Don’t Confuse Character And BusinessAugust 3rd, 2010
By STEVE WHITE
Former Buccaneers defensive end Steve White (1996-2001) is a devoted student of the game, and White shares his knowledge with JoeBucsFan.com readers regularlly in his must-read Bull Rush column.
Today, White breaks away from Xs and Os to set the record straight on the recent business rumblings of Barrett Ruud and Jeff Faine.
Driving home from Bucs practice at training camp yesterday I heard news that Barrett Ruud finally talked to the media about his disappointment over a lack of a new contract after Donald Penn got paid this weekend.
I think what Ruud said was ok, and he didn’t go over the top. But I then heard someone speaking about it and they turned it into a conversation about character. As in Ruud thought about holding out but it wasn’t in his “character” to do so.
On the flip side the argument was that for Penn it was about the money but for Ruud it’s about security.
Uhmm, what the hell?!
The money IS the security when it comes to playing in the NFL. Penn said a bunch of times that he wanted to end his career with Tampa and that it was ALSO about security for him, as well, going as far as to talk about how the injuries to Chad Jones influenced his decision to take the Bucs’ offer.
I was kind of leaning towards dismissing it until I saw a report from the St. Pete Times’ Stephen Holder that Ruud considered walking out of camp after he heard about Penn’s deal but his “character” wouldn’t allow him to.
Let’s get something straight right now. The NFL is a BUSINESS. Whether a guy chooses to hold out or not, if they really have out-performed their current deal isn’t a matter of their character, its a matter of BUSINESS!
The mistake Ruud made was signing his tender, which then allowed the Bucs to fine him if he did in fact hold out. It kind of got me wondering if he bought the false report the Bucs put out about their ability to fine restricted free agents even if they hadn’t signed their deal. Whether he did or he didn’t, once he signed he effectively gave up all of his leverage.
Now I happen to agree with Ruud that he deserves a new contract. I have even went so far to defend him against the talking point about making tackles 5 yards down the field. But him showing up and staying in camp doesn’t show that he has “character” any more than him holding out would have made him a “bad guy.” In both instances it would have been a business decision, and it’s bogus to view it any other way.
Why Not Shine The Character Light On Owners?
You know who never gets called out for a lack of character? Team owners who refuse to pay players that deserve it. Team owners who cut payroll even when their franchises are making loads of money. Team owners who cut or trade guys who were the cornerstones of their teams without so much as an explanation.
But do you ever hear anyone saying they showed poor character when those situations arise?
Instead, the phrase “business decision” is tossed about. Well, holding out for a new contract is in the same category. Making it about someone’s character is not only wrong, it’s ridiculous. Nobody wants to be underpaid no matter what kind of job they have. Holding out is one of the only tools NFL players have to force a team to renegotiate with them. So everyone needs to chill with this “character” argument because it just doesn’t hold water.
Faine Shouldn’t Cast Stones
I was about to end this post when I happened to go over to JoeBucsFan.com, and I see this post about Jeff Faine weighing in on Ruud’s situation to FanHouse.com.
Faine, the player, sympathizes.
Faine, the suit, has a different take.
“I understand, but at the same time, [Rudd]’s under contract,” said Faine, who hit the free-agent lottery after the ’07 season, his last with the New Orleans Saints. “If you’re going to have issues with the last year of the contract, don’t sign the contract. I’m really tired of [that]. … This is me, as a player — and we’ve been taught [by the union] not to talk about the league and guys around the league — but as a player in that position [last year of his contract] , I came to camp, I did everything. I could have easily done the same thing and held out for an extension and wanted a new contract … but I signed the contract as a rookie and that was the last year of my contract. If I didn’t want a five-year contract, I should have signed a four-year contract.”
Neither Ruud, a second-round pick in 2005, nor Penn, an undrafted free agent, could have foreseen the complicated CBA situation, but Faine’s point is that a contract is a contract. He’s played by contract rules on the football fields and been bound by them in the business fields.
So let’s unpeel this onion. First off, Faine does have a point in a sense. Barrett Ruud had the opportunity last year and this year to holdout for a new contract but he declined to do so. I happen to like his backup Adam Heyward because he gives you everything he’s got whenever he’s on the field. But the reality is he is not the caliber of middle linebacker that Ruud is and, thus, had he done what Penn did and not signed the tender, he would have had the same kind of leverage and perhaps a new contract.
He decided not to and when he made that decision he should have let it go. I don’t know where some players get this notion that teams are going to “do the right thing” if you just show up and play. History has shown that isn’t the case. But if it’s really about “character” as folks are trying to make it out to be, then that same “character” should have kept Ruud silent on the issue after he made the business decision to sign his tender and show up to camp.
On the other hand, however, what is Faine doing here? Is going public with his problems with Ruud’s situation going to help a team that was horrible last year in any possible way?
First off, he’s wrong on the details. Ruud DID play out his contract which is the reason he’s playing on a restricted free agent tender right now. Ruud was in line for a new contract, just like Faine was but the CBA situation precluded him from going out on the open market.
Besides that he goes on to say:
“Players complain when they get cut from a contract, but they don’t complain when they’re [under-producing] and already under contract. So it’s, ‘Hey, I’m already paying you $4 million this year — and you want more?’ You signed a contract.”
News flash Jeff, teams will ask players to take pay cuts when they under perform or are hurt and in some instances they release them if the salary cap allows it. And that is precisely the reason why players have to fight their butts off to get paid what they are worth when the iron is hot because the owners aren’t going to just give that money away and guys have to worry about their financial security.
Now I personally think Faine has played well since he has been a Buccaneer, but now might be a good time to remind him that since he signed his $37 million dollar deal here the team hasn’t made the playoffs and he hasn’t made the Pro Bowl. Considering his deal was the richest for a center in NFL history at the time, does that mean he has under performed? Should he be giving some of that money back to the Glazers, especially in light of last year’s 3-13 season?
See, that’s why its never good to talk about another guy’s contract status. Because then the spotlight gets shined right back at you.
And at this point it would probably be good if both Ruud and Faine took some STFU pills.