This episode features conversations with All-Pro quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Pro Bowl wide receiver Doug Baldwin from the Seattle Seahawks. I asked Brees, would he consider letting his kids play tackle football at a young age? “I don't think tackle football is necessary until you get to middle school or high school,” Brees said. “I think that there are not enough coaches to coach proper technique with pads on with kids in elementary school.
Also in this episode, I ask Doug Baldwin about the future of the movement begun by Colin Kaepernick where players do not stand at attention for the national anthem. “You know there's an issue that needs to be resolved and it should start on the training level,” Baldwin said. “And not necessarily saying that police officers are not trained well, it's just that it's just that the training needs to adapt to the times and to our society now.”
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First, let’s start with my conversation with the 11-year quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees.
KING: Back on the Peter King podcast here with Drew Brees. Drew, I don't know if you've ever seen the movie “It's a Wonderful Life,” but the reason why I'm prompted to use this today is because I wonder what would have happened to this city if you never came here. And what would have happened if in February of 2006, coming off shoulder surgery the Miami Dolphins had signed you, which is what I thought was going to happen. You were going to go play for Nick Saban— could have changed the course of history. And not just you, but imagine if Nick Saban stays in Miami and doesn't go after two years to Alabama? What happens to college football? What happens here in New Orleans? I wonder if you ever think about what could have happened had you traveled differently and gone to Miami instead of come here?
BREES: Well, there's definitely some divine intervention there that led me here to New Orleans. Looking back just on that process… I mean listen, I never thought I'd leave San Diego. When I was drafted by the Chargers in 2001, my mindset was that this is where I was going to be, this is where I was going to stay, I was going to be the quarterback this team and lead this franchise for a long time. I think every young quarterback has those aspirations whenever they're drafted somewhere, that this is the spot. Unfortunately in that fifth year I had that shoulder injury and they drafted Philip [Rivers], and you know it was just one of those where I knew they were looking for any reason to be able to put the young guy in there who they had invested a lot in. They knew he was going to be a great player, as he is, but you know the choices for me were Miami and New Orleans. I think there on the surface you would have said, “Oh, it's Miami by a long shot, right?” Like you said, there was a lot of excitement around Nick Saban as the head coach there in Miami. He had turned the team around that year in ’05, so there are high expectations for ’06. I’d played against him in college so I know the type of coach he was, the type of defensive mind he was. There were a lot of great coaches on that staff, too. Jason Garrett, Mike Mularkey, Hudson Houck, and a few other guys that I knew very well. It was going to be the same system. I mean all these things seem like they were lining up to be Miami, and yet there was just this feeling that we belonged in New Orleans. It was well beyond just football. It was about the rebirth of this city and being a part of that, and just how many people in their life get that opportunity? It just really felt like it was a calling.
KING: If you go back to that time do you believe that you made that decision as much for football reasons as personal reasons? Or what was the biggest reason now, with a decade of perspective, why you made the decision?
BREES: Well, I love Sean Payton. He was a guy who was unproven as a head coach. It was his first head coaching opportunity but he was a Bill Parcells disciple. Coming from Marty Schottenheimer, I knew what to expect there. A hard-nosed football coach, hard but fair, and also just this great offensive mind. And what struck me immediately when I got here to New Orleans was just speaking with him during one of the recruiting trips. He said, “When you pull up all the San Diego tape, here’s all the things I see you doing very, very well. Things that you are confident with, things that you love. This is going to be our offense; the things that you do well. We’re going to basically build this thing around you.” And that took me back because typically, especially a first-year head coach, you step in and you feel like it’s gotta be your way, yet I felt like we were in it together from the very beginning. And so I felt like that was very unique. I love Sean and I loved his approach. So yes, football reasons, but man there was just the personal side of it too. The looking around and just feeling like this really was a community. This was a tight-knit community and we could be a part of this community and really make a difference in this community. That was a huge factor.
