Friday Financials

A couple of interesting notes from the football biz this week….

The new stadium about to open in Dallas will be a gleaming beacon for the Cowboys and the NFL — a grand and glittery representation with no expense spared, including 60-yard-long video boards hanging above the field and the best in luxury seating the league has to offer.

But when this Texas treasure opens next month, with the NFL’s highest profile team (and owner) playing in it, its name will be, well, Cowboys Stadium. There is no naming-rights sponsor.

Once again, a sign of the times. The Cowboys are one of, if not the most aggressive team in the NFL looking under every rock to find more revenue — and a naming-rights sponsor for their impressive new building would be the most prized piece of inventory a sponsor could have. But there is none, for now.

Perhaps there were suitors, but the Cowboys chose to stay with the simple name they have and eschew the income. Perhaps, but it doesn’t sound right. A more likely scenario is that the continuing financial crisis has made the long-term nine- or 10-figure naming-rights deals obsolete.

Wednesday Whys

A quick note before this week’s Wednesday Whys. There was an item in the news that Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was visited by Commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday in Charlotte following a recent heart transplant. Richardson, a man of class and grace, is doing well, thankfully. Having met him and seen him interact at league meetings and events, I’ve always been impressed at how evenly he treats people at all levels of organizations, how intently he listens to what people are saying, and how much he cares about his team, the league and the game. We at the Post wish him a continued speedy recovery.

Now, on to the Whys…

Why doesn’t Brett Favre make up his mind about signing with the Vikings already?

To all those who wish the 2009 version of the Brett Favre miniseries “Will He or Won’t He?” would end, it won’t. I’m a friend of Brett and admire much about him, but I have lived this for many years. My sense is that Brett would rather that someone else – in this case, the Vikings – make the decision for him rather than make it himself.

Tuesday Thoughts

Some thoughts on a couple of recent injuries that have flown below the Brett Favre radar this week.…

Tyrone McKenzie, a third-round pick by the Patriots, suffered a torn ACL in mini-camp last week. And Stanley Arnoux, a fourth-round pick by the Saints, tore his Achilles tendon, also in minicamp. In theory, if the Patriots and Saints were so inclined, they could try to negotiate differently when it comes to hammering out contracts for both players prior to training camp. However, the union has been vigilant in requiring agents to obtain injury-protection forms before players participate in minicamps or any other offseason activities that require some activity. The forms state that teams will negotiate with players as if no such injury occurred. Chances are extremely high that McKenzie and Arnoux signed such forms prior to camp.

The verbiage of these forms, although appearing to be standard, has now become a negotiation in itself, especially for first-round picks. Agents want language reflecting an increase off last year’s picks, a locked-in number based on this year’s picks, or any other sort of protection. Teams do not want to be boxed in by contracts from other teams and would like to leave it as broad as possible. The premise is the same: The player will not be disadvantaged at the negotiating table by participating and becoming injured in mini-camps and offseason workouts.

At the Packers, I would always point to the ultimate case of fairness in this regard. The team’s first-round pick of the 1994 NFL Draft was Aaron Taylor, a player who suffered a season-ending injury in his first mini-camp. Not only did the Packers treat him as if the injury never occurred, he received a four-year deal (preferable to the five-year deals that first-rounders usually sign), which allowed him to enter free agency a year earlier than almost all first-round players. With this precedent of extreme fairness, I never met any resistance at the Packers about the wording of our injury-protection forms.

The forms are actually good liability mechanisms for the teams as well. For instance, in the event a player suffered a severe injury in mini-camp or workouts – such as something truly career-ending or even life-threatening – the team would only be liable for the amount described in the forms, pegged at the place where the player was drafted. The limited liability aspect of these forms would protect the team from catastrophic events.

McKenzie will be paid a contract reflecting the 97th player taken in the 2009 Draft (he was also the first compensatory selection in the draft).

Broncos Sign Another Running Back

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) The Denver Broncos have signed free agent running back Darius Walker.

Denver announced the deal on Friday.

Walker signed with the Houston Texans as a free agent in 2007 and played four games, rushing for 264 yards on 58 carries and catching 13 passes for 81 yards.

He dressed for five games with the Texans last season but did not play before joining St. Louis’ practice squad for a week on Nov. 4. He rejoined Houston’s practice squad on Nov. 25, finishing the season with the Texans.

