Cardinals kicker Jay Feely explained last week in an interview on ESPN 1050′s The Michael Kay Show that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson spoke to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and Saints quarterback Drew Brees in a condescending manner during the bargaining session that occurred the day before the Super Bowl. Feely, who didn’t attend the meeting, had his account of Richardson’s condescension corroborated Sunday night by Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, via three unnamed sources.
“[Richardson] was extremely condescending to them, especially toward Peyton,” an unnamed source told Cole. “[Richardson] was the only person on either side who was contentious. Everybody else was respectful. They might have said, ‘I disagree with your point,’ but at least they were respectful. [Richardson] was not.”
For example, when Manning was talking about player safety, Richardson reportedly said, “What do you know about player safety?”
A management source denied that Richardson disrespected Manning. “Mr. Richardson is a former player and made clear his respect and affection for the players during the meeting,” the source told Cole.
The truth perhaps lies somewhere in the middle, and it would be helpful if Manning or Richardson would go on the record and share their versions of the events. Richardson wasn’t available to be interviewed by Cole; there’s no indication that Cole attempted to talk to Manning.
Either way, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when Manning’s Colts face Richardson’s Panthers during the 2011 season, if that or any of the other 255 games are even played.
Richardson widely is believed to be intent on driving a hard bargain with the players. He reportedly said during the March 2010 ownership meetings that it’s time to “take back our league.”
“We signed a [expletive] deal last time and we’re going to stick together and take back our league and [expletive] do something about it,” Richardson said, per Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, via Cole.
In other words (possibly, and we need to be clear Richardson didn’t say this but we’re surmising as to what he’s truly feeling), “When I was a player we got the short end of the stick and I’ll be damned if I continue to get the short end of the stick as an owner.”
The easy solution would be to drop Richardson from the negotiating team, if indeed he treated Manning, Brees, or anyone poorly. Given that Richardson co-chaired the committee that selected Roger Goodell as Commissioner in August 2006, that could be a lot easier said than done.
The fact that the situation has gone public will make it even harder for the NFL to yank Richardson away from the table, for the same reasons that the union has been reluctant to ditch divisive attorney Jeffrey Kessler. Neither side wants to capitulate to the other side on anything, which means that the tip of the knife will continue to pierce the flesh of the neck of the golden goose until the grown-ups in the room take over.
If there are any.