Former KC Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill admits we took his bait. Don’t let him do it twice

Jesse Newell, KC Star

Tyreek Hill just wanted some attention.

Or some more followers on social media.

Or your, um, underwear in a wad.

It’s a warm, still Sunday afternoon, and Hill has returned to Kansas City for a youth football camp he scheduled before the Chiefs traded him to Miami in March. In a seven-minute interview, it’s evident he still feels some sort of attachment to this place, and even more so this place to him. About 700 kids shelled out $350 a pop for the camp.

But in the moments after he reminisces — “Kansas City is always gonna have my heart,” he opened — he wants to applaud his own work this week.

And to be clear, his work is pulling one over on you.

Four days ago, Hill released a 59-second snippet of an upcoming podcast that will debut on June 10. At the conclusion of the clip, which focuses on his trade from Kansas City to Miami, his co-host, Julius Collins, asks, “Do you think this was a situation to suppress his stats — to drop his value down when it came to a potential trade or signing?”

It’s absurd, of course.

But a hell of a teaser!

I don’t know that I had much interest in a Tyreek Hill podcast — more power to him for creating one — but I’m sure as heck going to listen now. Probably should ask him for some help writing headlines. He, or someone in his circle, has an untapped talent. But I digress.

Because this kind of thing does have consequences — it disappointed some in the Chiefs’ building, for starters — and Hill wants to place the responsibility of those consequences on you.

“I just feel like a bunch of people overreacted,” he said Sunday when I asked his thoughts on the reaction. “It was just, my co-host was just posing a question. People just gotta wait until the full clip comes out. I feel like right now my podcast is headed in the right direction, and I’m getting the exact reaction I wanted. I’m getting people’s panties in a wad, so I feel pretty good about that.”

Hill baited the hook, and then mocked the fish for taking a bite. What other reaction could he have expected?

His upcoming podcast is titled, “It needed to be said,” but the most important thing in his teaser is what was left unsaid.

It’s the equivalent of claiming he was quoted out of context — and it even appears he was — but he’s the one who transcribed the notes.

Four days later, at his camp, I offered Hill the chance to answer the question on which the trailer leaves us hanging.

“You just gotta wait until the podcast comes out,” he began, and then he thought better of it. “But I will say this: They did not suppress my stats. I got nothing but respect from top to bottom. That’s from Andy Reid, from Patrick Mahomes, (Travis) Kelce, all them boys. I love my teammates no matter what. I’m gonna stand on that.

“Like I said, only thing my co-host did is he just asked me a question. I feel like that’s what podcasts are for — you’re supposed to go back and forth; you’re supposed to have those questions in there that have a little bit of suspense to them. That’s just all there is to it.”

His initial words effectively pointed his finger toward us.

His actions took advantage of a do-over.

He did ultimately reject the ridiculous notion the Chiefs might have suppressed him. He deserves credit for the action aspect of this, even if it arrived only after a direct question four days later. It certainly could’ve come with a clarifying tweet to his new followers anytime in the previous 96 hours.

The problem is, in the era of short news cycles, it’s pretty much a certainty that not everyone who saw the initial headline will see this one. The accusation is out there, even if Hill doesn’t answer affirmatively on the full podcast that is released this week (and it sounds like he won’t). And that’s his doing. The Sopranos fade-to-black moment left everything open to interpretation, and it closed the right to criticize that it might have been misinterpreted.

But there’s still one more narrative Hill is attempting to push in all of this.

The money.

He said Sunday it was not the driving force of the trade that removed him from Kansas City for the first time in his NFL career — the trade that concluded with a new contract in Miami making him the NFL’s highest-paid receiver.

“I’m gonna leave with this. I came from juco (junior college). I had nothing. My skill-set, my mindset, is to be the best no matter what. The money part, it was just a bonus,” he said. “That right there just added value to my name. But I’m gonna continue to try to get better, no matter what I do in life. I’m gonna try to help my team win a Super Bowl. That’s my mindset, my goal. The money was just secondary to me.”

Some might have fallen for the podcast teaser. They shouldn’t fall for this. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

I’m willing to grant that more than money factors into a decision of this magnitude, but just days after the trade in March, Hill’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, appeared on a Miami radio station and said this:

“At the end of the season, I started a conversation with the Chiefs on a new contract extension, and it really was heading in the direction of slowly but surely working out a new deal for Tyreek,” Rosenhaus said, as transcribed by NFL Network. “And then the Davante Adams trade (to Las Vegas) got done, and Adams got a record-setting contract. And I immediately reviewed that contract, and I spoke to the Chiefs and had a very positive conversation with them that this should be the market for Tyreek. And if it wasn’t, then the right thing to do would be for everyone to benefit, which would be for the team to have an unprecedented trade and for Tyreek to go to a team that would be willing to make him the highest-paid receiver.”

Sure sounds like money is a factor.

The factor, actually.

And that’s fine. Can’t blame the athlete for taking the money, particularly the NFL athlete who has one last chance to cash in big. Hill is now the highest-paid receiver in the game, a title he earned. He didn’t owe the Chiefs a discount. He owed it to himself to find out his value.

But when you make that decision, the narrative can’t shift elsewhere. That was, ultimately, the reason that he’s no longer in Kansas City, which didn’t have the cap space to pay Hill what the Dolphins will. The money was not secondary. It was primary. The Dolphins do not have a better chance of winning a Super Bowl than the Chiefs.

During his answer Sunday regarding the money and its (secondary) place in Hill’s relocation, an event organizer shouted that it would be the last question. I tried to sneak in one more.

Secondary to what? I asked.

He tilted his head back as though he heard it.

But just like the podcast, it became a walk-off question without an answer.

Left to our interpretation.