Dez Bryant has money issues. You can insert a joke here or simply shake your head. Perhaps you would say you saw it coming or have sympathy for a rookie in over his head flaunting an NFL diva lifestyle that he apparently cannot afford. Mike Florio wrote today that the Cowboys receiver might need a new deal to cancel the debt he's currently facing, but despite the character concerns around a player like Bryant, it also sheds light on a greater issue in the NFL facing rookies today.
Even if a player played at the heights of fame in college football (i.e. Bryant), the hype and attention still does not adequately prepare them for the life to come. In college, there's at least some level of parenting going on, but in the NFL, you are your own man. The hype of one level doesn't begin to match the next. The shady opportunities, the women, the incessant fan and media attention -- perhaps there are shades of it in college, but at the pro level it's an entirely different affair.
It's a transition each player -- each person for that matter -- must make, but specifically in the NFL, the transition can be a bit too much. The NFL isn't even comparable to other sports for its level of popularity. As rookies like Bryant and others come into the league, each must make an adjustment to learn new spending habits, to develop personal boundaries that might have not otherwise existed.
It's a major step for everyone, but specifically for the player who grew up with nothing and worshiped having everything. If a player like Bryant has literally dreamed of being a millionaire since elementary school, giving a two-hour lecture at a rookie symposium on the merits of saving money will roll right off of the proverbial duck's back. In fact, to suggest some sort of limitation can possibly be seen as an offensive gesture that warrants a response along the lines of, "Do you know how hard I've worked to get here? Who are you to tell me not to enjoy myself?"
It's easy to laugh or shrug our collective shoulders since most of us make peanuts compared to NFL players, and I'll admit it's hard to feel sorry for someone with several more zeroes on their paycheck than me. At the same time, we're all human and possessions are fleeting. Someone out of control is someone out of control, regardless of how much money they have. And Bryant's spending habits are apparently out of control.
In order to properly shepherd players into the league, there needs to be more accountability for rookies as they sign their deals. The NFL cannot enforce this on their players and the union would likely be against it as well. But what if teams made available to their rookies some type of savings program that each player could sign up for if they like -- a personal meeting with a financial counselor who would be the team's go-to guy for player financial accountability. The Chiefs, for example, could just have someone to recommend to guys like Jon Baldwin, Rodney Hudson or the other draft picks taken this year.
The best reading on this topic has always come from the National Football Post's Jack Bechta as he describes some of his work with players coming into the league. His stories of trying to coach players away from old friends coming back for some money are always must-reads and it reveals a bit of the seedy world that some players can get sucked into. Unfortunately, not all agents are like Bechta and some can be as shady as the leeches who suddenly appear when a player signs his contract.
Ultimately a man's problems are his own, and Bryant must learn to deal with the mess that he's created. However, these scenarios illustrate potential areas that a specific team or the NFL could seek to remedy with access to a counselor, some type of agent accountability or other such ideas. For the sake of young men who ruin their future every year by making poor decisions in the moment, it would be worth such an investment.