Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yo, Jerome: No Guarantees in Life or NFL

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yo, Jerome: No Guarantees in Life or NFL

Article excerpt

National Football League players are an anomaly in professional sports. They must justify their existence every day they take the field. If they don't, well, let's just say the equipment guys always have plenty of empty boxes on hand for packing.

Adios, sluggo!

Few NFL players have the opportunity to get spoiled. Guaranteed contracts don't exist in this league. Once a player collects his signing bonus, he gets no more assurances from his employer. If he's on the roster on payday, he collects.

If he's not . . . let's just hope he didn't spend that bonus in one place. This explains why the Rams came to town looking for houses to rent, not buy.

The salary cap hangs over their heads like a guillotine. Payroll dollars are precious, not to be wasted on marginal performers. Every athlete must prove he is worth every dollar he earns every week.

Simply playing well is not enough. To remain secure, a player must prove utterly invaluable. Too many factors are beyond his control. If a couple of offensive tackles go down with groin pulls, the salary slot for a new, non-hobbled tackle must come from somewhere. If a general manager needs payroll dollars to fill a hole, even a genuine star could be forced to take a pay cut or leave.

Terry Allen was a 1,000-yard rusher for the Minnesota Vikings last season, but he (and his salary) were released. John Taylor had to take a major pay cut to stay with the San Francisco 49ers. Morten Andersen was a six-time Pro Bowler in New Orleans, but his bosses cut him and asked him to re-sign for $385,000 less this season.

Andersen was lucky; the Atlanta Falcons stepped up and offered him $1.25 million for this year. But if he misses some kicks and some other Falcons go down, Morten's huge salary could get him cut again. It's no wonder so many football players have tried baseball, where a contract is a contract and Jose Oquendo can collect millions.

NFL players are the only major-league athletes without a strong union. As a result, they work under the least beneficial collective bargaining agreement in sports. Indeed, their CBA is worse than the contracts most trade unions have negotiated. …

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