Athletes, particularly those at the professional level and regardless of the sport, have a responsibility to the media. Not all of them see it that way, of course, and it’s easy to understand why when Lords of the Keyboard or Microphone cast blame, doubt, or aversion towards them at their leisure. Sometimes without merit, and often for long periods of time.
Still, every job has its hazards. In this case, some are a little more publicized than others.
Just ask Patriots receiver Danny Amendola, who seemed to hang up on radio host Adam Jones on Tuesday night during an interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub after the questions either got too tough or redundant for his liking.
Jones is an established radio talent in this market and even spent two seasons covering New England for its pre and postgame shows on Patriots.com. In other words, he knows as well as anyone that players working for Pats coach Bill Belichick are known to say nothing and evoke little more personality in the process.
In turn, the Sports Hub host wasn’t exactly asking the hard-hitting questions.
It’s worth pointing out, first, that Amendola was seemingly only on to promote his upcoming “Celebrity Waiter Night” on June 11 to benefit his Catches for Kids Foundation. Good for him. Interviews are motivated by plugging appearances or products all the time. No problem.
Jones planned to discuss the event eventually, but began with football. Again, pretty customary in these situations.
He started with a softball, asking Amendola to describe his first season in Foxborough, a year the receiver called a “good experience” in which he “learned a lot”. Quarterback Tom Brady may disagree after the two struggled to get on the same page throughout Amendola’s latest injury-plagued campaign, but that’s another story.
Jones then inquired as to what Amendola needs to improve upon going forward, which was met with the player equivalent of Belichick’s “we can be better in all phases of the game” shtick.
Then things went south.
“You’ve had a fairly extensive injury history over the course of your career and your time in the league, Danny,” Jones said, teetering on a sensitive issue. “You’ve been described as injury-prone or fragile, or even unlucky. Using that word or maybe another that comes to mind for you, how would you describe your injury situation?”
To paraphrase, Amendola said he doesn’t think about it.
Jones pressed with a logical follow-up, given Amendola was limited to 12 of 16 regular season games in 2013.
“How would you describe your physical health at this point in the offseason?”
The wide-out insisted he’s good, channeling teammate Rob Gronkowski when noting everyone is “getting stronger and getting faster.”
One more from Jones.
“As we said, you’ve been described as unlucky with some of your injuries. We all remember that clavicle injury that you suffered as a member of the St. Louis Rams…”
Jones continued, but Amendola didn’t stick around to hear the rest.
“He’ll call back, I’m sure,” Jones said in jest after noticing the sound of the click and trailing off.
The questions are there verbatim. Simple, logical, easy to answer queries from Jones for a veteran receiver with a high salary (he’s entering the second of a five-year, $28.5 million deal), high expectations, and an even higher likelihood of failing to make it through a full season unscathed.
Yes, injuries happen. Football is at times an insanely violent game. But most players appear in more than 24 regular season games over a three-year period (50 percent), which is how Amendola’s resume reads of late. Those are just the facts and it’s his responsibility to live with that and, if necessary, be reminded of it. He wouldn’t have been able to dance out of a media scrum in the face of the same string of questions so easily. Only Tim Thomas could end group interviews in these parts.
Maybe Amendola took exception to being termed injury-prone or fragile. Perhaps he doesn’t enjoy the thought of being unlucky. It could be that he feared a question was coming about offseason trade and cut rumors. Or, it’s entirely possible he’d just prefer to turn the page and look ahead to 2014. None of that matters.
When you’re a professional athlete – even a college athlete – part of the gig is dealing with the media and doing so in representative manner. Someone like Jose Canseco can hang up on all the talk show hosts he wants; he’s the only one in control of his brand. Amendola is employed by the Patriots, who just so happen to call the CBS Boston affiliate their flagship home.
It was a poor decision, even if the questions grew from mildly uncomfortable to wholly offensive (which, by the way, they never would have with Jones).
Fair or unfair, warranted or undeserved, Amendola has a long line of critics after a disappointing first season with the Pats. Fans and many in the media looked to him to be Wes Welker 2.0 – fortunately, a job snared by Burgertyme’s Julian Edelman – and instead he was simply Amendola, Season Five.
When he’s on the field, he’s a good, productive player. In his dozen games, Amendola finished with 54 receptions for 663 yards – 26 shy of a career-high set with the Rams in 2010 – and two touchdowns. But, more often than not, with Gronkowski out, Aaron Hernandez incarcerated, and several rookies or other first-year guys trying to navigate the playbook, he was nowhere to be found. In the AFC Championship game, he was held without a catch.
Truthfully, it’s unfortunate for Amendola because many people – and I am on that list – were expecting him to struggle to stay healthy before he ever put on a uniform. It’s not exactly the “welcome to town, we’re thrilled to have ya” that he or any free agent signing normally deserve. Often times, though, histories motivate opinions and Amendola’s is one littered with elbow, shoulder, foot, groin, and concussion-related absences just since the start of 2011.
Even so, if an athlete, any athlete, is permitted to cash his paychecks without performance, he can at least discuss the components of what prevented him from doing his job in years past.
Does Amendola owe Jones or the Sports Hub an apology? While it’d be nice, nobody would logically expect that. Again, this is hardly the first time something like this has happened. But, in the future, he should realize answering challenging or unpleasant questions is simply part of the job, even if he’d rather focus his time and energy on how he’ll avoid being a disappointment and future cap casualty by the winter.
With next week’s “Celebrity Waiter Night” approaching, maybe he could have viewed it as another charitable use of his time. Phone lines are open.
Follow me on Twitter at @AdamMKaufman
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