When owners and teams treat football like a business, media and fans shrug. When players do, it’s regarded as an affront to the integrity of the game.
It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. And Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer needs to brace himself for that reaction as he tries to force his way out of Oakland.
It’s obvious Palmer wants out. Two years ago, he finagled his exit from Cincinnati by feigning retirement. The strategy looked to be a failure until Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell broke his collarbone and former Raiders coach Hue Jackson lost his damn mind, giving up a first-round pick and a second-round pick for a quarterback who isn’t the guy he used to be.
Now, Palmer is turning up his nose at $10 million from the Raiders, which sets the stage for the Raiders eventually to cut him — and for Palmer to play for someone else.
As Mike Silver of Yahoo! Sports explains it, Palmer wants to play for a contender, even if it means being a backup. (Cough . . . Seahawks and Pete Carroll . . . cough.) Of course, Palmer won’t get $10 million to be a backup, but his willingness to walk away from football in order to get out of Cincinnati proves that he’d be willing to walk away from $10 million in order to get a shot at winning.
Palmer’s posture also reflects a belief that, despite the hiring of G.M. Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen, Palmer doesn’t see the silver-and-black bus getting turned around in the immediate future. Otherwise, he’d gladly take $10 million to stay put.
The problem is that the Raiders currently hold all the cards. With no seven-figure trigger in Palmer’s deal, the $13 million doesn’t become fully guaranteed until Week One, which means the Raiders can cut him much later in the offseason, if they draft a quarterback early — or if they eventually decide Terrelle Pryor can get the job done. The only risk the Raiders are taking is that, if Palmer drops a dumbbell on his foot or pops an Achilles tendon in offseason conditioning drills or otherwise suffers a season-ending injury while on the clock, the Raiders will owe Palmer his full salary.
That could set the stage for a Steve McNair-style lockout. Even without Palmer being barred from the building (which would violate the CBA), Palmer is making his second power play in two years.
When a team does it, we applaud. Fair or not, Palmer should prepare for the jeers and the boos and the accusations of being a chronic quitter.