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Old 08-20-2006, 07:06 AM   #1
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Default Smizik: Angry Porter should alter attitude

Smizik: Angry Porter should alter attitude
Sunday, August 20, 2006

By Bob Smizik, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Joey Porter is unhappy. He considers himself a premier NFL linebacker who isn't being paid like one. He hasn't said as much, but it's pretty clear he wanted the Steelers to renegotiate his contract and attach a whopping signing bonus to it, something that would befit the man who led NFL linebackers in sacks last season with 101/2.

Porter's has a right to be unhappy. With himself and his agent. Any unhappiness directed toward the Steelers is misguided.

Although Porter's signing of a restructured contract in February 2004 was not a public event, it safely can be assumed no one in the Steelers organization had a loaded pistol pointed at his head. If fact, it comfortably can be presumed that when Porter agreed to this deal he had a wide grin on his face.

And why not?

The deal was restructured so Porter would get most of his salary that season in the form of a signing bonus. That meant instead of having to wait the 17 weeks of the season to get all of his money, he got most of it before training camp.

Not only that but the contract would pay him $3.5 million in 2005, $3.85 million this season and $5 million next season.

That is not a bad situation and one Porter, who returned to the Steelers starting lineup last night in a 17-10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at Heinz Field, seemed to have accepted.

"I'm here, I was here when I was supposed to be and I've missed no days,'' he said. Porter, who didn't begin practicing until Aug. 9 after having knee surgery in May, played three series with the first-unit defense last night.

He had been sulking throughout training camp, and for those who didn't know why, it all became clear in an interview he did last week on the NFL Network. He was asked by Marshall Faulk if he was underdpaid.

"Definitely," he answered. "I definitely feel that I have outplayed the contract that I am under. What I bring to the team ... it's not just me out there playing football. Me being the leader I am and the response I get from my team. The whole city of Pittsburgh knows what I bring. Coach [Bill] Cowher knows what I bring."

There's truth to what Porter said. If he were on the open market right now, he probably would command a higher salary that he's making this year and next. If he were on the open market, he would command a fat signing bonus.

But he's not on the open market. He's under contract, a contract he willingly signed. All the pouting and complaining in the world isn't going to change that. It might on some teams, but not on the Steelers, an organization that has been known to renegotiate contract but almost always only when it helps them manage the salary cap.

Porter has accepted that. "They [the Steelers] have their rules. This is closed."

Porter has been around long enough to understand what the situation is. There's no questioning to resolve of the Rooney family in such matters. And that's particularly true when the player in question is a 29-year-old linebacker who is entering his eighth season.

It's his age that probably has Porter on edge. Although he finished the 2005 season on a dominant note and there's reason to believe he can be excellent again this year, there's a good chance Porter has received his final large NFL contract.

The Steelers made a mistake in giving Jason Gildon a new contract at an advanced age. They're not likely to make that mistake again.

In his comments to the NFL Network, Porter boasted about his leadership. That's not an overstatement. He definitely a leader, by word and action, on the Steelers defense. But was demeaning that role with his behavior.

Leaders don't cause distractions. Leaders don't delay in getting necessary medical attention. Leaders don't sulk through training camp.

Porter needs to regain his focus. He needs to return to being the leader he was and forget about his contract.

Almost nothing should be made of NFL exhibition games but the fact is the first-team defense, the unit Porter captains, could barely get off the field against the Vikings. After a three-and-out on their first possession, the Vikings went 76 yards on nine plays for a touchdown and 13 plays for 40 yards for a field goal on their next two.

The Vikings had the ball for 11 minutes, 19 seconds in the first quarter, not something a team might be expected to do against the Steelers.

"It was my first game since last year so I am definitely not where I want to be, but that is what the preseason is for," Porter said. "I have a lot of time to get the game tape and to get my moves ready."

Porter needs to do one more thing: Fully adjust his attitude. Based on the fact he philosophically accepted his situation, he seems to have taken a major step in that direction.
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