KING: I remember when Sports Illustrated named you the Sportsman of the Year – I remember when we were talking about it around the office. You know one of my points was that this is a guy who, long after the sort of crisis of Katrina ended, this is a guy who still was doing things years later, you know, three, four years later. So do you believe that that part of being here has been, maybe not as rewarding as the football part – winning the Super Bowl and playing well, but what about the long-term reclamation project that this city has been?
BREES: Well I think it's all worked together honestly, but certainly what we have been able to give and what we've been able to be a part of in regards to the rebirth of this city, and not just tangible things like structure, but I think lifting the spirit and creating that bond. I mean I think that's something that will truly live forever and something that I think all of us carry with us in everything that we do now. There's a vibe to the city that is hard to explain unless you've spent some time here. I think a lot of people have recognized that when they come here even if they are not a resident, they just they feel something very unique. There is a spirit to the city that is unlike any other, and I think a lot of that was fostered through those first few years of recovery post-Katrina and all the people that were part of that.
KING: Do you still find yourself doing things to try to help parts of this community that were unalterably damaged by Katrina?
BREES: Yeah, we’re always looking for ways to give back to this community and help this community. I think it it's been an evolution. There are things that we were very focused on in the early stages. For us it was how do we make families feel comfortable coming back to New Orleans? That they have schools for their kids to go to and parks and playgrounds and athletic fields, so their kids can have a normal childhood and have all the opportunities to be successful in life that you hope and dream for your kids, and that part has never changed. We continue to try to find ways to do that for people and for this community, but I think we've seen New Orleans evolve into this small business mecca, too, and it's this entrepreneurial hotbed. You've got all this young entrepreneurial talent coming to New Orleans to try to start businesses. It’s really a land of opportunity that was created after Katrina, and so we're doing a lot with entrepreneurship programs to help try to recruit this talent to the city – to help create businesses, which helps create jobs, which helps drive the economy beyond just tourism. It helps the community grow into a place where people want to live here and raise their kids here.
KING: So Drew, let's talk about football a little bit. You're 37 years old. A couple years ago you said, “I want to play until I'm 45.” I don't know who's going to play longer, you or Tom Brady, but I have a feeling that one day they're going to put me in the ground and the last thing I'll look up at the TV and I'll see you’re 58 years old and you and Brady will be dueling in the Super Bowl! What drives you still to play this game and to play it at the high-level you're playing?
BREES: Well if I'm playing it, then I'm going to try to be the best that I can be. I’m never going to be in a position where I'm just going through the motions. I’m here to win championships. That's my job. Yes, we've won one and that was in my ninth year in this league and here I am in my 16th season. To win another one would be so meaningful because I feel like it would be literally with two totally different teams. I mean there's very few guys left from that original team. As I look at a guy like Peyton Manning, he won one in his ninth year and his 18th year and literally two different teams— one was with the Colts, one with the Broncos, but you’d say two different stages in his career as well. Brady won one in year two, four and five. There was that dynasty in New England and then they’ve had a ton of success since, but he didn't see another one until year 15, ten years later. It’s interesting how—
KING: It's interesting you know those years.
BREES: Oh, I do know those.
KING: You study those numbers.
BREES: Yes. So it would be extremely meaningful to win another championship and that's what I'm here to do. I also love playing this game I love being around my teammates. For a long time here just talking about the skill position guys: Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meachem, Lance Moore. I mean we had that run together for six-to-seven years where it's hard to maintain that type of consistency with that many guys for that period of a time. Now I see this new crop that's here and I feel like we can do the same thing: Brandin Cooks, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, Michael Thomas and so that gets me excited, really excited to come to work every day to work with these guys. You know my own kids, I have three boys: age 7, almost 6 and 4, and man you talk about like diehard football right now. I get home yesterday after a long day, and they just want me to throw to them while one catches it and the other one hits him, and does he get in the end zone or not, you know? They are so into it right now, and for them to be a part of this and the memories that we’re creating for them, you want that to last forever.
KING: Your son, Baylen, is 7 and he's playing flag football right?
KING: How does he like it?
