ONCE UPON A time, training-camp holdouts by NFL veterans were as common as jock itch. But the advent of free agency changed that. So did the harsh financial penalties a team could levy on a player if he played hooky from camp.
But revisions in last year's collective bargaining agreement, which dramatically reduced the financial consequences of a holdout, combined with some of the ludicrous free-agent contracts that were handed out this offseason, could trigger a rash of veteran holdouts this summer.
"You're going to see an upsurge in holdouts of players under contract," Eagles president Joe Banner said. "I think [it will be] dramatic. And it's mainly because of the gutting of the signing-bonus language."
Previously, a club was able to write language into a player's contract that allowed it to recover the remaining portion of the player's signing bonus if he held out or failed in any way to honor his contract.
But the amendments that were added to last year's CBA extension changed that. Now, if a player holds out, a team can only reclaim 25 percent of the prorated portion of the signing bonus amount for 1 year.
In other words, if a player signed a 5-year contract that included a $10 million signing bonus, a team only can take back $500,000.
"It used to be that if you didn't honor your contract, there were very severe consequences," Banner said. "That doesn't exist anymore.
"Until now, holdouts for players under contract have been like here. There's been a modest number, but it hasn't been dramatic. But I think you're going to see a significant increase in them this year. Next year, even more. I think it's going to be a massive distraction."
Longtime agent Jerrold Colton, whose clients include Eagles kicker David Akers and Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry, thinks the potential for an increase in veteran holdouts certainly is there.
"The [CBA] changes really limit what teams can go after for holdouts," he said. "There's less risk and less to lose for a player now. This has somewhat opened the door for [holdouts] to rise again."
At this point, the Eagles, who open training camp on July 27, don't appear to have any veteran players who are considering a holdout.
-- Indianapolis appears to have a slight lead over Dallas in the bidding for the 2011 Super Bowl. The league's owners will select the site for the '11 game at its spring meeting in Nashville on May 22. Indy, Dallas and Phoenix are the three finalists, but a league insider said Phoenix, which will host this season's championship game, is running a distant third. Indianapolis, whose new stadium will open in 2008, is believed to have the support of many of the owners of the league's midmarket teams. There also is an anti-Jerry Jones faction in the league that would rather play the game in Saskatchewan than see the Cowboys' owner get it. Jones has pointed out to his fellow owners that former commissioner Paul Tagliabue promised the '11 Super Bowl to Arlington (the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb where the Cowboys' stadium is being built) if the city helped fund a stadium.
-- Eagles draft pick Kevin Kolb made an interesting choice when it came time to selecting an agent. He's represented by Jeff Nalley, of Select Sports Group in Houston. If the name doesn't ring a bell, Nalley was the agent who took former Penn State running back Curtis Enis on a $1,100 shopping spree in 1997 when he still was playing for the Nittany Lions. Enis, then a junior, was booted off the team by coach Joe Paterno and later entered the draft, where he was taken in the first round by the Bears. Nalley was suspended by the players association for 2 years for the infraction and fined $15,000.
-- The Giants, who badly need a left tackle to protect Eli Manning's blindside, talked to Cleveland before the draft about its starting left tackle, Kevin Shaffer. But the two sides couldn't work out a deal. The Browns signed Shaffer away from the Falcons in '06 and gave him $12 million in signing and option bonuses. But he was a bust last season. If he sticks around, it won't be at left tackle, where the Browns already have plugged in first-round pick Joe Thomas. The Giants are expected to take another run at Shaffer before they open training camp.
-- Even if the Eagles aren't able to sign tight end L.J. Smith to a new contract between now and next February, that doesn't mean he won't be playing for them next season. The team always can use the franchise tag on Smith. The '07 franchise number for a tight end is just $4.371 million. The only position with a lower franchise number is punter/kicker ($2.078 million). Would they be willing to pay Smith $4.37 million next year if they weren't able to re-sign him and really wanted to hang on to him? Well, they're paying 32-year-old left tackle William Thomas $4.55 million this season even though they drafted his potential replacement (Winston Justice) last year.
