In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last, oh, six or seven months, you probably know that this has been a horrible year for the NFL.

At least in terms of public relations.

We’ve seen repeated instances of domestic abuse, with Ray Rice being the most scrutinized offender; we’ve seen child abuse; and just recently we saw the Baltimore Ravens release Terrence Cody, who is sunder investigation for animal cruelty.

That’s a lot of bad publicity. And yet, interest in the NFL has not waned. In fact, it’s ballooned.

Is that surprising in any way?

“No, it does not surprise me,” CBS Sports and Bleacher Report NFL analyst Chris Simms said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I can’t lie. (Even) with some of the off-the-field issues and the NFL not having the greatest publicity year in their history, it is (still) the ultimate team sport. It is the ultimate sport as far as still seeing gladiators – if you want to (call them that), guys that are willing to go out there and put their body on the line physically week in and week out. With all the media attention and everything that goes along with it now, I’m just not surprised at all. Fantasy football – all those things play a big, big part in all of this.”

Even the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl have provided plenty of drama. Yes, there was “DeflateGate,” but there was also drama surrounding Marshawn Lynch’s availability at media day. The Seattle running back was told he’d be fined if he didn’t attend the event and participate.

So he did – answering every question with some variation of the phrase, “I’m just here so I don’t get fined.”

Simms saw nothing wrong with it.

“I think what he is doing is perfectly fine,” he said. “Why is it any different than Bill Belichick simply stating that he’s moved on to Seattle? I heard him say that 10 or 15 times in a press conference the other day. So I don’t see the difference in that. I think that would be my one argument. I think it is great that we get to see some of the personalities of these guys within the NFL right now because football is one sport. Yes, there’s a helmet on. There’s a mask. You don’t always get to see what these guys are really like. We don’t get a lot of commercial appeal as far as being on Nike commercials or things like that because of the helmet, so I do think it’s great.”

Simms not only supports Lynch’s behavior, but also finds it refreshing. In the age of “brand-building” and celebrities tweeting their thoughts all day, every day, Lynch isn’t interested in any of that. He just wants to focus on his job.

“Hey, he wants to play football,” Simms said. “He’s not here to do the media song and dance and not here to build his brand. I kind of like it.”


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