BREES: He loves it. He's playing receiver and the cool thing is one of my best friends and I were the coaches for his flag football team in the spring. In order to make it fun we named all the position players after Marvel superheroes. So going from left to right, Iron Man was the receiver, Hawkeye was the center, Captain America was the quarterback, Hulk was the running back, Slash Man was the slot, and then Thor was the flanker on the right side. So my son played Iron Man – he was the X, he was Brandin Cooks.
KING: I hear Baylen is a bit of an Odell Beckham fan.
BREES: He is. All three of our boys here in New Orleans go to Isidore Newman School, which is where the Mannings went. It’s also where Odell Beckham Jr. went. So in 2015, the Giants were coming to New Orleans to play and Newman made a big deal about two Newman alums coming back home (Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.). And so for some reason at that moment it clicked with my son. This is right before Halloween, so he’s like “I want an Odell Beckham jersey, I want to be Odell Beckham for Halloween” and I'm like, “We play these guys on Sunday, alright? I’m not going to have my oldest son running around in the opposing team’s jersey!” I said, let's just wait till after this weekend and then you can be a fan of whomever you want.
KING: Does he still have the Odell jersey?
BREES: Yeah, yeah. What's funny is typically what they'll do when we have games in the backyard, two of them will dress up in Saints jerseys and then they'll put the youngest (Callen, who is 4) into the opposing team's jersey so that they can just knock the crap out of him. So they’ll put him in a Giants jersey, or a Lions jersey.
KING: You know there seems to be, speaking of that, there seems to be a movement toward flag football with the really young kids in the United States now. We just did a story at The MMQB about this town in South Carolina where if you are below eighth grade youth football is flag football there. So how do you feel about that, because I think you didn't play tackle football until you were in high school is that right?
BREES: Yes, that's right. I played flag football sixth, seventh and eighth grade and then I didn't play tackle football until ninth grade.
KING: What do you think about the whole education process?
BREES: I think it's a phenomenal idea to play flag football up until middle school and potentially high school. I mean, I think at some point it's the decision for the parents and the child as to whether you play tackle, but I just don't think tackle football is necessary until you get to middle school or high school. I think that the game is so much more fun and you learn so much more about just the fundamentals of throwing, catching, running, concepts, defense and that kind of thing through flag football. I think that there aren’t enough coaches to coach proper technique with pads on with kids in elementary school. That's just the truth and I think kids would have more fun playing flag football. In flag football everybody has a chance to run the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, and that's not the case in tackle football. You're either a lineman or a skill guy, you know what I'm saying? Whereas in flag football it's a free-for-all. Everybody has that opportunity. I just think it's a great way to teach the game in a very safe way that certainly parents feel comfortable about, and it still engages the kids and still gets them excited about it to where at some point they transition to pads.
KING: Deone Bucannon of the Arizona Cardinals told me in training camp this year that his first two years playing he played flag football. The reason why he feels for all kids the introduction to football should be flag football is because when you're in fifth, sixth, seventh grade the idea of learning football and then learning the physical part of it, to a kid that's a really big deal. He said you gotta get kids to love football, love the sport itself. Some kids might get hit really hard their first year playing football and say that’s not for me, I’m going to play soccer or whatever it is. I just think that's a really enlightened idea.
BREES: I think you will bring a lot more people to the sport by starting them off with flag football to that point – because you get them to fall in love with the sport, and then you gradually evolved to the physical nature of the game.
KING: Speaking of the physical nature of the game, you are about six feet tall, not a huge statuesque quarterback. It’s amazing when you think about it that you've lasted as long as you have. You’ve always been a player's guy. You've been very involved in player’s issues. So how much are you concerned about your physical well-being at 50, 55, 60 when you have four children who are going to be four young adults at that time?