Brett The Free Agent

One part of the latest Brett Favre miniseries that’s been largely ignored – yes, there is something – is the fact that, for the first time in his career, Brett is without a contract, an unrestricted free agent free to sign with any team. At the Packers, he was always under contract and never able to shop his services. As for the Jets, they were assigned the Packers’ contract in the trade.

I will never forget negotiating the 10-year, $101M contract in 2001 that was terminated last week by the Jets. We had several player contract talks on hold – Darren Sharper, Ryan Longwell and others – pending the Favre negotiations. Brett’s contract would not only reward him but would also provide the Packers much-needed Cap relief to be able to fit new contracts for Sharper and Longwell into our Cap as well (ironically, both became Vikings later in their careers).

Bus Cook and I negotiated for months on the deal but, as everyone now knows, once the season was over, Brett headed off to his Mississippi refuge to play golf, mow and basically be unavailable. Trying to get him to focus on the contract – even one with nine figures in it – was a challenge.

The Debate: Player Contracts I

Note to readers: this column is Favre-free.

The issue of unhappy players in the offseason – with the source of their unhappiness usually being money — has become a hot-button topic lately. As I’ve written in the past, the NFL offseason tends to be “me” time before the official “we” time starts during training camp in August. My colleague Matt Bowen and I thought we would debate this sticky subject from our respective viewpoints – mine in the front office (with the disclosure that I’m presently consulting for the Eagles) and Matt's as a former player. Here are a couple of the basic issues:


Every player making the argument that his contract should be augmented strongly believes he deserves this special treatment, as does every agent working for them. They all have their arguments laid out explaining why their specific cases are unique and require a response from the team.

From a team perspective, though, it’s never about just that player. Every team executive knows — as does every player — that however the team reacts to these situations, players and agents will take notice. Everything is duly noted in the ultimate “keeping up with the Joneses” atmosphere of an NFL locker room.

If a team ripped up an existing contract with multiple years remaining, how would the team's top players with one year remaining react? If a team adjusted a player's contract after the player whined to the team and the media, what would be the reaction of players who kept their discontent quiet? The answer to both is that there would be a line at the front-office door demanding new contracts.

It’s never about just one player; the whole locker room is watching.

The Sanctity of Contracts

I’ve heard the argument, “Well, the team can cut me,” many times when it comes to players wanting out of signed contracts. Well, yes, the team can release any player it wants and, in most cases, without the consequences felt in Major League Baseball and the NBA of future guaranteed money (although some players have been released with guaranteed money due, such as John Beck of the Dolphins last week).

There a couple flaws with this argument. First, a team may not want to cut the player; a team may just want to lower his contract to move money to other parts of the team. When I first got to Green Bay, I had to approach several Packers Hall of Fame players and request reductions — Leroy Butler, Dorsey Levens, Antonio Freeman, Santana Dotson, Gilbert Brown, Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks and others. It was certainly not easy. Yes, a team can cut a player, but that’s not always in its best interests.

Further, the fact that a team can cut a player without future liability is not an issue the player should have with his team; rather, it’s an issue the player should have with his union or his agent. The NFL system of compensation is heavily weighted toward bonus compensation rather than guaranteed salaries (although that’s changing a bit). If players want to change that system, it’s a subject to be addressed with the rest of the topics teed up for collective bargaining.

“I’ve Outplayed My Contract”

Haven’t we all? Sure, there are many situations around the league when, viewed in a vacuum, a contract appears to be inequitable. Often, however, that snapshot doesn’t take into account things such as the following: the amount of bonus money received by the player earlier in the contract, the player’s happiness upon signing the contract, the risk the team took in rewarding that player early in his career, the chance that the player could have been injured or replaced soon after receiving all the bonus money he received.

True, the Cap has gone up significantly. And yes, deals done in 2005 and 2006 do not look favorable compared to deals done in 2008 and 2009. That fact, however, should not cause history to be rewritten. When a player enters into a long-term agreement with a team and reaps the benefits of such financial security, there is never – to my knowledge – a companion discussion with the player and/or the agent that the contract will be adjusted for the change in the marketplace and the Cap. Were that the case, teams would only do short-term deals with much smaller signing bonuses, taking away the financial security that players crave.

When I was dealing with Javon Walker and his desire for a new contract with two years remaining on his rookie contract, he and agent Drew Rosenhaus kept pointing to a player who was Javon’s close friend and Drew’s client, a player whose team had just rewarded him with two years remaining on his contract — a player who was deliriously happy now that he had financial security and was treated with respect by his team. The player? Anquan Boldin. How things have changed.

