After not appearing in Buffalo Bills practice for mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, wide receiver Stefon Diggs appeared on Wednesday without any further drama. There should never have been drama in the first place. Yet, there was a problem of many parts, but a lot of it has to do with the head coach, Sean McDermott.
Stefon Diggs’ Buffalo Bills Minicamp Absence Was Never a Holdout
There had been speculation about Diggs’ absence, which didn’t make much sense at first glance. A contract holdout for a deal scheduled to pay him over $24 million in cash this year didn’t seem to be the primary reason, especially because it was still the first year of Diggs’ big-money extension.
On top of that, his agent had committed to his presence there. Diggs wouldn’t have much reason to be concerned about his role in the offense as one of the most productive receivers in the NFL during his time in Buffalo.
Diggs had also shown up the previous day for pre-minicamp medical checks and was in Buffalo during his absence from practice. He wasn’t engaging in the behavior of someone upset about their role or contract, especially given that there was no sign-off on any holdout from his agent.
It turns out that none of those potential problems were reasons he was absent from practice. McDermott confirmed on Wednesday that Diggs’ absence was excused by the Bills.
Sean McDermott says while there was a “great conversation” yesterday, they reached a point that they needed a break from convo, and granted break
He says Diggs was excused, by McDermott.
Says in a great spot now
— katherine fitzgerald (@kfitz134) June 14, 2023
Sean McDermott Bears Responsibility for the Stefon Diggs Non-Story Gaining Traction
Unfortunately, it was McDermott himself who bears significant responsibility for fueling the fire. On Tuesday, McDermott did not explain that Diggs’ absence was excused, which would have ended speculation about any holdout and prevented social media from speculating about Diggs’ attitude.
Diggs already carried a reputation for being a “diva,” and his cryptic social media posts did nothing to dispel this notion. But Diggs has also showcased maturity — as a five-star recruit out of high school, he committed to Maryland in order to be closer to his brothers, who he helped raise.
Diggs’ attitude in Minnesota after signing his second contract earned him detractors. But though he still doesn’t regret holding out, he understands how his reputation developed and characterized himself as a “bad teammate” near the end of his tenure there.
In Buffalo, Diggs has earned captaincy and has matured as a competitor. Before the Bills played the Vikings last year, he downplayed the idea that there was any reason to seek revenge or treat the game as anything special, arguing that so much has happened in his life that has led him to change.
A lot of that maturity happens in the background, no matter how many players can attest to his changing behavior. The perception that “the old Diggs” had come back was enough for people to confirm their priors on who he was as a person, even though that had nothing to do with his absence.
McDermott could have easily told the media that Diggs was excused from practice and that they were in regular communication, citing a personal issue for his absence and leaving it at that. This would respect Diggs’ privacy without inviting the game of breadcrumbs that local and national media participated in the hours following his reported absence.
After practice on Tuesday, quarterback Josh Allen stood up for Diggs and, in his statement, revealed that Diggs might be dealing with personal issues off the field in the background. But those after-the-fact statements didn’t provide enough damage control to cover for the original reporting.
McDermott Isn’t Alone in Bearing Responsibility, But This Could Follow Diggs
McDermott is not on an island in this regard. His agent could have confirmed it was an excused absence, and the media could have done a better job making sure not to perpetuate an old narrative, instead emphasizing the clues left by Allen and McDermott that this wasn’t a contract or role issue but something else.
McDermott had revealed that the team was “very concerned” about Diggs when his absence first came up in the post-practice presser.
At the end of the day, this storyline will probably disappear. June is a dead month for NFL news, and something else will catch fans attention by the time training camp starts. But the background memory of this will remain for some observers and reinforce their old views on the receiver.
It only takes a few misperceived actions to reinforce a narrative, and it could be tough for Diggs to shake.
McDermott knew before anyone else what was going on and had the ability to control the narrative from the start. Instead, a player dealing with personal issues will continue to be thought of as a locker-room cancer for doing what was best for his mental health.