BREES: Well, I imagine my body and my joints are going to hurt a little bit more than they otherwise would have if I had not played football. But you know I feel like I try to stay on top of my body and my health as much as I possibly can. Now listen, this is a physical sport, it’s a violent sport at times. I play the quarterback position where, yeah, I’m getting hit but I'm not thumping like the guys on the front line like the O-line, D-line, linebackers, defensive players and others. Still, there is a physical toll that it does take on you. I try to do all the right things to take care of my body throughout the season and throughout the offseason because I want to be able to play this game for as long as I can and I want to be in great physical health when I leave this game. I think that we know so much more now than we did even three years ago, five years ago in regards to specifically head and neck injuries. I think that the protocols are in place now to take care of guys when those issues do happen, because listen, they will happen. You know, it's football and those collisions are hard and while we're trying to evolve in regards to the technique of tackling and different things, it's still going to happen. Whereas in the olden days 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago, you get dinged and it's a toughness thing to stay in, not be away from your team, suck it up and just go. We now know how much damage that can cause. The repeated effects of banging your head after you’ve had an instance. I think now, for example Luke Kuechly last year. He’s arguably one of the best defensive players in this league. He has a concussion in week one and they hold him out for three weeks. Would that have happened 20 years ago? No.
BREES: Probably would have gone in as quickly as he could, right? But now we know that this is about this guy's long-term health. And there are a lot of instances like that, where we now say, let’s make sure he's healthy.
KING: Let me ask you what Ben Roethlisberger did last year. The Steelers are in Seattle. They're down 38 to 30. There's about two to three minutes left in the game and Roethlisberger, in the middle of this big pennant race game goes to his trainer and says, “I don't feel right, you know? I don't feel right.” And he left the game. Now, whether they would have won that game or not, but that that to me was a defining moment. I thought it was a pretty incredible moment, that a guy would do that, without anybody going to him and saying, “Hey, we're examining you.” He self-reported. So if that's you, could you have done that? And would you have done that?
BREES: I think it's nearly impossible to rely on the player themself to self-report. I think maybe there's times where that will happen, but I would say in large part that's why you've got the trainers and the referees and the independent neurological consultant now that's on the sideline to identify those players because I think it's hard to expect guys to do that.
KING: But what about you?
BREES: Honestly I don't think I would. I would not self-report.
KING: But looking back now if somebody pulled you out of the game, how would you feel about that? You’d probably be angry about it wouldn't you?
BREES: That happened to me back in 2004 when I was in San Diego. I got a concussion playing against the Jets. I was out for a moment of time on the field and got up. I had chipped teeth in my mouth and spit it out. It felt like gravel in my mouth. I got hit in the chin and I stayed in for another quarter, but man … I knew things were not right. Eventually my offensive coordinator Cam Cameron looked in my eyes and said, “You don't look like you're all there.” He said, “I know you took a shot out there he. I’m sitting you down.” I fought him on it for a while and he said, “No, this is for your long-term health. I’m sitting you down.”
KING: Wow. That's 12 years ago that happened.
BREES: Yeah, so I mean I wasn’t going to pull myself out. I wasn't going to pull myself out. It was a close game, trying to go win. I wasn't going to pull myself out.
KING: Everybody talks about the important issues facing the NFL and all that, but to me Roger Goodell has one job over the next however long he's going to be commissioner (and who knows how long that's going to be) and that is making the parents of America trust that everything is being done to make sure that the long-term health of the players in the NFL is paramount in his interest. I wonder, do you think the NFL now is doing enough about player health and safety?
BREES: I think that it's a joint effort between the NFL Players Association and the NFL. I don't think that we as players can just rely on the NFL to do those things. I think it has to be a joint effort and I think it really has to be driven by The Players Association, just as it was during this last round of negotiations. Our number one priority going into those negotiations in 2011 was to improve player health and safety and I think that we made huge strides in doing that and I think we’ve made it known that it is and will always be our number one priority.
KING: So I want to ask you a couple of issues in the NFL right. You think the players, under any circumstances, will accept an 18-game regular season?
