The Sports Daily > Colts Authority
Team Player

A few months ago, I wrote a reasonably controversial piece about the role of Peyton Manning’s contract negotiations in the overall scheme of the NFL labor situation.  I argued that there is no way for Manning to take a “hometown discount” and still be a good teammate and labor man.

Let me just say:  I was right.

Yesterday, Manning had some quotes out about his relationship with the players union.  Readers of 18to88.com will find them quite familiar.

Back in March, I wrote:

While players do have some leeway to make negotiations smooth and not contentious, the truth is that while it would help the team for Manning to take less money, it might not help his teammates.  The truth is that the players union watches the contracts of the biggest stars closely.  There is a lot of pressure on key players to score as big a contract as possible.  It’s not just hubris for the player; it’s for the good of all the players. The reason the players union opposes things like a hard cap for rookie salaries is the same reason I have no doubt that Jeff Saturday (the Colts union rep) will remind Peyton that he has an obligation to his brethren to get every dime he can:  big contracts raise the tide for all players.

Yesterday, Peyton said:

“Jeff Saturday is our rep and Jeff is on [Commissioner Roger] Goodell’s [player] council,” Manning said. “He is more in the know than those other guys. So Jeff and I talk a lot and Jeff comes to me with what Dee Smith wants, something that Dee wants me to make a quote on. A couple of things they’ve come to me with, I actually thought it wasn’t as big an issue as something else might be. I don’t want to be just making quotes on something every time. You do that and it loses its impact, so I said ‘Let me know when you really need me.’ … I’m not a rep, I chose not to do that.

“I’ve talked to my dad about it and he dealt with one strike in ’82. But just because I’m not giving a quote everyday as a rep doesn’t mean I’m not as fully involved, fully aware of the situation. Between Jeff and [Colts president] Bill [Polian] gives me his ideas on what he thinks is going to happen. So it’s behind the scenes a little bit, but I’m as on top of it as I can be.”

Interesting, huh?

I also noted:

Manning is in a difficult (though enviable!) position.  If he takes less money (say $15 million a year) from the Colts, fans cheer, but the other players won’t be happy with him.  Suddenly, any quarterback in the league who makes more than Manning is overpaid.  The Colts gain leverage over every other player on the roster (We can’t pay you that much!  We only play Manning $15 million!).  Certain players, and make no mistake Manning is one, HAVE to aim for being the highest paid guy in the league for the good of all the other players.  The Union wants salaries to climb.  They thrive on mega deals.

Yesterday, Manning said:

While Manning has declined to discuss the specifics of negotiations, he recognizes his role in the overall situation.

“That doesn’t cloud my mind, but I believe that all players have a responsibility to each other, to the guys who are coming up for free agency,” said Manning, a four-time league MVP. “I do feel there is kind of an unwritten rule to sign a fair contract so that whoever the next quarterback is – be it Brady or Brees or whoever – you don’t put them in an unfair position because you did something not up to speed. Quarterbacks, defensive backs, whoever, I do feel it’s important, especially because of the franchise tag and the effect that has on other guys.”

Finally, I pointed out:

Invariably, when Manning signs his mega deal, people will whine and cry about how much money he makes.  For awhile, people foolishly criticized Manning for his 7 year $100 million deal and praised Tom Brady for his 6 year $60 million contract saying that the Patriots would obviously be more competitive because of the ‘extra cap space’.  The fortune tellers looked into their crystal balls and saw doom for the Colts in 2008, 2009, and 2010 when Manning’s cap hit would be between $18-21 million a year.  Surely such a number would doom the Colts to having to cut a slew of other players in order to make room for that much money!  The Patriots would be able to score big name free agents (Can you image Adalius Thomas in a Pats uniform! They’ll be unstoppable!).

Jason Cole, author of the Yahoo piece said:

In other words, for those who think it’s a great idea for players to take “hometown” discounts or take less to help the team, that’s not the way it’s going to work with Manning. The current situation between Brady and theNew England Patriots is further proof of why that’s a questionable idea.

Brady took what was considered a team-friendly deal (that’s how both the team and Brady presented it) in 2005. Now, Brady is upset with how the team has chosen to use that pact. Rather than paying other players to stay, Brady has seen the team try to convince other players to do the same. At this point, Brady is likely unwilling to do another team-friendly deal – which has led to acrimony.

Finally, the most awesome quote of all has to do with what Peyton will do if there is a lock out.

“I’ve already kind of made plans for next offseason, trying to find a place where we can train,” said Manning, going into his 13th year. “Find a high school if there’s a March lockout. I think the team that can keep it somewhat together in the offseason can have an advantage as opposed to [the players] saying, ‘I’m going to Miami, I’m going to Atlanta, I’ll see ya.’

“If we can go over to, like, Carmel High School from 9 to 12 or whatever … so I’ve already kind of been thinking about it. I think you’ve got to make those plans now because after the season, it’s hard to scrounge guys up. A lockout doesn’t mean you get to come by the facility and pick up cleats and footballs. It means a lockout; you’re on your own.”

Attaboy 18.  That’s how you lead a team.