National Football League
NFL players should grab the cash
National Football League

NFL players should grab the cash

Published Jul. 21, 2010 5:22 p.m. ET

Wait a minute. Sam Bradford wants HOW much?

OK, player salaries in pro sports are ridiculous (and so are revenues produced on the sweat of such players, so I guess there we go). We know that. But it wasn’t a few months ago that Bradford wanted to go back in against BYU. He just wanted a pain-free shoulder. He just wanted for his dreams of a pro career to not just go up in smoke.

And now he wants how much?

OK, so somebody is going to get that much money, eventually, and so why not a (seemingly) likable kid from Oklahoma?


Still, it boggles the mind. He had a nice sophomore season. He won the Heisman Trophy. He’s a feel-good story, the best Native American football player since Jim Thorpe. He’s got a great smile. The St. Louis Rams, for goodness sake, could use a little hope.

He seems injury free and had some great pro-day workouts.

And for this, they’re asking for ...

Where does he get the nerve?

(Oh, wait, right. The Rams did make him the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. You could see where a guy might think that could be worth something.)

But maybe, it’s that Bradford knows most of all how precarious all of this is. He went from being the Heisman winner to being Injured Guy in a blink. One hit. For all he knew then, it was over. All of it slipping away.

He was the poster boy for what happens when you don’t jump at the money right now.

So now he’s jumping. He left it on the table once, and look what happened.

He seems like a nice kid. But it’s apparent he’s not doing that twice.

None of them are, this summer. Guys want their cash. They want it now. Oh, there are holdouts and threats of same every year. But this is different. Now you’ve got Peyton Manning and Tom Brady involved in high-profile contract battles. Manning and Brady! These are guys who have often at least given the impression of taking less for the good of the team.

But today? In this current climate? At this moment in time?

It’s time to release your inner Rod Tidwell.

They’re not the only ones, of course. Chris Johnson just got a new deal (though not the one he was hoping for). Darrelle Revis. Bradford. Look around the league. Hard lines are being taken, on new contracts. Threats of holdouts are everywhere. Rookies. Vets. Pro Bowlers. Everybody who thinks he has leverage has hinted at standing firm. This summer. Now.

This is a sport in which careers don’t tend to wind down – they’re just as often crushed in a flash, like vertebrae. “Retirement” can be sudden and unexpected. Concussions aren’t optional. Post-career health issues are a given.

Yeah, all of that’s true every year. But there’s a potential lockout looming. And a long labor war, especially with some of the moves that have recently been made -- holding the line of offseason spending despite no salary cap (good thing there's no such thing as collusion, right?), pining for fan-friendly items like a rookie pay scale and 18-game season ("That's right fans, we wanna give you MORE FOOTBALL!") -- could further alter the power dynamic. Plus the league can still have TV money coming in even if there are no games? Now that’s going to the mattresses.

These owners are no dummies.

NFL owners know how to play the game. That’s why they are owners. That’s why they are the ones up in the skybox, smoking cigars.

Yes, there may be the occasional PR blunder, or they may miss on a player, or they might get snookered by some quack of a coach. They may put an untested relative in an important position. They may even constantly threaten to move their team back and forth between L.A. and Oakland. That sort of thing.

But these guys aren’t dummies. That’s how they got to own NFL teams in the first place. They know how to play the game.

There are no guaranteed contracts in the NFL. Think about that for a moment.

If you’re a player, you know the stakes. And with labor strife coming, this might be your last chance for cash.

Brady and Manning going Cuba Gooding? That tells you everything. Not that I’m saying those guys are necessarily so selfless. But that those guys thought they needed to make these noises, now? That this is their move says something. After all, these are two guys who know how to play the game, too.

If these guys are worried, it’s a signal to the rest of the herd. Sam Bradford knows it as well as any of them. Grab that cash while you can.


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