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Old 06-27-2008, 03:04 AM   #1
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Cool Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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By Ross Tucker

The NFL, much like the calendar year, is made up of distinct seasons. There's the preseason, the regular season, the postseason and, of course, the offseason.

But the increase in players either publicly griping or failing to show up for certain activities to express displeasure with their contract status has spawned a new term. Welcome to protest season.

Never before, perhaps, have so many felt so compelled to reveal their frustration through either public words or personal absences. Kellen Winslow wants an extension in Cleveland. Anquan Boldin says he may skip training camp if he doesn't get a new deal from Arizona. Heck, some teams -- like the Bucs with Jeff Garcia, Earnest Graham and Chris Simms or the Giants with Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey -- have more than one player sitting out or spouting off.

It has become commonplace for players frustrated with their current lot to skip any and all voluntary activities, from offseason workouts to Organized Team Activities (OTAs), both critical building blocks for a team as it progresses towards training camp. If that doesn't work, and it rarely does, the next step is to sit out a mandatory event, even at the risk of being fined. Giants wideout Plaxico Burress is adding a new twist to that ploy by attending minicamp but not participating in any activities as he seeks an upgrade of the $10 million he has remaining over the next three years. Bengals receiver Chad Johnson appeared to be subscribing to the same plan last weekend before reversing his field and participating in the final practice session.

The other alternative, of course, is that players and their agents speak out -- both publicly and privately. The war of words usually starts how it should, with a player's agent talking with management, making sure the team realizes the player is unhappy with his current situation. Typically, if the agent senses a lack of progress, he tries other methods, which can include leaking word to the media or an all out verbal offensive against the organization by the player, like the recent outburst by Jets tight end Chris Baker.

"It was really a last resort type of thing," Baker said on Sirius NFL Radio. "We had tried to talk with them earlier. This is not something I wanted to do at all. They kind of left me with no choice."

Most NFL fans have a tough time understanding players griping about their contract status, especially when they are already earning such large sums.

"People think that if you sign a contract, you should honor your contract," said Bengals safety Dexter Jackson, who has had a bird's-eye view of the Chad Johnson saga playing out in Cincinnati. "But the team can release you anytime."

Therein lies the crux of the problem and the major reason for frustration among NFL players, who are well aware of their football mortality. They recognize the contracts are one-sided in nature and the team can always ask a player to take a pay cut or release them outright should they have a subpar year or get injured. If a team can alter the contract if the player has underperformed, why can't a player attempt to alter the contract in a positive fashion if he has clearly outperformed his deal.

"Part of the reason I'm in this situation is I got hurt in the last year of my original contract," Baker said. "If I get hurt this year I would be right back in the same boat."

This insecurity especially comes to light when players see some of the contracts being given to their peers. Even old-school former NFL players can understand the mindset of the current generation. Former Bears great and current 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary said, "I understand it. You do a deal and then someone else at your position gets a whale of a deal."

Most intelligent players, however, realize the best way to get a new contract is to stay the course, be a good employee and keep your mouth shut. The Saints recently rewarded defensive end Will Smith with a monster deal, in part because of the way he handled the process. Some players clearly don't have the patience to do that.

Baker, a well-respected player in the Jets locker room who appears clearly uncomfortable with the attention his situation has been given, said, "You never want to take it to the press, you want to keep it in house. But he [Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum] hasn't attempted to make any type of resolution to the problem thus far. I just want the negotiation process to start. We haven't talked at all."

Though most players who hope to remain with their current organization certainly don't take the decision to go public lightly, there are still other players, like the Bengals' Johnson, who appear to subscribe to the philosophy that causing a scene or becoming a distraction is the fastest way to get a new contract -- with a new team.

The problem with Johnson's strategy is it's not working and he doesn't appear to know what he is going to do next. The game plan that worked for Terrell Owens in Philadelphia and Javon Walker in Green Bay does not appear to be working as the Bengals steadfastly refuse to give in to Johnson's demands. At this point, Johnson appears to be receiving a lot of attention but precious little else.

Most players point to almost every contentious situation and remark that the player almost always got what he wanted eventually. From Deion Branch in Seattle to Pete Kendall in Washington. The next couple of months will go a long way towards determining whether or not this trend continues. Will certain teams acquiesce to player's demands and pay them or trade them or will they hold their ground and use the disciplinary measures in place to entice players to honor their contract? Only time will tell.

