Steve Spagnuolo has always been a glass-half-full kind of guy, so the Giants’ interim head coach and self-appointed mediator in the Landon Collins-Eli Apple brouhaha expressed optimism early Wednesday afternoon that this would end well for both players.
“I think some good will come out of all of it. I truly believe that,” Spagnuolo said. “We’ll find out later what it is.”
Well, at least the coach was half right.
After Spagnuolo spoke separately with both players and then met with them together, Collins had dialed down the rhetoric from the day before — when the All-Pro safety called Apple “a cancer” who “needs to grow up” — with an apologetic tweet. Collins is on injured reserve after suffering a broken forearm in Sunday’s loss to the Cardinals.
But Apple had shown once more — and possibly for the final time with the team that drafted him 10th overall last year — that he is simply not mature enough to be a responsible teammate. In a shocking late-afternoon move, the Giants suspended the second-year cornerback for the final game of the season on Sunday. The move casts doubt about whether the Giants even want him back next year.
“We have suspended Eli for a pattern of behavior that is conduct detrimental to the team,” interim general manager Kevin Abrams said in a news release. Apple was notified of the suspension in a meeting with Abrams and Spagnuolo.
The last straw: Apple refused to join the scout team during practice and yelled at cornerbacks coach Tim Walton, according to a source familiar with the situation. Apple had been demoted from the starting lineup before last Sunday’s game, and he only played on special teams.
Apple came into the 2016 draft with questions about his maturity, and his run with the Giants has demonstrated that those concerns were appropriate. The fact that they still went ahead and drafted him will only amplify the justifiable criticism of what appears to be a failed pick, although the team will not make any decisions about Apple’s future until they hire a new general manager and a new head coach.
Collins, meanwhile, was ready to make peace the morning after he made an appearance on ESPN radio in which he made the “cancer” and “grow up” statements. Those comments went viral almost immediately, and added yet another controversy to a season filled with more than the Giants have had in recent memory.
While Collins can never completely take back what he said, apologizing was the right thing to do. As an unquestioned leader, Collins was out of bounds in publicly criticizing his teammate in such harsh terms. The word “cancer” itself crosses a line, and Collins understood and publicly made amends. While Spagnuolo wouldn’t divulge the nature of the conversation when the three men were together, the coach did seem satisfied his message resonated.
“Losing is frustrating and when frustration and emotions bet involved, sometimes this happens,” Spagnuolo said. “You hope it doesn’t happen, and you hope it’s handled in certain ways, but it’s part of growth.”
Collins got the point and immediately tried to rectify the situation.
Apple? At 22 years old and with nearly two full NFL seasons of experience, he simply doesn’t get it. His frustration over having been demoted may have been understandable, but refusing to play scout teams snaps was inexcusable. Consider: Eli Manning, who was benched earlier in the season after having started 210 consecutive games, practiced with the scout team after Geno Smith had been named the starter.
Apple declined to speak to reporters before being informed of his suspension. He had been approached nearly half a dozen times as he kept stopping by his locker, but the second-year cornerback walked away each time. At one point, he said he had to go to the bathroom and used a word not fit for a family newspaper. It was completely unbecoming, yet entirely in keeping with Apple’s continued immaturity — something that has impeded his development for much of his first two NFL seasons.
Recent revelations in an NJ.com story that detailed Apple’s personal issues, including his mother’s recent divorce from his stepfather and frayed family relationships, offered a window into some of the cornerback’s struggles. It was also telling that Collins had told reporters last week that he has met with Apple to try and help the young cornerback, while Apple himself denied any meeting ever took place. Collins was publicly embarrassed as a result, and his frustration ultimately boiled over in Wednesday afternoon’s radio interview.
Collins is all good now after having cleared the air. But Apple continues to be a mess, and shows no signs of being ready to straighten himself out.
All that talent and not a clue about how to be a professional.
What a waste.