Are you concerned about Stefon Diggs’ absence from the Bills’ “voluntary” Organized Team Activities?
Do you find it odd that a high-character player like Von Miller has to make excuses for him?
After all, Miller, rehabbing from knee surgery, is present at OTAs even though he’s projected to miss the first six games of the coming season. In short, he doesn’t have to be there … but he is.
Not so with Diggs. The last time we heard from him was three cryptic tweets following the Bills’ embarrassing 27-10 home playoff loss to the Bengals. Subsequently, he unfollowed the team on Twitter for a stretch, leaving fans to wonder if he wanted out of Buffalo.
Granted, the NFL’s most prima donna position is wide receiver and Diggs has played it to the hilt.
That was no more obvious than when he stalked out of the locker room after the defeat by Cincinnati, before coach Sean McDermott had even spoken to the team. He had to be corralled by Isiah McKenzie and brought back in.
This is a co-captain? A leader?
In defending Diggs, Miller cited his teammate’s competitive drive, commitment to the game and close relationship with quarterback Josh Allen.
“He’s not here right now, but I don’t think it should ever be a question is football No. 1 on his mind,” the veteran edge rusher said.
But why shouldn’t we question it?
Ever since he skipped out of the locker room last January, through the concerning tweets to his absence from OTAs, it’s been nothing but all about him.
The defense of Miller and Allen that it’s merely Diggs’ “competitive nature,” rings hollow.
Every player in an NFL locker room is competitive … they have to be, or they lose their jobs.
It would have been nice to ask Diggs, after the Cincinnati game, why he was caught on TV seemingly angrily gesturing toward Allen in the late going. Instead he just scurried out of the stadium after McDermott finished his post-game monologue.
Meanwhile, Allen, as always, met with the media. He was both angry and disappointed with the performance, and his face showed it. His answers were clipped and delivered without emotion. But he filled his role as an NFL quarterback, captain and team leader.
Diggs did none of that.
It can be argued that, at $43 million a year, it’s part of Allen’s job description. And while that’s true, this season starts Diggs’ four-year, $96 million contract that averages $24 million, the team’s second-highest salary. Shouldn’t he be expected to show some leadership as well?
IT’S WORTH wondering why, as one of the NFL’s top wideouts, he was available for trade from Minnesota.
Clearly, the Vikings didn’t deal him to the Bills because they were delighted to have him on the roster. Diggs had already shown some attitude, incurring $200,000 in fines for missing two days of meetings and practices after a regular-season loss. He was also known to be stewing over the number of targets popular Adam Thielen was getting at the expense of his own.
And, oh yeah, Minnesota turned the first-round pick it got from the Bills (plus fourth-, fifth- and sixth-rounders to spend elsewhere) into Justin Jefferson, arguably pro football’s top wide receiver.
In defending Diggs, Allen maintains, “Stef’s gonna Stef. I love the guy. He is so fiery, so competitive, he wants the ball in his hands 24-7 and I’m never gonna not like a guy like that. He wants what’s best for the team.”
Maybe so, but clearly on his terms.
MEANWHILE, you have to think that McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane are silently fuming.
Oh, their rationalization will be that “OTAs aren’t mandatory, they’re involuntary” and they’ll maintain Diggs “will be ready when the time comes.”
But these are two guys who preach team unity and togetherness and Diggs’ absence from OTAs is a terrible optic and sends a horrible message. That’s especially true as the only other missing starter from the 90-man roster was outside linebacker Matt Milano.
Miller tried to soothe the fan base’s concerns about Diggs, saying, “He’s not going anywhere. God, the Josh Allen to Stefon Diggs connection is what makes all of these things go for us here in Buffalo. Sometimes you just need a little bit of time.”
Maybe so, but the 86 players who showed up didn’t need it.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)