Here are a few phrases a head coach doesn't want to hear during breakfast: Internet pictures. Hot tub. Beer bong. Your franchise quarterback.
But there was Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt on Thursday morning at the NFL owners' meetings, digesting those words and offering explanations for images of Matt Leinart's Awesome NCAA Party 2008 instead of choking down his cereal.
"Matt called me early Monday morning to tell me those pictures were coming out," Whisenhunt acknowledged. "He was upset about it, very concerned. But to me that's progress that he did communicate with me."
If this is progress, we'd hate to see regression.
But such is life when you have a franchise quarterback who's being slowly weaned off of his Hollywood disposition. There may be moments when he forgets to remember that, as a $50 million employee playing a glamour position in the country's most popular team sport, cell phone cameras are more dangerous than drooling defensive ends.
Leinart had some catching up to do this offseason. He broke his collarbone last October and by that time was already sharing starting quarterback duties with veteran Kurt Warner.
The goodwill he bought by attending meetings, breaking down film and hoisting weights gets wiped out by a few million mouse clicks.
"We talked about the level of scrutiny ... that position gets and he gets," said Whisenhunt. "He played for a high profile college team. He's a Heisman Trophy winner. You'd be naïve if you didn't think that (party pictures) would be of interest. It doesn't diminish the fact that he's working very hard to be a leader on this football team. That’s not the type of behavior we want to see.
"But 98 percent of the time he's been working hard and focused on being better and staying out of the limelight," Whisenhunt continued. "One situation like this just erases all the work he's done to prepare himself. And that’s disappointing. But once again, with the way he's worked in the offseason it doesn’t diminish to me that he can lead our football team."
The whole dustup inevitably leads to discussion of whether or not it's any of our business what a 24-year-old single guy does in the privacy of his own home on a Saturday night. Should (non-elected) public figures be demonized for private behavior if they aren’t breaking the law?
And where does context come in? Whisenhunt said that Leinart was merely watching college hoop with friends when "some other people came over" and things led – as they so often do – to the hot tub.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Whichever side of the issue you call home – deeply offended or blissfully uncaring – the image gets burned into your mind and chips away at a reputation. Think "Leinart" for the next week and it's just as likely that you'll picture him in board shorts and a t-shirt holding that beer bong as you would see him in a football helmet.
"With the ever-expanding media and internet, you have to be aware of (the interest) especially if you have any celebrity power," Whisenhunt cautioned. "There's obviously an interest in it or those pictures wouldn't be out there and drawing attention. And I'll add this: If there wasn’t that type of interest in football or in our players we wouldn’t have such a great fanbase. It's a double-edged sword but I think you have an obligation as a player to hold yourself to a higher standard."
The sooner players like Leinart learn that being a franchise quarterback means never getting to punch out on the time clock, the sooner we’ll stop seeing him in compromising situations.
Either that or, as Whisenhunt jokingly suggested, next time things get interesting at Chez Leinart he should collect cell phones at the door.
ProFootballTalk: Patriots QB Tom Brady addressed Wes Welker’s decision to head West to Denver. Brady says he isn’t surprised by anything after being in the league for so long and hopes that Welker has a great season with the Broncos.
2013 SNF Schedule
Check out the 2013 Sunday Night Football schedule.
Latest from ProFootballTalk
Video: Football from NBC Sports
Best of ProFootballTalk: May 20th-24th
ProFootballTalk: Check out the bloopers from the week of May 20th.
Check out some of the NFL cheerleaders from across the league.