PHILADELPHIA – Eagle’s offensive lineman Andre Dillard was asked for left starting place last week about competing with Jordan Mailata, and it is speculated that Dillard will end up in the trading bloc should he lose the competition.
“I haven’t heard anything because I haven’t had social media since last year,” said Dillard, the first-round selection of the Eagles 2019 from Washington State, who has been severely criticized since arriving in Philadelphia for not having yet Met expectations. He started four games as a rookie with mixed results, then missed all of last season after tearing his biceps in late August.
“I try not to pay attention to all that stuff because it’s just noise. My job is to just keep my head down and work.”
Dillard looked like a man who had transformed during his Zoom session with reporters. In fact, he said he felt like a “completely different” person in some ways, from the physical strength he gained in the offseason to the confidence boost that came to the fore. Once withdrawn, guarded, and at times defensive in his interactions with the media, he felt comfortable, direct, and engaged. He seemed healthier. Lighter.
One of the changes he made over the last year was to get rid of social media and join a growing number of athletes who are deleting apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to remove distractions and improve their mental health. In March, Arsenal’s renowned former soccer player Thierry Henry announced that he would no longer use social media until the platforms do more to tackle racism and bullying. New York Mets’ first baseman Pete Alonso revealed he was Got rid of social media in FebruaryHe notes that he wants to “live in real life”. And then Isaiah Jackson, the Kentucky Wildcats basketball striker, said in December he and “many guys on the team” were temporarily deleted their social media accounts due to heavy fan reaction to their 1-6 start.
Some of the reasons Dillard, 25, cited for the move were understandable: he opened his phone and started browsing videos and so on, and the next thing he knew was an hour past and he had nothing productive to show. He wanted to block out the “general negativity in the world” that social media can bring with it. He learned of the dangers and behavioral manipulation associated with social media, brought to the fore by documentaries like “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix.
– Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) June 10, 2021
But one element was more unique to his profession. The public now has unprecedented access to professional athletes. Fans can send their praise and anger straight to a player’s feed. Criticism en masse is a scroll away.
It was clear from the start Dillard scrolled. “Most of them are toasting my hairline because of my widow’s peak. They don’t know I want that there, ”Dillard said after his first day at the rookie mini camp in 2019 about the fans on social media.
“They all think I don’t notice, but I like it. They all like to joke. They are all very passionate, happy that I am here overall. … It’s really fun to be part of this culture. “
The verdict didn’t stop this season, however. He was responsible for getting emotional on the field after a fight at training camp with defensive end Derek Barnett. He was beaten up for giving up a blindside sack during a preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that suffered a concussion from quarterback Cody Kessler. (The dismissal, Trainer later said, was not due to Dillard). He has come under fire for his game in his four starts, particularly against the Seattle Seahawks after being abruptly transferred from left to right that week, fought and benched in half.
Dillard was 23 years old at the time.
“In terms of social media and things that are aimed directly at me … I never knew it would be like that once you were there [this] Level. Whatever negativity is directed at you, it was a shock to me, “said Dillard.” But over the years I’ve kind of learned how to do it, and there are certain things that can’t be addressed. You can’t feed the negativity or it will just keep growing and growing and weighing you down. “
Social Media and Expectation Theory
Ben Newman is the mental conditioning coach of the Alabama and Kansas State football teams and works one-on-one with over 25 players in the NFL.
Part of his job is to provide athletes with the tools to mitigate distractions, including those caused by social media.
“Sure there are games that affect people,” Newman said. “I can just imagine a player who, because of social media, had a number of games in his head where he was actually listening to the sounds of the fans playing. So it moved away from reading.” it on his screen to actually actively listen when he was at the game, and then finally, when the awareness and appreciation was there, we had a conversation with him, he realized what it was doing and then turned it off.
“There’s a psychological principle called expectation theory that what you focus on expands. So if you don’t do anything to replace the negativity, you will only focus on the negative. … You will almost be inclined to actually search for your own name on Twitter. “Can I find more? What are people saying?” If this is the reality, we need to train athletes not to even be inclined to do so. Just focus on what you can control. “
This is not an easy discipline to learn, especially when you are young and the critics are in the throat. This was the case for Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor, the number 21 overall selection in the 2020 NFL draft. He was handicapped as a rookie by injuries and, like Dillard, did not meet the high expectations of a first-round pick.
