ENGLEWOOD — This time, Willy “White Shoes” Parks stepped over the line.
His brainpower is questionable to return.
“First of all, it’s two separate issues,” Broncos coach Vance Joseph said Monday.
True, and one is not like the other.
To recap Parks’ terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week: First, “White Shoes” posted two clips from a Broncos practice on Snapchat. The clips showed quarterback Paxton Lynch looking like he’s never played quarterback before. Squint your eyes, you can even see Parks on the field, too.
Next, in strange timing, word got out that Parks happens to be facing a pair of misdemeanor nonviolent domestic violence charges from an incident with a former girlfriend. Parks is due in court June 30.
Two separate issues, as Joseph said. And since this is professional sports we’re talking about, this won’t be the last time Joseph encounters a crash course in crisis management. But it’s our first look at how “VJ” will operate as the Broncos’ coach. What I learned Monday, when the Broncos proactively trotted out Parks to answer for his alleged sins: Joseph stood up to his reputation as a player’s coach. He’s going to side in their favor. He’s going to downplay their errors. He’s going to refer to Parks as “Parksy.”
As for the misdemeanor domestic violence charges, Joseph said the process is out of the Broncos’ control. There could be an NFL suspension; there could be nothing; there could be something in between. I won’t comment on what I don’t know.
“It’s in the court’s hands,” Joseph said. “It’s in the league’s hands.”
“The facts will come out when I deal with the legal process,” Parks said.
As for the Snapchat snap-fu, here’s a comment in language Parks can understand: R U nuts? In the heat of a quarterback controversy that has Colorado’s eyes glued on Dove Valley, you watched those practice videos and thought folks were looking for you? OK, one more: LOL.
The list of mistakes that teams will overlook is pretty long. The Patriots won the Super Bowl in February, and wideout Michael Floyd began a jail sentence for extreme DUI the same month.
Being a bad teammate is not on that list. Snapping out Lynch’s wayward throws qualifies as being a bad teammate.
The reaction from NFL players — current and former — was enlightening. One former Bronco told me it’s a “Grade A violation” of the unwritten locker room code. One current Bronco, Derek Wolfe, a member of the defense, called it “fake news.” One columnist, me, says it’s a sign that the defense still doesn’t respect the offense, that Joseph has his hands full in bridging their gap.
“Did I punish him? No, no. I addressed the entire team,” Joseph said. “Again, it’s the intent. I’m with this kid every day, so I knew his intent. A punishment wasn’t warranted. It was more of a conversation and education on what we can and cannot do. You have to be careful. Even when we’re being innocent it can hurt others. It was more of an educational conversation than a punishment.”
NFL players with 12 career tackles often don’t survive this kind of foolish mistake. They are disposable assets. Up until Snap-Gate, Parks was most known for a blocked-kick return for a touchdown in New Orleans — the Block on the Bayou. Replays showed No. 34 tip-toed the line with his white cleats.
“I was definitely in-bounds,” Parks told me that day.
Not this time. Social media is a loaded weapon. One insensitive comment can destroy a 30-year career when the employer lacks a backbone. It can incite harmful rumors simply by careless wording. It can frame a person’s reputation, right or wrong, in 140 characters or less.
Broncos general manager John Elway is out of the country on holiday. Know how I know? Social media. The public's response to Lynch’s misfires was swift and harsh. Know how I know? Social media. After the Snap heard ’round Broncos Country, here were some of the headlines: “Practice footage shows wildly erratic Paxton Lynch,” “Paxton Lynch looks awful in Broncos film leak” and “Snapchat footage shows an erratic and inconsistent Paxton Lynch.”
Tough way to start Year 2, huh?
“It had nothing to do with Paxton or anybody (else) on the field,” Parks said.
If I’m a young guy trying to make it in the NFL, I do two things right off the bat: Hire a driver for my car, and a driver for my social media. I don’t touch the steering wheel, or the “send” button. Handle it like Peyton Manning, who was so careful to protect his image, he wouldn’t put his arm on a woman’s shoulders when taking a photo with a female fan. Social media is serious enough there are Broncos employees who set a 1 a.m. alarm to check the social media accounts of players. Add “send” to the line of four-letter words teams would prefer to avoid.
Parks is lucky to have friends in high places. By high places, I mean at safety (T.J. Ward), cornerback (Aqib Talib) and linebacker (Von Miller). Parks is also lucky that Joseph is a player-friendly coach who knows he needs a happy locker room to have a winning locker room.
I asked Jamaal Charles, who’s working on a decade in the NFL, for his social media advice.
“I let my people run it,” Charles said.
This isn't hard.