Headphones. Something about derogatory text messages. An altercation with a teammate. Reports of numerous fines for violations of team rules. Behavior problems including not taking practice seriously. Confrontations with the general manager. It all sounds so junior high.
That's the problem, and it's why Damontre Moore is no longer a member of the New York Giants. There were maturity concerns when the Giants drafted Moore, then a 20-year-old kid, in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Nearly three full seasons later, that immaturity is at the heart of Moore's Friday release. He seemingly never figured out that the NFL is a job. Never learned how to be a professional. Never learned that livelihoods, others as well as his own, are at stake when football teams succeed or fail.
There were plenty of warning signs before the Giants drafted him. When the draft process began Moore was considered an early-first round pick, including when our own Jesse Bartolis profiled him. Moore performed poorly at the combine, though, and questions about his maturity dogged him as his draft stock dropped.
Walter Football wrote this:
Moore is one of the biggest mysteries in the 2013 NFL Draft. There are lot of questions about him as a player and as a person. He was massively productive in college and displayed a natural ability to get after the quarterback. However,Moore also earned a bad reputation off the field of being extremely immature. ... Scouts told WalterFootball.com Moore is extremely immature and they believe he will indulge in the party scene that comes with being an NFL player.
This quote from his own college coach, Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M, was also a warning to interested NFL teams:
"I think the problem with him is kind of a feast or famine deal, that he's made big plays but has showed the ability to hurt the football team with contain issues, jumping offsides, hasn't been able to stay (up) ... you look out there and he's flopping around on the ground. So he's a guy that we've got to corral. He's got to understand his role and become an every-down player that's consistent and not just (having) a great play and then we don't see you, and then a maybe a penalty."
Still, good pass rushers are hard to find. Even if Moore wasn't a blow your doors down and whip the offensive tackle pass rusher, he was a guy who had enough athleticism and a game-day motor to to chase down scrambling quarterbacks, to make plays in pursuit, to be a factor in the pass rush.
Someone was going to take a chance on Moore's talent. Someone was going to believe he wasn't a bad kid, that he would mature as he got into an NFL locker room, got around veteran NFL players and saw what it took to succeed as a pro football player. The Giants took that chance. Unfortunately, it didn't pan out.
Tom Coughlin often talks about young players needing to learn how to become professionals. Moore, judging from what we now know,never figured it out. It wasn't because the Giants didn't try. It isn't Coughlin's fault. It's not Reese's fault.In order to learn, you have to be willing to learn.
Remember what Coughlin said when he admitted he really didn't trust Moore following the roughing penalty against the Eagles?
"There's been a lot of sitting down and talking. I certainly will do more of it it. He is very good about listening, but we've gotta see whether it can hold true on the field."
During training camp in 2014 I had a lengthy one-on-one conversation with Moore. He was well-spoken, honest, and sincerely seemed as though he wanted to improve upon what had been an unproductive rookie season. He admitted he thought the transition from college to the NFL would be easier, saying his rookie season had been a "humbling experience."
"I thought I was going to come in and play, but it was a rude awakening. Things didn't happen like that, but it also became one of the best things. I ended up becoming a lot more humble, a lot hungrier for the game. It brought me back to why I love this game and the feelings I love to experience."
Moore even spent time before the 2014 season working with Hall of Fame defensive end Michael Strahan. While he din't earn full-time snaps in 2014, he did have 5.5 sacks and looked as if he might be on his way, though. Here is more of what I wrote before the 2014 season:
There is, however, something about Moore this season that wasn't there a year ago. There is a maturity, an understanding that the NFL is a business and he has to work diligently at his craft that perhaps had not developed a year ago.
Moore's growth began when he accepted the idea that he needed to study, work on his body and find ways to get better.
"I feel like it comes with time. Maturity comes with age. I saw what year one was about, what I did well, what I didn't do well, what I need to fix," Moore said.
"Having that humbling experience. After year one seeing that it was a real humbler and an eye-opener. Just being the natural competitor that I am I wanted to see how could I get better, what did I need to do, what did I need to fix. I went in there at the end of the year, had a conversation with the coaches, what I need to fix, what I need to do to become a contributor, what can I do to make myself a better player?"
The mature Damontre didn't last. This season, on-field penalties and apparent off-the-field incidents that were not known about until his release on Friday showed that the maturity the Giants were hoping would develop had not materialized. We will never know all the details of the locker room dynamic or the series of incidents Moore was apparently fined for. Ultimately, though, the fault for Moore being an ex-Giant is his own, The maturity red flags he came to the NFL with proved accurate.
Moore told Steve Weatherford and Dave Rothenberg on ESPN Radio that the situation between he and Cullen Jenkins was "just something that boiled over time." and that it was "a respect thing."
Moore also admitted that this wasn't the first time he had run afoul of the Giants.
"I don't think it was a one-time thing. Honestly, I think it might have culminated over time," he said. "I've been a firm believer in what my values are ... you make your bed, and you've got to lie in it. By no way was I a saint. I had a lot of learning curves and maturity factors. I've grown over the time and I felt like, you know, things just ran its course. It happens in this game.
"As you know, it's very rare that most people spend their whole career with a certain team. I think it just ran its course. Not to take anything away from them, they may get a great person and a better man ... they helped me learn a lot of things, and it was just a stepping-stone. I'm looking on to the new chapter."
Certainly, Moore will get another chance in the NFL. Certainly, he has the talent be successful when he does get that chance. Certainly, if Moore succeeds elsewhere there will be many who will blame the Giants for mis-handling him.
Truth is, if Moore does succeed elsewhere if will be at least in part because he finally figured out that the Giants were right the past three years in trying to get him to be more serious about his job, to learn his craft, to study, to realize that how you approach your job the rest of the week matters as much if not more than playing hard on Sunday. If he ever does learn the lessons the Giants tried to teach him, Moore could still be an outstanding player.
[UPDATE 2:04 p.m.]
Reports out today indicate the Moore cursed at Tom Coughlin, had a shouting matches with Jerry Reese and had been fighting with teammates since the beginning of training camp.