BREES: No, I don’t. I don’t. The argument that's been presented to us is we’ll eliminate two preseason games and just tack on two regular-season games and it's pretty much the same thing, it still adds up to 20. But no, these are different games. The preseason I think is necessary in a lot of ways for evaluation of young players. It’s where a lot of these young guys get their opportunities to develop to be a part of the team long-term. I think that at the end of the day adding two games is adding a lot of stress on your body especially when you think about the latter part of the season. If you look at statistics, that's when there's the highest instances of injuries and that kind of thing. Your body hits a fatigue and so now you're talking about adding two more of those types of games when it’s just going to increase the chance of injury exponentially. So I don't think that’ll ever happen, I think it's fine just the way it is. If anything, there might be a chance to add maybe another playoff team in each conference. That will add another game into the playoff equation, which I don't think anybody would complain about, fans or teams, but obviously that's to be negotiated.
KING: Is Roger Goodell the best man right now to be leading the National Football League?
BREES: Tough questions, right? Listen, I think Roger Goodell has done a very good job in regards to revenue generation, ideas to expand the popularity of the game of football. I obviously don't agree with the way that some of these NFL investigations have been handled in regards to Bountygate with us back in 2012, in regards to the Ray Rice situation, in regards to Tom Brady.
KING: Can I just interrupt you and ask you this? In my opinion Roger Goodell used a sledgehammer to kill an ant with Tom Brady. I’m still incredulous that they never proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was in on any sort of deflation scheme, and they never even proved categorically that the balls were deflated. To give a guy a four-game suspension for that I thought was really heavy. But some quarterbacks feel like, “Hey you know that quarterback is going to know about the deflation of the ball. He's going to be able to feel it, it's going to be a really big deal.” How did you feel about that – both the penalty and what exactly happened there?
BREES: Yeah I don't know if it happened or if it didn't happen with the Patriots and the Deflategate thing. What I can say is that I certainly don't trust any NFL-led investigation at this point based upon the three that I just mentioned. There is zero transparency when it comes to any of those investigations. There's been proven to be a lot of faulty things going on with all of those investigations, a lot of criticism. At the end of the day I feel like there's an agenda at play with the league office when it comes to some of these issues and that they are going to devise the end result of the investigation to fit their agenda. I feel like with Bountygate and our situation back in 2012, the NFL was under a lot of heat for player health and safety and so they had to make an example out of somebody. The New Orleans Saints just happened to be the most convenient one and the punishment that was levied on Sean Payton and Joe Vitt, so many people within our management and in our team. I thought was completely ridiculous based upon the evidence that they supposedly had at the end of the day. All of the players who ended up being suspended were all vindicated of what they were accused of.
KING: By Paul Tagliabue.
BREES: By Paul Tagliabue. So just the irony in that, and the fact that I think I just proved right there that they had an agenda that they were driving. They were skewing all the evidence to fit that and at the end of the day it blew up in their face. It continues to happen, which is the reason why we need mutual arbitration and we need somebody to be able to step in that makes it to where Commissioner Goodell and the NFL is not the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to NFL discipline and certainly running an investigation.
KING: Then again, though, you had that opportunity in 2011. I do remember De Smith telling me, well basically he said we knew that was an absolute non-starter with the league at that time but I don't think it's going to be a non-starter in the next negotiations or even maybe before that.
BREES: Yeah, you're exactly right, and I said earlier that player health and safety was our number one priority back in 2011 you know and so in any negotiation…
KING: And you accomplished a lot with that.
BREES: We did.
KING: I mean, with the offseason…
BREES: In any negotiation there's give-and-take and so that was something that was important to them, player health and safety, and there were some things that were important to us. So at the end of the day, we as players, we wanted a fair deal and we felt like we got a fair deal. Unfortunately the Commissioner discipline aspect of it has proven to be a real problem.
KING: Last question here with Drew Brees in New Orleans. So Drew, you know a lot about pro football history and as we record this you're about 10,000 yards away from the all-time passing yardage record. You are 103 touchdown passes away from the all-time touchdown record. How meaningful are those numbers to you in a game that is an ultimate team game? You’ve always been the kind of guy who wants to leave footprints in the sand, so how important is it for you to hold those records?
