The gap in the NFL calendar between the deluge of free agency and the beginning of the draft leaves a void often filled with unhealthy intakes. The main confectionery course consumed haphazardly comes from anonymous sources and scouts. These takes can be unflattering to players, can come out of context and are sometimes made nefariously with an ulterior motive in mind.
The 2021 Exhibit A for the peril of listening to anonymous sources this time of year is Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields.
The future first-round pick was the center of controversy last week when former NFL QB-turned-analyst Dan Orlovsky suggested he'd been told some teams were concerned about Fields' work ethic and desire to be great.
Since the comments were made on "The Pat McAfee Show," they've been shot down from virtually every angle. OSU coach Ryan Day is the latest to chime in, telling Peter King of NBC Sports that the notion Fields lacks work ethic is laughable.
"The whole idea that he doesn't have a very good work ethic?" Day told King. "I mean, to me, that's crazy. He got done with the Clemson game [the loss in the college football playoffs in the 2019 season] and he came back and all he did was work to get back to that game. And when those other guys are opting out, what's he do? He petitions to have a season. He put together this petition that the Big Ten athletes all signed saying that they want to play, but they want to play safely and that they don't accept canceling the season. It was all led by Justin Fields. Where was everybody else? Where were the guys who were opting out then? You know, you don't love the game if you're doing something like that. This kid loves the game.
"I heard something about the last one to come in, first one to leave. First off, the scouts weren't in our building all year. Last one in? Every morning, at least every morning we could be in the building, early, he's in with [assistant AD for football sports performance] Mickey Marotti. The guys who were self-motivated and could do things on their own, those were the ones who made it. He was unbelievable. He changed his diet, he got stronger. He did better than most."
Fields famously took a massive body shot to the ribcage during the second quarter of the Buckeyes' playoff game against Clemson last season. The QB missed just one play and returned to throw four more TDs. It's the type of play that makes the notion that Fields doesn't want to be great absurd.
"I think some people are being a little reckless with their comments," Day noted.
For his part, Orlovsky noted his mistake in offering criticisms without context. The ESPN analyst told King he spoke to Fields on the phone after the firestorm and apologized.
"Justin didn't have to take my phone call," Orlovsky said. "He could have said, Screw that guy. I told him exactly what happened, said I wasn't good enough in that moment, and that's on me. He was like, 'I get it. It's okay. I watch, and I know you're someone who's had my back. I appreciate you calling me.' I felt like he was really mature, and I appreciated him hearing me out."
The controversy won't keep Fields' name from being called early on Thursday, April 29, perhaps within the first three picks of the draft. It's the latest reminder not to put too much stock in what people will say this time of year without having to put their names behind those comments.