Posted: 8:35 pm Wednesday, March 24th, 2010
By Post Staff
Florida coach Urban Meyer is trying to mellow out as he attempts to improve his health, but he was plenty stressed at Wednesday’s spring practice.
As practice wound down and players slowly exited the field, Meyer approached a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel in front of about two dozen media members and had a heated exchange over an article the reporter had written about receiver Deonte Thompson.
“You’re a bad guy, man. You’re a bad guy,” Meyer told Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler. “If that was my son we’d be going at it right now.”
Meyer was upset at an article entitled “Florida Gators WR Deonte Thompson sounds happy to usher in post-Tebow era” in which Fowler singled out a quote from Thompson calling John Brantley “a real quarterback.”
Thompson was asked about the differences between Tebow and Brantley. His response:
“You never know with Tim,” Thompson said. “He can bolt. You’ll think he’s running, but then he’ll just come up and pass it to you. You just have to be ready at all times. With Brantley, everything’s with rhythm, time. Like, you know what I mean, a real quarterback.”
Several other media members, both at the Sentinel and at national outlets like ESPN, Jim Rome and The Sporting News, picked up the quote and interpreted it as an insult of Tim Tebow. And Thompson, a native of Belle Glade, was vilified in media and internet message boards throughout Tuesday and Wednesday as a player with a poor attitude.
Meyer was upset not only with how the quote was played, but that no one bothered asking Thompson a follow-up question or write how Thompson later called Tebow “a living legend” in the same interview. Meyer got right in Fowler’s face for taking Thompson’s quote out of context, called Thompson “a great kid” and threatened to have the Sentinel entirely removed from Gator football media opportunities.
“I told you this five years ago – don’t mess with our players. Don’t do it – you did it,” Meyer said. “You do it one more time and the Orlando Sentinel’s not welcome here ever again. Is that clear? It’s yes or no.”
Fowler appeared surprised by Meyer’s advances.
“Urban, come on. Don’t make any threats. That’s fine. I’ll play by rules,” Fowler said. “I’ll play by the rules, but all I was doing is quoting the guy. I don’t think I was the only one.”
Meyer eventually walked away from the scene and pointed at Fowler while standing next to his oldest daughter, Nikki, who was home from Georgia Tech on spring break and attending practice. Twenty minutes later, Meyer was escorted off the practice field by truck through a back gate instead of walking past the media contingent at the regular gate.
Meyer, trying to lessen his workload and ease his stress since being hospitalized last December and briefly quitting his job, has not spoken with the media since the first day of spring practice eight days ago.
Before the incident, it was clear the Gators did not like the way the Thompson quote had ballooned into a national story. During the middle of Wednesday’s practice, the team informed reporters that it had cut off media access to all coaches and players for Wednesday’s practice.
Noteworthy: Brantley, the team’s only veteran quarterback, missed practice with what the team described as the flu and possible strep, but Brantley also injured his knee in Monday’s practice. … Running back Emmanuel Moody injured his right ankle and left the field in crutches, and receiver T.J. Lawrence was sent to the hospital for an undisclosed reason.