BREES: It's more important for me to win another championship, but I'd be lying if I said that those weren't important as well. But it's not my number one priority.
KING: Drew Brees thanks so much for joining me on the Peter King podcast. You've been enlightening and a lot of fun.
BREES: Thanks Peter.
KING: Some excellent points from Drew Brees and even more now from Doug Baldwin. I’m here with Doug Baldwin, wide receiver with the Seattle Seahawks. Before this season I thought it was really interesting that the Seattle Seahawks stepped up and paid you and gave you a contract sort of befitting what you have done. I think a lot of people thought two, three, four years ago that maybe you were more of a marginal player – a third or fourth receiver – but the one thing about you that I think is interesting is how you have always used the negativity as fuel. Has that happened your whole life or just when you got to this level?
BALDWIN: No, it’s occurred my entire life. In high school I had similar issues. In Little League football I had similar issues. College, obviously, is well-documented and then the struggles that I've had in the NFL are well-documented, so yeah it's always been there. But the reason why I think I've attached myself to it is because it's always been there and always will be there. There will always be somebody who said something negative about you or something negative about your game and so you’ll always have that ammunition or that fuel readily available at any given moment.
KING: Why are you able to use it so effectively whereas it doesn't work the same for other players who might feel the same way. How exactly do you use it?
BALDWIN: In two ways. First and foremost is looking at the criticism, the negativity … to be completely honest it doesn't bother me that much you know. I do analyze it, look at my game and say, “Okay, well, are there things that I can improve?” and that's one of the things that it forces me to do— to self-analyze, to look myself in the mirror. But at the same time, it fuels my passion to prove myself right, so if somebody is critiquing my game then I look at what I know is right and then I want to go out there and prove myself right again. So that's the way that I internalize it, and in that fashion it doesn't become toxic to me as a vessel. It becomes a productive positive synergy or energy for me to go out there and do what I need to do.
KING: Where did you learn that the mental side of the game can help the physical side the game?
BALDWIN: My coach at Stanford, Shannon Turley. He won't take the credit but he's the guy who put me on the path to the mental side of the game. He lent me a book when I was at Stanford called Mind Gym and in that book it talks about the mental side of the game. One of the quotes in there from Yogi Berra was “90 percent of the game is half mental.” Obviously the math is misunderstood.
KING: That's Yogi!
BALDWIN: But the fact of the matter was, you know, the mental side of the game is vastly more important than the physical. Because at this level in NFL, everybody is an athletic freak and there's not much that differentiates us from the athletic side or standpoint. The mental game of it is what can ultimately give you an edge over the competition. So I've studied that as much as I could to make sure that I had every possible advantage in my toolbox.
KING: What do you do during the course of the week? Are you somebody who will Google things about yourself to see what people are saying? I remember John Randall of the Minnesota Vikings used to talk the media guy to the team he was about to play and he used to read up on the personal things about like, say Brett Favre, or the linemen on the Packers, and he used to come into the game and just bark about it the whole game. So I mean what do you do to learn about your opposition or to learn about what people out there are saying about you?
BALDWIN: Well, first and foremost opposition is easy because we have film that's easy to study. A lot of the defensive coordinators are well-documented about their types of tendencies, their schemes so it's very easy to get a feel for the type of defense we’re going against. As far as the negativity, I don't have to look it up because it's readily available to me at all times. You know, social media and the good and bad provides…
KING: You know everybody on social media says everybody is a bag of crap.
BALDWIN: Of course, but you know I think as athletes thrust into the spotlight especially on such an important event in our society, Sundays, you know you get all of it. It’s very easy for me just to turn on my social media and see all the comments that are being thrown towards my profile.
KING: Okay I’m going to ask you this one football question about your game against San Francisco. You talk about athletic freaks and you made one of the most ridiculous catches I've ever seen in football. I’ve covered football for 32 years. You really made one of the great catches and yet not many people really made a big deal of it. I watched it this week and I just said, “That is phenomenal!” For those who didn't see it, it was like a crossing route right and you dove for a pass that was probably about 18 inches from what appeared to be outside of your grasp. You dove, you brought the ball in with your left hand to your body just as you hit the ground. I want you to describe how you're able to make a catch like that and the work that goes into making a catch like that.
