Cleveland Browns safety Jabrill Peppers remembers playing for DJ Durkin when he was at Michigan in 2015 and Durkin was the defensive coordinator. He says Durkin employed the same sort of bullying tactics that just landed him in hot water at Maryland.
Durkin was just placed on administrative leave while the university investigates allegations of abuse by staff members and whether the purported culture of bullying led to the recent death of 19-year-old offensive lineman Jordan McNair on the practice field.
In an interview on the Rich Eisen Show Tuesday, Peppers called Durkin’s coaching style extreme but said he was shocked to learn the entirety of what was happening at Maryland.
“Coach Durkin, he was a different guy, you know what I mean. His tactics were different. It felt extreme at times.,” Peppers said. “I’m just as shocked reading all the stuff that’s going on now. I thought he was only like that because it was his first time coaching us. He was the defensive coordinator so he was just trying to get us to buy-in to how he wants his defense to play. I thought once he became a head coach that he would calm down a little bit, become more of a people person, a player’s coach.”
Last week, ESPN reported allegations from current and former players, and current and former staff members, that described a culture of bullying, verbal abuse and humiliation towards players. Coaches reportedly endorsed unhealthy eating habits and mocked players with obscenity-laced epithets. One player reportedly was belittled verbally after passing out during a drill.It was also revealed last week that McNair died of heatstroke after showing visible signs of distress during a workout.
Peppers says that while he understands Durkin was just trying to get the most out of his players, there’s no more apt description of his approach than bullying.
“It’s just the way that he goes about getting the most out of his players,” Peppers said. “…The way I would’ve described it was kind of like bully coaching.”