-- Randy Brown, a former assistant special-teams coach with the Eagles, is off to an impressive start in his political career. He was elected mayor of Evesham Township (Marlton), N.J., earlier this week. Brown beat a four-term incumbent.
-- Thanks to commissioner Roger Goodell, the days of NFL head coaches muzzling their assistants finally are over. Goodell is the impetus behind the league's new media-access policy, which was released this week. One of the revisions: teams must provide "regular and reasonable access" to assistant coaches for interviews. At Goodell's behest, the league also has changed the procedure for reporting and updating injuries. Coaches like the Patriots' Bill Belichick have made a mockery of the league's weekly in-season injury report. Now, instead of listing the status of injured players (probable, questionable, doubtful, out) during the week, teams must detail the extent of practice participation (did not participate, limited participation, full participation) of all injured players. Then, on the Friday before a game, each injured player must be given an injury designation. Any team that does not adhere to the new media-access guidelines will be subject to disciplinary action by Goodell.
-- The Raiders finally got around to firing senior personnel executive Mike Lombardi this week. There have been reports that NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is being considered for the job. But Mayock said there's nothing to it. "Al Davis had expressed an interest in me a year ago," Mayock said. "At that point, I told him the timing was not good for me and kind of backed out of it early. So I don't know what [the job] could have been or couldn't have been. Why it's surfacing now I have no idea." Mayock, who lives in Newtown Square, is a single dad with full custody of his two children. His daughter is a college freshman and his son is a high school sophomore.
-- Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who isn't one of quarterback Byron Leftwich's biggest boosters, wanted to take Brady Quinn with the team's first-round draft pick, according to a source. But vice president of player personnel James Harris, who makes the final call on personnel decisions, decided to take safety Reggie Nelson instead. Leftwich has missed 15 of the last 21 regular-season games with injuries and is entering the last year of his contract.
FROM THE LIP:
-- "He's got to get himself off the NFL Network, get out of those fancy clothes he's been wearing for the last 2 months and get his butt in gear here with us." - Bucs coach Jon Gruden on the team's first-round pick, defensive end Gaines Adams
-- "I've never been in trouble. I've never tried drugs. I've never done any of that. I don't drink alcohol - anything of that nature. I have good character and I'm not going to bring any problems to the table." - Anti-Pacman Michael Griffin, who was the Titans' first-round draft pick
-- "Mel Kiper has been riding me the whole time. After these next couple of years, I'm going to make sure he eats every word he said." - Defensive tackle Alan Branch, once thought to be a high-first round pick, who fell to the Cardinals in the second round
-- Please don't judge my son by his appearance. When you see this black guy with dreadlocks and gold in his mouth, don't put him down as some thug. Get to know Marshawn and you'll know he's a much different character.' - Delisa Lynch on her son Marshawn, who was the Bills' first-round pick
To the NFL for its absurd rule that prohibits rookies from participating in more than one postdraft camp until after their school has completed final exams. This means kids from schools on a quarter or trimester system, which don't get finished until the first or second week in June, miss valuable learning time with their teams. That was the case last year with the Eagles' third-round pick, Chris Gocong, a college defensive end trying to make the transition to NFL linebacker. The league instituted the rule several years ago to appease college coaches who were furious when the league started letting in underclassmen. The problem is, a good many college players aren't even enrolled in classes their final semester, yet still can't participate in offseason training activities with their new employer until school's over. That's the case with the draft's No. 1 pick, JaMarcus Russell, who attended the Raiders' minicamp last weekend, but can't participate in any other offseason training activity until LSU is done with exams next month. Most colleges are on a standard two-semester system that ends in early-to-mid May.
BY THE NUMBERS
-- Joe Thomas was just the second offensive tackle drafted in the first round by the Browns since they entered the NFL in 1950.