers, which would seem to indicate NFL general managers didn’t care much about players with injury issues skipping December bowl games. Maybe the NFL also likes their RBs to have minimal tread on the tires, too.

And although there were concerns regarding Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers’ commitment after he missed the Orange Bowl with a hamstring injury, he was selected at No. 25 overall by the Cleveland Browns. That’s about right where mocks had him going.

There are two sides to this new trend, but the bottom line is, it’s a player’s decision.

And keep in mind we’re only seeing players intentionally skip lesser bowl games. It’ll be a long time before a player chooses to sit out a Playoff game.