The frustrating thing for teams now is that players feel emboldened to act out in the offseason with public requests to have their contracts adjusted or, in the event of the team’s refusal, to be traded (to a team that would, as the theory goes, adjust their contract). It’s a strategy that has “worked” for players such as Clinton Portis and Javon Walker, although it has failed for the vast majority who have tried it.

I’m not sure how we got here. We’re now at a place where it’s news when a top player with years remaining on a contract does not request a contract adjustment. That should not be newsworthy.

Every contract is a bet — a bet by the team and a bet by the player. That player may turn into a superstar; he may also suffer serious injury or turn into a dud. Those are the risks taken by each side. I remember going to a player in Green Bay, Robert Ferguson, and negotiating a long-term deal early in his career. The ink was not even dry when the media suggested that he would be unhappy with the deal in a couple of years. And, in a couple of years, he was released from the Packers, a player who never lived up to his potential. We had made a bad bet.

I understand players’ feelings when the market passes them by. It’s human nature. No one is immune to what’s going on around us. Sometimes, however, we have to live with our decisions, good or bad, especially from the team side, with dozens of players watching and waiting to see what the team does.

I’ve been on both sides of this. It’s a tricky issue, one that – even more so than the rookie salary issue – must be addressed in the near future.

NFLPA Issues Warning For Diet Drug

Warning from the NFLPA

I received this email Tuesday from the NFL Players Association regarding supplements:

To All Contract Advisors:

As I mentioned to you at the prior Agent Seminars, there is a service that the FDA provides which sends announcements via e-mail pertaining to various supplements which may be flagged for health concerns or other reasons. There was a recent announcement concerning significant health risks associated with one of the supplements that is popular with athletes – Hydroxycut. Please share this information with your players.

The link is

I wouldn’t normally post an internal NFLPA email, but I feel many outside of football can benefit from this notice.

Since I know a lot of pro and college players and agents read this site, I thought I would share it so that anyone using the this product will be informed. In addition, I want to show our readers an example what a good job the union does alerting agents and players to the dangers of certain supplements.

The funny thing is, I used this product to drop a few pounds myself.

FDA News


Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Warns Consumers to Stop Using Hydroxycut Products Dietary Supplements Linked to One Death; Pose Risk of Liver Injury

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to immediately stop using Hydroxycut products by Iovate Health Sciences Inc., of Oakville, Ontario and distributed by Iovate Health Sciences USA Inc. of Blasdell, N.Y. Some Hydroxycut products are associated with a number of serious liver injuries. Iovate has agreed to recall Hydroxycut products from the market.

The FDA has received 23 reports of serious health problems ranging from jaundice and elevated liver enzymes, an indicator of potential liver injury, to liver damage requiring liver transplant. One death due to liver failure has been reported to the FDA. Other health problems reported include seizures; cardiovascular disorders; and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure.

Liver injury, although rare, was reported by patients at the doses of Hydroxycut recommended on the bottle. Symptoms of liver injury include jaundice (yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) and brown urine. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, light-colored stools, excessive fatigue, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain, itching, and loss of appetite. “The FDA urges consumers to discontinue use of Hydroxycut products in order to avoid any undue risk. Adverse events are rare, but exist. Consumers should consult a physician or other health care professional if they are experiencing symptoms possibly associated with these products,” said Linda Katz, M.D., interim chief medical officer of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Hydroxycut products are dietary supplements that are marketed for weight-loss, as fat burners, as energy-enhancers, as low carb diet aids, and for water loss under the Iovate and MuscleTech brand names. The list of products being recalled by Iovate currently includes:

Hydroxycut Regular Rapid Release Caplets Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Rapid Release Caplets Hydroxycut Hardcore Liquid Caplets Hydroxycut Max Liquid Caplets Hydroxycut Regular Drink Packets Hydroxycut Caffeine-Free Drink Packets Hydroxycut Hardcore Drink Packets (Ignition Stix) Hydroxycut Max Drink Packets Hydroxycut Liquid Shots Hydroxycut Hardcore RTDs (Ready-to-Drink) Hydroxycut Max Aqua Shed Hydroxycut 24 Hydroxycut Carb Control Hydroxycut Natural

Although the FDA has not received reports of serious liver-related adverse reactions for all Hydroxycut products, Iovate has agreed to recall all the products listed above. Hydroxycut Cleanse and Hoodia products are not affected by the recall. Consumers who have any of the products involved in the recall are advised to stop using them and to return them to the place of purchase. The agency has not yet determined which ingredients, dosages, or other health-related factors may be associated with risks related to these Hydroxycut products. The products contain a variety of ingredients and herbal extracts.