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/200...son/index.html
I never thought about it from the player's side as team can actually cut them whenever they can, while asking the players to honor the contract. What do you guys think about that?
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Old 06-27-2008, 04:04 AM   #2
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

I think they should honor there contracts and they should be able to cut them whenever they want to because of conduct policy if they go out and get in trouble are don't performe the way they should then they should be shown the door.
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Old 06-27-2008, 07:54 AM   #3
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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I never thought about it from the player's side as team can actually cut them whenever they can, while asking the players to honor the contract. What do you guys think about that?
that is what happens when a team gets the rights to players.. its their right to cut you from their team if you dont play up to par or do something to get in legal trouble. with that being said, however, from a players point of view, he signs a contract with the intention of honoring it, but circumstances arise and things change that can void that contract or make the player unhappy. but whining and crying in the media isnt the way to get the situation handled. it makes the player look like a spoiled overpaid athlete and the organization looks like the bad guy. i can see if you are being tremendously underpaid and have had several great seasons in a row...then maybe i can see you spouting off about wanting a raise. but come on guys, grow up and act like men instead of spoiled overpaid athletes.
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Old 06-27-2008, 10:49 AM   #4
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

I definatly understand where the players are coming from. The contract is legally binding, the player cannot leave the team when he feels like it. The player cannot force the team to keep him if they feel he is no longer of value to them. It sucks, because they can have their job (and at times career) yanked out from under them.

However, I am sick of players saying that they have "out-performed their deals" and sitting out practices and making a fuss to the media over it. When you signed the contract, you were happy with the amount knowing you could possibly play better than what the team is paying you. You took the chance by signing the contract, so honor it.

In the new CBA, I do hope they find a happy medium to this. Maybe a clause for a player to opt-out three three years into a deal if he feels that he's outperformed or is unnapreciated by managment. This way the team has no cap hit and the player is free to seek a new contract with said team or a new team.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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I definatly understand where the players are coming from. The contract is legally binding, the player cannot leave the team when he feels like it. The player cannot force the team to keep him if they feel he is no longer of value to them. It sucks, because they can have their job (and at times career) yanked out from under them.
that is true. but they know that when they decide to become a pro athlete and sign a contract
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However, I am sick of players saying that they have "out-performed their deals" and sitting out practices and making a fuss to the media over it. When you signed the contract, you were happy with the amount knowing you could possibly play better than what the team is paying you. You took the chance by signing the contract, so honor it.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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Most intelligent players, however, realize the best way to get a new contract is to stay the course, be a good employee and keep your mouth shut.
there seems to be a lack of those these days.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:46 AM   #7
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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there seems to be a lack of those these days.
that is because we are in a world of me me me and i want i want i want.. they dont know how to handle things correctly. you know.. chain of command.
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Old 06-27-2008, 11:58 AM   #8
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

i think the bulk of the problem, is AGENTS !!! there as slimy as money grubbin, ambulance chasing lawyers.
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

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i think the bulk of the problem, is AGENTS !!! there as slimy as money grubbin, ambulance chasing lawyers.
that is a good theory too. they are almost as bad as lawyers..lol.. thinking that their average player is worth as much as the superstars.
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Old 06-27-2008, 12:15 PM   #10
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Default Re: Protest season: Examining why players act out against their teams

I can empathize with player's who are putting their body on the line for what appears to be a one way contract. However, I don't completely agree with the picture that Ross Tucker creates.

When a contract is negotiated, there are guaranteed portions, and annual salaries that are not guaranteed. The player and his agent are fully aware of this when the contract is signed. There is a risk/reward ratio that both sides should be taking in to consideration before signing. If the player wants to be rewarded with a new, larger contract in a year or two, then he shouldn't sign a long term contract. If he wants a large signing bonus, then he's going to have to accept a long term deal.

In the case of Chris Baker, he and his agent could have added incentives to his contract. If they were "not likely to be earned" they would not count against the salary cap until the following year. He also could have rolled the dice and taken a one year contract with the thought of having a good year and then getting a big pay day as a free agent.

Plaxico Burress is looking for the best of both worlds, in my opinion. When he signed with the Giants - the only team that showed much of any interest in him - he got a good size signing bonus, and long term security with a six year contract that was structured in a way that he would not become a 'salary cap victim'. The downside of that type of contract is that your annual salary probably won't compare to that of your peers over the last few years. He should have known that there was a chance that he would be leaving dollars on the table over the last few years of his contract, in exchange for the guaranteed up front money and the security of being unlikely to be cut.

On a side note, I think it is no coincidence that Chad Johnson signed a contract that was structured in a very similar fashion to that of Plaxico's: a big signing bonus, a lot of years, and relatively low annual salaries towards the end of the contract. Both receivers are represented by the same agent - Drew Rosenhaus. I'm speculating, but Rosenhaus probably never had any intention of having his clients finish those contracts. If I'm an NFL team dealing with Rosenhaus going forward, I either avoid contracts structured this way, or understand that the player and his agent will be demanding a new contract half way through the original deal.


To me the real culprit in NFL contracts is the money allotted to rookie contracts. Much of that money should be redistributed to veterans rather than to players that have never played a down in the NFL.
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