Harris: Injury risk clouds Wallace’s status
By John Harris
Published: Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Updated: Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Former Steelers tackle Marvel Smith wants a mulligan. So does New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks.
No way Smith, knowing what he does now, would play 12 games with a herniated disc as he did in 2007.
And no way Nicks, who starred in Super Bowl XLVI, believes that attending voluntary workouts is worth being sidelined a minimum of 12 weeks after he recently suffered a broken bone in his foot running a route during individual drills.
If restricted free-agent receiver Mike Wallace is paying attention, no way he shows up at the Steelers' facility until he signs his free-agent tender for 2012 or signs a new long-term contract.
What if Wallace injures himself like Nicks did during voluntary workouts? Will the Steelers still sign him to a new deal? Will they insist he rehabilitate his injury first?
I interviewed Smith for an article about NFL back injuries that appeared in Sunday's Tribune-Review. Most telling for me was how Smith, once the ultimate team player, now tells players to put their own needs ahead of the team's.
What, I asked Smith, caused him to change his mind?
“When you're playing, you don't really reflect on what you're going through,'' said Smith, a nine-year veteran who retired following the 2008 season.
“The pain I walk around with on a daily basis, the average person wouldn't deal with that at all. I don't take painkillers (anymore). I did enough of that when I was playing.''
The NFL is based on peer pressure. In the NFL, team play is valued over the individual.
Peer pressure results in players playing despite having a serious injury like a herniated disc. It encourages players to participate in voluntary workouts they're not required to attend contractually.
Peer pressure is why Wallace is the only healthy player who hasn't attended any of the Steelers' voluntary workouts.
Peer pressure led players such as Nicks and New York Jets rookie receiver Jordan White to attend their team's voluntary workouts. Like Nicks, White also suffered a broken bone in his foot during voluntary workouts.
Fortunately for Nicks, he's under contract. White, however, is a seventh-round draft pick who attended voluntary workouts without a contract. Will the Jets still sign White since he participated in voluntary workouts without a contract? Good faith, you know.
More to the point, will the Steelers hold it against Wallace if he remains a no-show for voluntary workouts, which conclude this week?
Wallace has until June 15 to sign his free-agent tender of $2.742 million. The Steelers can reduce their offer after that date.
That's a lot of money to play football, Steelers fans will tell you. Wallace should be grateful the Steelers are willing to pay him nearly $3 million to play a sport fans would play for free, the chatter goes.
Wallace must play to get paid. But he can't play without a contract.
The Steelers want Wallace to show good faith and report so the two sides can negotiate a deal.
In his first three NFL seasons, Wallace averaged more yards per catch than Jerry Rice and Randy Moss did in their first three years. He wants to be paid like one of the top receivers in football.
Players are paid for their performance. Wallace doesn't have to attend voluntary workouts to prove his worth. But if he reports without a contract, what's to prevent him from becoming another Hakeem Nicks, who took one for the team but ended up taking one in the foot?
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Al, of course he's worth whatever he can convince someone to pay him. The point is that the market of 32 NFL teams (including "all manner of fools") weren't willing to pay him what he and his agent thought he was worth during free agency. The fans don't "place limits" (i.e., "worth") on players, the 32 front offices vying for a player's services do.
Submitted by: Chris on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I appreciate John's points in the article and respect Mike's legal position to hold off on signing his contract. But all of this is simply blown out of proportion. Let's remember this is just a game and that these guys are just entertainers being paid way to little and doing actually... nothing. Don't get me wrong, I am a die hard Steeler fan but come on. I am a four tour combat vet and every Marine or Soldier I know comes home crippled after doing something of supreme importance for our country. For which we get paid "jack" (especially in comparison to these premadonna's) Let's not pretend that these overpaid yahoo's are doing anything of real value and that the significant pay that they get won't offset their injuries for the rest of their lives. Marvel.... love you but don't talk to me about pain.
Submitted by: Al on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Why is it that we always want to place limits on professional athletes and their greed? Do we question Donald Trump and his desire to get as much as he can as often as he can? No. Do we suggest that Warren Buffet or Bill Gates should restrict their avarice for the good of . . . what? No! Everyone else gets to be greedy. Everyone else is in it for themselves and out to get as much as they can whenever they can. So why not the guys that play games for a living? Everybody wants to say that Mike Wallace isn't "worth" the kind of money they are paying Larry Fitzgerald. Wrong! What Mike Wallace and his agent know is that Mike Wallace is worth whatever he can convince someone to pay him. And in case folks have forgotten there are all manner of fools out there that own football teams and are willing to part with their money (does the name JaMarcus Russel ring a bell? How about Albert Haynesworth?) The very next time any of you change jobs and you're sitting there discussing salary do us all a favor: remember not to ask for too much. Remember what you're worth.
Submitted by: John on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
I think the point was that Wallace could have immediately signed the tender (so injury would not prevent his receiving a paycheck) and then attended the OTA's. He chose instead to make a statement that may just serve to hinder good faith negotiations in the future. Apparently everyone on the planet but Wallace and Bus Cook knew the Steelers wouldn't be pressured. The FO has shown in the past that it will continue to work on a long term deal with a key player once in the fold - though they are way too intelligent to even discuss a deal "in excess of Fitzgerald's" (as sought by Wallace and Cook, per an NBC Sports report in March). In my opinion, Wallace should be thrilled with anything approaching $40 million for five years. If he demands more than that, adios. Invest that cash in long term contracts with Brown and Saunders before the season begins.
Submitted by: Clarence on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
That's what the players are faced. They have to ignore fans, some of whom, just hate on million $$ athletes. Wallace has to protect himself especially considering the many post career risks these guys assume. He does not have to report, he has the playbook, no one will take his spot and he has to prove his point about his contract. However, the team need another year to see if this guys is in fact the next superstar receiver before he is paid like it. Remember this is Fitzgerald's 3rd contract. He's just now getting his mega millions. The Steelers cannot afford to skip the step of the 2nd contract with Wallace. The difference is Wallace's skills are speed based where Fitz is power based. Speed always goes first so he has to capitalize even if he does grow his game. I think the fair contract here is 5 years $55 mil with a $12 mil signing bonus to start next year. The tender must be signed for this year, unless $2.52 million is his first year salary and his $12 mil comes in the way of a roster bonus next year for cap purposes. No matter what happens, Wallace has to face the fact that there will be no $120 million receivers for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Especially when our star, top 5 QB is paid $105 mil.
Submitted by: Doug on Tuesday, June 5, 2012
No one would blame Wallace for not showing up for the voluntary practices, but I think the media is making a bigger issue of this than it really is. The only reason why he wouldn't have signed the free-agent tender is because there is still hope of getting a long term offer done. I would guess that the Steelers are still trying to work something out with his agent. He's not going to take a pay cut at the June 15th deadline just to prove a point, he's just leaving the door open until then.