The irony found in quotes, both in and out of context, can be amazing.
Steelers rookie safety Anthony Smith was in front of reporters leading into Pittsburgh's Week 14 game against the undefeated New England Patriots. His words are as immortalized in Steelers history:
"We're going to win," Smith said. "Yeah, I can guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we've got a good chance to win."
While reporters asked him twice before he succumbed to the adrenaline if he was guaranteeing a win, refusing to fall for the bait both times, the context in which he made the infamous statement was more that his team was capable of beating its opponent.
The word "guarantee" in sports is complex, but ultimately, shallow. It's not like fans get their money back if a player's guarantee isn't supported, or is even supportable. It doesn't make the player any more legendary - or at least it shouldn't.
Smith wouldn't have turned out to be any better of a player had the Steelers won that Sunday - they lost 34-13 with the Patriots gunning after Smith the majority of the game. Smith was benched following the loss, and his career took a sharp downward decline. He was released from the Steelers after the 2008 season, and his career was over after 2011.
All we'll remember is the guarantee.
It's possible ex-Washington Huskies cornerback Marcus Peters learned a lesson as a young kid. Maybe he heard Smith's hollow guarantee, and refuses to use that term in the affirmative.
He spoke with SB Nation's Dan Kadar at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and despite the event being Peters's best and maybe only real chance to convince teams and the public of his character, he would not set the bar too high.
"I don't guarantee anything. Everyone makes mistakes," Peters said, according to Kadar. "All I tell them is that I've matured from the decisions I made in the past and I'm moving forward."
An easy lob over the heart of the plate was offered up, and instead of knocking it out of the park, Peters managed to eek out the slow dribbler back to the pitcher.
Not guaranteeing a victory against any team in the NFL is a good idea. Electing to not guarantee one's ability to stay out of the kind of situations in which a player is thrown off a team doesn't seem wise. Everyone makes mistakes, but choosing to cover one's backside in light of small mistakes when speaking in the context of something much more extreme seems to be a mistake in itself.
It becomes a question of context both for teams as well as fans. The quote attributed to Peters was buried deep in Kadar's write-up, but it's really the root of the reason why Peters is not considered a sure-fire top 15 pick.
It's reasonable to assume those who want to take Peters at his word will point to the context in which the question was asked. Those who have preconceived notions of Peters as a person will jump to the negative, saying it's reasonable for a team to expect him to guarantee he won't do whatever it is he did to be booted from the team.
Smith's decision to use the word "guarantee" in the context he did was a mistake, even if he was baited into saying it. Peters' decision to stand on principle and cover himself by pointing to the impossibility of him going his entire career without making any kind of mistake suggests he's missing the forest for the trees.
He doesn't need to justify small mistakes, but ones that get him kicked off a team may require a bit more of a promise that it won't happen again.