BALDWIN: Well the first part of it is the mental side of it. You know, we talked about that and basically having an absence of thought in those moments. For me I can't be thinking about anything else. I can't be thinking about the past, the future, the previous play, the next play.
KING: Or a safety who might be bearing down on you getting ready to hit you hard.
BALDWIN: Or that. It's gotta be about that specific moment and in that moment, yeah the ball is thrown a little bit outside of my frame, but those are the moments when you've gotta make the best of your opportunities. We continuously say this all the time: we only get so many opportunities in the passing game so when the ball is thrown our way you gotta do everything in your power to get it. The mental “want to” to go out there and make those plays is there for all of us and so we practice that at times, doing the one-handed catches but it's very rewarding when you get to show that in a game, all that hard work you did during the week.
KING: Tell me when you guys watch that in the film room in your offensive meeting or in the receivers room in the last few days what was the reaction?
BALDWIN: A positive one obviously, a lot of positive comments but again this is stuff that we do, that we practice. So you know, a lot of congratulations and nice comments but the fact of the matter is that’s our job. We don't look at it in our room as something spectacular as others might. It’s just, okay he made a good play and we expect you to make that good play over and over again.
KING: How many catches in your life do you think you've made that are better than that one – any?
BALDWIN: No, I think that might top the list.
KING: You have you've been sort of thrust into the spotlight a bit in the last few days and really this season by aligning yourself with Colin Kaepernick and with being very empathetic toward his cause. You're on 60 Minutes Sports with Jon Wertheim talking about that at length. I find something really interesting about that. Your dad is a cop, and so what's been the discussion with your father about how this situation – if it can be improved – can be improved in the United States?
BALDWIN: The conversation in general has just been about his experience as a police officer and what he went through in training when he was in the academy, things that he learned outside of the academy.
KING: Where is he a police officer?
BALDWIN: He retired. For 35 years he was with the Pensacola Police Department back in Florida. Very well versed on the issues.
KING: How was his experience? Was it mostly positive
BALDWIN: Mostly positive. He loved what he did because he felt like he was giving back to the community, doing something for his community. He was an excellent officer during his time, but yeah his experience was mostly a positive one. But our conversations tend to talk more about his training, what he thought was positive about his training and then also what he thought was lacking in his training. During his time as a police officer he also was with Homeland Security and so he had to travel the country and the world a lot. He got to see different perspectives and different training methods and the one thing that he told me is that the training is not consistent across the country. There are a lot of places that lack the training that he thinks is necessary to eliminate the issues that we've been seeing on our video feeds. So that's where I started, because my dad with 35 years on the force knows better than I would and so really our conversations are me asking him questions.
KING: How does he feel? I’m curious about what some athletes are doing are doing now, however they're demonstrating, either by kneeling or by a fist or by interlocking arms. How does he feel about that?
BALDWIN: Well he's happy that people are speaking up about the situation and he totally agrees that there is an issue that needs to be resolved. He agrees with me that he thinks that it should start on the training level – not necessarily saying that police officers are not trained well, it's just that the training needs to adapt to the time and to our society now. And so in that sense, he is saying that it's not necessarily condemning the police officers, it's really saying that the training needs to adapt so that they can have better tools, better resources in order to protect themselves better and also protect the communities that they serve. That's what his mindset was when I spoke to him and so he was very much in agreeance with the message. Not necessarily the method. We didn't really talk about the different methods it was more so the message that was behind the protests.
KING: I wonder where do you think this is going in professional sports? I know that there's been a lot of discussion about what the future of this movement might be. Do you have much of a gut feeling what the near and long-term future is with athletes and trying to do something about the violence?