Health care professionals and consumers are encouraged to report serious adverse events (side effects) or product quality problems with the use of these products to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program online, by regular mail, fax or phone.


–Regular Mail: Use FDA postage paid form 3500 found at: and mail to MedWatch, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852-9787 –Fax: 800-FDA-0178 –Phone: 800-FDA-1088

The FDA continues to investigate the potential relationship between Hydroxycut dietary supplements and liver injury or other potentially serious side effects.

For more information:

Hydroxycut Products

Dietary Supplements — Overview

FDA 101: Dietary Supplements

NIH Office of Dietary Supplements

The Last Shot, The Long Shot!

I’ve noticed a developing trend in which NFL teams use their rookie mini-camps as mini-combines of sorts for players who went unsigned or undrafted. The Bucs, for example, had about 14 signed undrafted free agents (UFAs) and about 36 more unsigned UFAs come in last weekend on a “tryout” basis only. I heard that three were signed from that camp. I believe the Bears had about 26 or so, but I’m not sure how many earned contracts. The Packers had 21 and handed 3 contracts at the conclusion of the camp.

If you’re a player in this group, it’s most likely your last chance to get a shot with an NFL team. You may get a call in a week or two as guys get weeded out because of injury or poor performance, but that slot is probably 80th on the 80-man roster. Regardless, it’s a slot, and some guys have climbed their way to the 47 and garnered multi-year careers.

Picture this: Your lifelong dream is to play in the NFL. You played four years of scholarship football, ran well at your pro day, and your agent tells you that you will get into a camp. You sit through two days of the draft and watch your friends, teammates and peers get drafted. You agonize through the last round of the draft only to realize that you have to go in through the back door as a UFA. An hour goes by and your phone never rings. Your agent tells you he’s working and may have a team interested, but all is silent and your dream is slowly vanishing. After the longest day of your life goes by, stress, insult and frustration mount as your friends and family keep asking, “Which team signed you?” But you can’t answer them. You’re embarrassed and dejected.

Sunday night, your agent tells you he’ll keep working and that team X might bring you in for a mini-camp tryout. You don’t sleep much that night and you don’t want to talk to anyone. You realize that as much as you want football in your life, football doesn’t want you. You’re not invited to the ultimate party, you don’t get picked first anymore and you’re no longer the toast of your town and possibly even your family. Depression sets in, and for the first time in your life, you have to picture an uncertain future.

It’s Monday morning and you don’t want to get out of bed. You look at your phone warily hoping for several messages. There are two from your agent. Could it be?

As you call him back, you wonder if he even did his job – if he was the problem, not you. He excitedly tells you that he got you into mini-camp with team X. If you go there and perform like you know you can, they’ll sign you right after the weekend. That’s right, you’ll have a contract on Sunday and you’ll be where you belong, on an NFL 80-man roster with a chance to compete and make your dream come true. You’re excited. You have a little more confidence in your agent, and you start thinking that team X knows that you can make it. That’s it — they are the only one that knows. They did their homework. You’ll show them!

Your agent doesn’t tell you too much except that a travel person will be calling you and to make arrangements. You get in a workout, and on your way back, the team travel coordinator calls you to book your fight to camp and even tells you what kind of cleats to bring. That confirms that it’s real. You better workout tomorrow, too. You start calling friends and family to let them know that team X is bringing you in and will probably sign you on Sunday.

You get to the team’s city Thursday night, where you meet some other guys who were drafted or signed as free agents, and you meet even more who were brought in with the same promise that was given to you. You meet your roommate, who is also unsigned and plays the same position as you. It’s OK. You’ll beat him out. He looks kind of small.

You can barely sleep because you know you have to perform.

You’re up early and go to the facility, where everything is laid out for you. You’re in the comfort of the locker room, and when you meet the head coach — someone you’ve seen on TV for years — you know this is real. After the team meeting and instructions, you get out on the field. After being there for an hour or two, you realize that everyone is a rookie. There are about 50 of them. How can this be? You know this team only drafted eight players, but there’s no way they signed another 40.

