Green Room Agony Persists, Despite NFL Draft Changes

This year, the NFL draft will eliminate some of the public humiliation.

April 25, 2013, 3:54 PM

May 25, 2013 — -- Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, now with the Seattle Seahawks, knows first-hand the agony and the ecstasy of the green room.

Pegged as a top-10 NFL draft pick in 2007, he sat for hours, surrounded by his grief-stricken family, as one player after another got the lucky call. The psychological pain was intense, all televised. Eventually, the commissioner whisked him into another room out of the embarrassing public eye. Quinn ended up in the 22 spot, chosen by the Cleveland Browns.

Some analysts have said draft day had turned into a "vigil" -- and the first round of the NFL draft takes place tonight, with subsequent rounds on Friday and Saturday.

In the end, though, it may hardly matter.

Aaron Rodgers, now a superstar quarterback with the Green Bay Packers, suffered a similar fate in 2005, when, according to the New York Times, he was "the guy stuck in the green room ... being treated as if he had a contagious disease" until slot 24 -- after four and a half hours.

Television cameras followed Rodgers everywhere as the drama played out before 4.8 million viewers.

"I mean, I literally kept it together for the majority of that," Rodgers told the New York Times at the time. "And the one time I do a little lip chatter where I kind of pffft, you know, blow some air and make my lips fall up and down, they catch that, and then they show that going into the break. It's like, 'Here's Aaron Rodgers, he's still sitting here. Man, he looks bored, you know?'"

Today, the MVP quarterback is poised to be the highest-paid player in NFL history, according to USA Today.

Three-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady of the New England Patriots was a fifth-round pick. Hall-of-Famer Joe Montana was selected in the third round. And we know where their careers have gone.

This year, the NFL draft will eliminate some of the public humiliation.

ESPN and the NFL Network have forged a gentleman's agreement to not show images of the players on the phone in the green room.They also won't let their staffs tweet selections pick by pick before NFL commissioner Roger Goodell makes the public announcements. That agreement will extend through the second round of the draft.

"The reason doesn't have anything to do with the psychological state [of the players], it has to do with the viewing audience," said the NFL's Senior Vice President Greg Aiello. "Everyone was being tipped off as to the pick and who picked the player before the commissioner announced it.

"Fans were complaining about it," he told "It was ruining the suspense."

But the psychological suspense will still be in the green room, despite any attempt to control the message.

Incidentally, the green room is neither green nor a room. It is 3,440-square-feet of stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The name, according to ESPN, which will air round one of the draft tonight and continue through Saturday, comes from the English theater. For hundreds of years, the green room was where performers waited before they went on stage.

"At the draft, it's the place where dreams and nightmares unfold in front of millions," according to ESPN. "Mitt Romney didn't have cameras in his face as he watched the 2012 presidential election slip away; CEOs don't get promoted or demoted in front of a live audience. But that's what is unique about the green room. It makes heroes human.

"Those who have braved this room call it a cross between the Grammys, the waiting room of the dentist's office and, inevitably, the New York State lottery."

For the football players, it's less about surviving the stress of the picks and more about saving face, according to Shane Murphy, a professor at Western Connecticut College who has served as a sports psychologist for Olympic athletes.

"In terms of the athlete, they have been playing competitive football for a decade or more coming out of the college experience," he said. "Waiting during a draw process is one of the easier things that they have done. It's not as challenging as the Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl."

"What is hard for them," Murphy told, "is the sort of public humiliation. Another part of the professional athlete today, especially if one is drafted in the first round, is image management. Their public persona has a lot to do, frankly, with how much money they make."

Football is the biggest sport in the United States right now, according to Murphy, dominating ratings during the fall. It dominates January television and the Super Bowl is "gigantic," he said.

The draft picks affect the contracts players might sign with sponsors.

"They are very sensitive to that," he said. "I can be hard on them when they feel like, 'I am someone who should be drafted very early and here I am dropping and sent off to the second round. They think I am a bad person or there's something in my background.' It's more social psychology: 'What people think of me.'

"It adds to the public perception and pressure knowing everyone is talking about it at the water cooler," said Murphy.

Aaron Rodgers, of course, survived the 2005 drafts, but the mental torture was brutal, he later said.

"It was definitely a good learning experience," he told the New York Times. "I look back on it now and I can only laugh about the feelings I had. Things obviously worked out really well in the end.

"But at the time, all I could think about was, 'Get me out of here.'"

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