BALDWIN: Yeah I don't think it's going to go away. I think that in football we took a major step. I think it's very hard for us as individuals in the NFL to make these types of stances because it affects a large number of people: 53 on the active roster, 10 on the practice squad and then also the entire organization itself which employs a lot of people. It’s very difficult to make those strong statements but as athletes I don't think it's going to go anywhere. Especially with the NBA starting up, they've always been ahead of the curve in terms of activism and what they've done on the basketball court, so I don't think it's going to change. I think that now more so than anything a lot of the athletes are looking towards resolution and that's not going to go away because we're going to continue to see issues in our society that need to be changed.
KING: I want to ask you about something Brandon Marshall told me on this podcast two weeks ago. He said what we really need, more than anything else now, is some of the white athletes to sort of back this cause. Chris Long of the New England Patriots has done it, but really it's been mostly African American athletes who have done this and not white athletes. What do you think and do you think there will come a time that more white players will speak out about it?
BALDWIN: I think they will as the conversation continues in the locker room and more players of different races become empathetic to the plight of African Americans in this country. They realized there are things that need to be changed. I think it's difficult for other ethnicities to understand it because it's hard for them to put themselves in the shoes of other ethnicities and to feel the experiences that they didn't experience. It is important the other ethnicities, especially the white Americans, in sports do take part in it and recognize that it's not just a one-sided thing in order for us to correct these issues. To find solutions we have to do it together and so it's vitally important that other races get involved. But again I think as it the conversation continues it’s going to be easier for them because they are going to hear the experiences, they're going to see the emotions on the individuals’ faces and be able to be empathetic to those situations.
KING: Finishing up with Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks. I have to tell this personal story of this thing between us that I think is so … I just think it's very interesting. Sometimes in my business guys will yell at you or get unhappy with you for something you've done. But you approached me before the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots and you were really ticked off. You thought I had written something and you were very angry and then you just walked away. And I just said, Man, I better Google myself and Doug Baldwin to see what, if anything, I’d written and I couldn't find anything! So this year at training camp, it's a year-and-a-half later and you see me. I come up to you and I was going to say something to you and you just said, “Man, I’m really sorry for what I did.” There aren't many guys who do that, whether they realized that what they did was wrong, there aren't many guys who would do that. And so I think you deserve credit for basically just walking up to somebody who you may have wronged and try to make it right. I just wanted to tell you I appreciate that.
BALDWIN: I appreciate you saying that. It did bother me for that year and a half. It did bother me because you know—
KING: You know what it was? I think it was this: there were so many people dogging you guys. There were so many people who were saying, “Oh man they got a win in spite of their receivers,” so I was just a representative of the larger mass media.
BALDWIN: No, it was a specific article. It came from The MMQB, and in my haste and frustration I didn't fully look at who the author was. I just saw your name somewhere around it assumed it was you. When I saw you on the field you became the next target. But again, you know I deeply regret that because I was wrong.
KING: No it's not anything you need to deeply regret, and I appreciate you saying something. My last question for you is it's so hard to stay on top in this game as a player and as a team, and yet you guys have everybody aiming at you every year. It’s a huge game when you come to town, so do you feel that as a player? Do you guys feel that as a team? And how hard is it in this game to stay on top?
BALDWIN: Yes, we do feel it. You know, we think that there's been a target on our backs for a while. The Seattle Seahawks, we've been a target for a while and how do we stay on top? Or how do we stay in the moment? It’s just that —staying in the moment. We preach it our meetings, we practice it all the time. It’s not about the next opponent. It’s really not even about our opponent. It’s about us staying in the moment and finding the best in ourselves and that's the way that we do it. If we can focus on us, if we can focus on the task at hand rather than the outcome, then we give ourselves the best opportunity to go out there and perform at a higher level. And so we do that at practice, we do that in the meeting rooms, and eventually it bleeds into the game. It gives us, like I said, the best opportunity to win. That's our methodology. That's our mindset when we go into these games: if we can find our best, then that's really all that we need me to do and really that's all we can control. That's the way we look at it.
KING: Doug Baldwin, thanks for joining me on the podcast.