At practice, things move quickly and coaches give instructions on the fly. It’s more chaotic then your thought an NFL camp might be. You can tell they know a few guys by name and the rest are just numbers. You work hard to impress with the few reps you get, but you feel rusty. You’re frustrated that you only get a few reps.

By dinner, you start to figure out the numbers. About 15 guys have contracts as UFAs and there are seven draft picks, but the No. 1 is a no-show — so all the rest are in for a tryout, just like you. There are five at your position on top of the three they signed as UFAs and the two they drafted. A sinking feeling settles into your gut. You really don’t feel special. You notice that three or four guys at your position have playbooks, but you never got one. What does that mean? It can’t be good.

Saturday, you hit the field thinking that you’ll get more reps and a chance to show what you can do. Practice seems more organized. But it’s more of the same – the same guys getting the most reps.

Sunday rolls around for the last practice and you know it’s do or die. You get more reps, but the position coach still doesn’t know your name — and your smallish roommate, whose name he does know, is getting even more reps. Practice ends with a huddle in the middle of the field. The head coach tells everyone that they did well and that if they don’t sign you, he’s sure some other team will. They’ll have some evaluation meetings and make decisions. The speech is unceremoniously brief.

When you get back to the locker room, you can hear a pin drop. It feels like a funeral. Guys take their time getting undressed. Even the draft picks are quiet; they understand what’s happening. A scout type walks in and grabs three players and pulls them out quickly. One of them is your smallish roommate. You clean up, pack your bag, hand in your equipment and wait the for the scout guy to come get you. It never happens. The next information you receive from anybody is your transportation back to the airport.

On the way, you have to listen to your roommate tell his family and girlfriend that he was only one of three from about 36 who got offered a contract. You’re feeling pretty low, and you’re even a little mad because you didn’t get a fair chance to prove yourself. You have three messages from your agent. You start thinking that maybe the team called him and offered you a contract. You wait until you’re alone before calling. When you get him on the line, he asks, “How did it go? Did they offer you a contract?” You tell him what happened, but you really don’t want to talk. He says something else might come up as few teams have their mini-camps the second week after the draft so don’t give up hope. You can’t even imagine getting your hopes up again.

If you haven’t figured it out, the odds are great that this is the last time organized football will ever contact you again. The dream and drama has come to an end.

At some time or another, every agent has been down this road with a client, mostly at the beginning of our careers, although once in a while a promising prospe
ct falls all the way through the cracks under our watch. It sucks because there really isn’t much we can do. However, I tell guys to keep their dream alive for at least one year. If they don’t want to give up, I won’t either. I’m willing to keep badgering GMs until 32 of them tell me no, twice.

About half the NFL teams have camps with veterans and rookies mixed together. These teams bring in very few guys, if any, on a tryout basis. The Chargers are an example of a team that conducts their camps this way. I’m not saying one team is right or wrong; I’m just trying to give you an idea how the bottom of the 80-man roster is formed — and what happens to players 81 to 115. Occasionally one makes it. He’s is the long shot.

If a team finds a diamond in the rough, it proves their formula works.

This is how it can sometimes happen:

One team that started bringing in a small wave of “tryout” guys was the Bears, after Jerry Angelo took over as GM. In 2003, a scout by the name of Marty Barrett went to the draft board the Monday after the draft to check on some guys in his west region. He made a few phone calls on two or three whom the Bears had on their board as potential UFAs, but not at the priority level. One player Marty called was Cameron Worrell, a safety from Fresno State who was not signed. Marty offered to bring him in on a tryout basis for a three day mini-camp. Cameron happily accepted, especially since his phone hadn’t rung on Sunday.

In the draft, the Bears had selected safety Todd Johnson in the fourth round and signed a priority UFA safety from Michigan as well. The odds of Cameron making this team were slim. However, Marty did one more thing before the mini-camp that helped increase the odds for Cameron. He went to the coaches and told them about the kid. He said Cameron wouldn’t impress them in shorts, but he was a high-intangible guy, and that if they saw something they liked, they should get him into camp because he’d show better in pads.

In the three-day mini-camp, Cameron impressed the coaches with his instincts and earned a contract. He also did well in camp, as Marty said he would, which got him on the 53-man roster. Then he caught another break when Johnson suffered an injury, moving Cameron into the starting lineup.

Cameron is going into his seventh season in the NFL.

Here are a few more reasons why players should keep fighting for a tryout: TE Billy Milner, DE Greg White, WR Jammal Jones and DC Fakhir Brown. All of them were left for dead but ended up making teams.