Until such time as Clifton and Kwame make their respective teams, however, that debate is on hold. We are left instead to reflect on how much help, if any, a name can be in a player's quest to crack an NFL roster. Clifton, traded from the Colts to the Eagles in March, has an interesting take:
"It's a blessing and a burden. Maybe [coaches] want to see the same moves" from him as those they've seen Robert use. "But I'm four inches taller and 40 or 50 pounds heavier. So I don't use those moves. Or they might look at my uncle and say, 'Well, you've got the same frame....' But I'm a different player."
If he didn't have the same name, coaches wouldn't expect Clifton to be someone else. On the other hand, he adds, "If I didn't have this last name, maybe I'd never get the chance."
The notion of siblings in the NFL raises questions of heredity and environment, nature versus nurture. Of course it helps to hit the genetic jackpot. "But just because you have the genes," Debra Geathers says, "that doesn't guarantee you anything if your character and your work ethic aren't there. That was my song to them."
Singing from the same hymnal is Bruce Matthews, a Hall of Fame guard and center who played 19 seasons for the Oilers and the Titans from 1983 through 2001, and who remembers well his battles with Jumpy, a "big strong guy who didn't say a word out there, just brought it every play." Matthews's father, Clay, played in the NFL. As did his brother Clay Jr. And his nephews—Clay Jr.'s sons—Clay III of the Packers and Casey of the Eagles, are in the league today.
"I'm sure that every one of us, the Geathers and the Matthews, have been told our whole lives what the expectations are," says Bruce, who has stayed true to his other family, joining the Titans as offensive line coach in 2011. "There's a standard that comes with having a name on your back."
"As a group we're probably going to outwork anybody," says Robert Geathers the Bengal, who's better known around the family as Junior. "We all paid the price to get where we are."
Pay the Price, as noted, is the slogan for this year's camp, which is underwritten by Junior. But sitting on a bench on the sideline, grumbling like Cedric the Entertainer in Barbershop, Jumpy suggests that it wouldn't kill his nephews to pay a little bit more of a price.
"They have been training hard," he allows. But he cannot help adding, "I think they've eased up a little bit over time."
It's in the natural order of things for the elderly to believe that the generation coming up is softer, more coddled. That is certainly the view held by Jumpy and Dab. And in this case, they're absolutely right.