Friday Five: Jeremy Maclin, Royals fever and more

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02/21/2014 3:49 PM

05/16/2014 11:46 AM

• 1. Chiefs? Jeremy Maclin.

Jeremy Maclin? Chiefs.

That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw Maclin at the Missouri basketball game on Wednesday.

Now, just because Andy Reid drafted Maclin in Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily mean Maclin wants to follow Reid here if he isn’t signed by the Eagles by March 11 and becomes a free agent. 

He publicly has said he wants to stay in Philly, for that matter.

But the Chiefs have a need, even if Reid at the NFL Combine said he was “OK” with the receivers and tight ends last season. 

That was a tepid endorsement at best.

And the Eagles have a surplus at receiver.

So much so that general manager Howie Roseman told reporters at the combine, “You can only put a limited amount of resources into the position before it starts taking out from other places. And you have to factor in also the quality of the depth in the draft and the opportunities possibly in the draft to get good players (at wide receiver).”

That draft, of course, may be the answer for the Chiefs. So might other free agents.

And Maclin did miss last season because of a knee injury, making him as much a question mark for the Chiefs as he would be for the Eagles but also potentially more of a bargain than other options.

And in four seasons under Reid in Philly, Maclin had 258 catches for 3,453 yards (13.4 yards a catch) and 26 touchdowns.

In his last season, 2012, Maclin had 69 receptions for 857 yards and seven TDs.

That stat line would have been the best among Chiefs wide receivers last year (running back Jamaal Charles led the team with 70 catches; among receivers, Dwayne Bowe had 57 for 673 yards and five TDs).

Yes, there would be an element of risk in Maclin, who will be 26 in May. But he also has a track record both in NFL performance and in rebounding from injuries.

If the Eagles allow him to become a free agent, he might be an enticing answer for the Chiefs.

But first things first.

“For us, it’s making sure we’re making these decisions in calm times, because when you’re negotiating contracts, you want to win,” Roseman told reporters. “You want to get the player. We set prices for guys and we try to stick to those and have walkaway numbers.

“I think the market is going to determine a lot of those things. It’s hard to figure out the market until you’re in it.”

• 2. Maybe it’s because at the end of next week I’ll go to spring training for the first time. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been here long enough to be less than optimistic about what I think is happening with the Royals.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever looked forward more to a baseball season than this one.

At least not since I was a kid outside Philadelphia rooting for a hapless Phillies team that won 59 games the first year I followed them, but rose in the late 1970s and peaked by beating the Royals in the 1980 World Series.

Yes, I was in St. Louis for 25 years. And I enjoyed plenty of baseball experiences, none more than getting to hover in Whitey Herzog’s office, sometimes for an hour or more, and watch Whitey work on his charts and listening to him talk baseball with the P-D’s great Rick Hummel, among others.

But, well, my work took me other directions than baseball most of the time, and the Cardinals generally just have been so good.

You don’t have to hate them because they’re beautiful, like the old commercial goes, or maybe you do if you’re a Royals fan.

But where’s the suspense when you reach the World Series four times since 2003?

Meanwhile, there’s nothing but drama for long-suffering fans in the 2014 Royals, who are an underdog because of their recent past but intriguing for the direction they’ve been moving in.

They’re coming off their best full season since 1989 and have a more complete team than a year ago as they seek their first playoff appearance since 1985.

Adding to the scene, it’s all in the eighth full season of general manager Dayton Moore’s tenure, a defining time for him that I believe will validate his work.

Can’t wait to see how it plays out.

• 3. With his announcement came a new tier of influence for former Missouri All-American defensive end Michael Sam, whose attempt to become the first openly gay NFL player makes him a national face in a human rights issue.

But despite some overzealous attempts to connect him to Jackie Robinson, like Sam’s ID for this week’s NFL Combine including the No. 42, there are scant real parallels.

“When Jackie Robinson showed up, he was ‘out,’” civil rights activist Harry Edwards told USA Today, adding that in the case of a gay player, “If somebody doesn’t come out and say something about their private lives, nobody knows.”

Not that that diminishes this movement.

“It short-changes a change that’s long overdue,” Edwards said. “It’s legitimate on its own. That’s what we need to wrap our minds around.”

Sam’s publicist, Howard Bragman, knows Sam is only an incidental activist.

The activism, he said, will stand for itself when Sam sacks an NFL quarterback.

But upon meeting Sam, Bragman did give him a copy of the movie “42” (He also gave him a book by Dave Kopay, who came out after his NFL career, and an NFL Network documentary about Jerry Smith, the former Washington player who never told his teammates he was gay and later died of AIDS).

And a la Branch Rickey and Robinson, Bragman did counsel Sam in the importance of learning to let slurs slide off him.

“Absolutely. You know, we talked a lot about ‘smack talk,’” Bragman said in a phone interview Thursday. “And the opposition will use any perceived weakness to take you down.

“As Michael said, ‘I’ve been hearing smack talk for years, I don’t respond, I don’t do smack talk myself, and quite frankly it only motivates me more.’”

I’m sure it hasn’t always actually been that simple for Sam. But he’ll surely need to be that way now.

By signing on for this role, he’ll be challenged in many new and unpredictable ways. How he responds and performs will be watched and measured and seen as a reflection of more than just him.

It’s not at all like being Jackie Robinson, who had to endure all manner of direct abuse that wouldn’t be tolerated or even legal today.

But it’s still a lot to take on.

• 4. One school of thought has it that Sam’s coming-out was a prototype of sorts for an active NFL player to come out, a notion that Bragman didn’t confirm or deny.

“You know, there’s a lot of rumors about, ‘This one’s going to come out,’ and ‘this one’s on this team.’ But every situation is different,” he said. “Everybody has to do it authentically for themselves, and that’s what’s most important, so there’s not one blueprint and you say, ‘This is how you do it.’

“What Michael did do that was right for anyone was, No. 1, get ahead of the story, No. 2, tell it in his words (and) No. 3 tell it once or twice, tell it well and then go back to playing football.”

“I think whoever comes out should think very long and hard about doing those things.” With a laugh he added, “And they maybe want to call me, too.”

• U.S. figure skater Gracie Gold, who learned to skate in Springfield, finished fourth in the Sochi Olympics but already had some perspective on her first Games.

“There are tons of great names who have gotten fourth at their first Olympics,” she told reporters afterward. “And they just kept with it for the next (four years). I’m in good company.”

And with that, Gold, 18, declared her intent to compete in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

“I definitely have two Olympics in me,” she said. “I don’t know about three Olympics.”

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