Reagor was also the victim of the circumstances. The Eagles picked him ahead of LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who was next picked by the Minnesota Vikings and tore the league down with 88 catches, 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games. Reagor had 31 catches for 396 yards and a score over 11 games. Comparisons between the two were relentless, as was the criticism of Reagor’s game.
“What everyone does is they go straight to social media and give their opinion, so now [Eagles quarterback] Jalen Hurts’ family sees it on social media, Jalen Reagor’s family sees it on social media, Andre Dillard’s family sees it on social media and now they have to answer media questions generated by Joe Blow on Social Media, “said Jason Avant, the former Eagles wide receiver who served as Assistant Receivers Coach in 2020.
“So yeah, I saw it last year: social media influenced a bunch of different people from Jalen Reagor, Dillard. Because social media tries to steal the narrative of the expectation; the expectation is no longer on the team’s schedule, it’s up to whoever is. ” with talent evaluation for the big eye. Jalen Reagor didn’t have a chance to please Philadelphia because of the firestorm that’s been floating on social media about Justin Jefferson and all of those things. “
Eagles Receiver Trainer Aaron Moorehead added: “[If] You start listening to everything, good or bad, it can affect you. And that’s not just Jalen [Reagor], that’s every young gamer. They want to see their name on social media and they somehow get away with it. We all have egos, don’t we? … But in reality you do your job as best you can and everything takes care of itself. “
Moorehead said Reagor was “very busy” listening to the voices in the building and his family structure in order to block out the noise.
The distractions look different for everyone
The impact of social media certainly has the attention of the NFL Players Association.
The NFLPA recently made it a mission to have at least one social media-focused session at all major events, from the annual player representatives meeting to the Collegiate Bowl to the rookie premiere focusing on the good (how to and the Monetize players’ brand and platform) and bad (how to muffle the noise, ignore the trolls and focus on the job).
At the virtual rookie premiere last month, the point was raised that the union’s efforts to protect the health and safety of its members are not limited to the field or the dressing room, but now extend to social media.
A panel was put together for this event with former wide receiver Brandon Marshall as moderator and Brittany O’Hagan (Head of Athlete / Talent Partnerships on Twitter), Dev Sethi (Head of Sport on Instagram) and Horace Flournoy (SwayBrand -Founders) were panelists.
Marshall spoke about the benefits of social media for athletes and caught players’ attention by telling them that he is expected to make $ 250,000 a month on social media by the end of the year, according to a source attending the event becomes. Signing up from a dollar and dime perspective can clearly be beneficial, as well as for branding purposes and to advocate for the purposes athletes are passionate about.
For some players, the benefits go even further.
“There are athletes who actually drive social media, right? They actually enjoy the engagement, ”said Newman. “And the players who understand that they are driven by it, I think social media is not a bad thing. But the players who understand that clearly, If I read something negative, it will affect how I perform in the facility, these people have to set some barriers or parameters. “
One practice for athletes is to shut down social media at the beginning of the season. Others go dark in the days immediately before and after a game. Newman notes that for a player who hasn’t played well, it’s usually wise to avoid social media afterward, as his name might be trending for all the wrong reasons.
Eagles offensive coach Jeff Stoutland said this week that there is “definitely” a fight between Dillard and Mailata for the left tackle spot ahead of training camp. Mailata has the advantage of starting 10 games last season, but in Dillard, Stoutland sees a player who is now “hungrier” and “more serious”.
“I really like what he did in the off-season,” said Stoutland.
Whether or not he competed in his position, staying away from social media was the answer for Dillard. He said it felt like he was living a simpler life now. He gets up, goes to work, studies, reads and relaxes. He gets his news, but “not once do I open my cell phone and just read things,” said Dillard, “and it helped me a lot, I think.”
“You are ready to do so many things to become a better football player, right – what you put in your body, how you train,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “The sacrifices you make to be a good soccer player are almost endless. So if you are being distracted by social media and you feel like you have to give this up, you are making all these other sacrifices, why not? That to do as well?
“Andre is aware of his potential distractions. This is the first step in being aware of what is holding you back from getting better every day. So I heard about this and his comment there and I was really excited for him that “he figured out what his distraction is.”