There are few players and people like Ryan Leaf. In just over 20 years, Leaf went from the heralded No. 2 pick in the 1998 draft and hopeful face of the San Diego Chargers franchise to drug addiction, prison and, now, a fully self-aware man willing to share his story to anyone who will listen.
He did it again on Friday, offering advice to rookies and one Cleveland Browns quarterback in particular.
‘They’re much more prepared’
Leaf was on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” and was asked by co-host and fellow former NFL player Nate Burleson what words he has for players like Arizona Cardinals’ Kyler Murray and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, the last two No. 1 picks.
“The world is in the palm of their hand. Whole bunch of people hanging around them and whole bunch of temptation looming over them,” Burleson said. “What is your advice to them?”
Leaf first acknowledged that things are different for current and high-profile players than they were for him, but also said they should seek out a mentor.
“Well I think they’re much more prepared than any of us were at the time, the social media that exists, the pressure that already is, the camps that are available, the Elite 11 and things like that leading up to it,” Leaf said. “But I will say this, what they should do, regardless of position, is walk into that locker room, find a guy that’s played in this league 10, 12 years, walk up to him, ask him how he did it and then follow his advice verbatim. That’s the best way I can say to do it.”
(We understand where he was going with that, but Lawrence Taylor lasted well over a decade in the NFL despite a cocaine habit, so a strict following of advice might not be the absolute best idea...)
‘Look at yourself as CEO of a Fortune 500 company’
Leaf also said players should buckle down on things like nutrition.
“Look at yourself as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company,” he said. “Because this can only last, what, five years? The average length of a career is 2.8, 3 years.
“The exception are guys like Tom Brady and Payton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Those are the exception. The rule is you don’t play very long in this league. So you make the most out of it and you have to look at yourself in that fashion. So that’s the advice I would give them.”
Words for Mayfield
Leaf had words specific to Mayfield, who started 13 games for the Browns last year as a rookie. Mayfield is both beloved by some and criticized by others for his brash demeanor, something Leaf is familiar with.
“Baker Mayfield’s behavior worked last year because they won,” Leaf said. “Now, if they don’t win this year, are people going to look back on it and say - it’s a fine line you have to walk when it comes to that.
“But that’s who he is. There’s a swagger to him. There was a swagger to me; if I would have won, it would have looked very similar. But I didn’t. And therefore, when the magnifying glass got stronger, I started to catch on fire, essentially.
“So I’ll be interested to see how that works. We saw a little blowback with the Duke Johnson comments here in camp [more on that here]. He just needs to do his job, and they have a lot of expectations. People are talking about the Cleveland Browns like it is the second coming right now, which, we haven’t seen anything yet.”
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