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Nicks OTA boycott causes unexpected problems for Giants

Nicks Getty Images

As everyone was focused on when and if unsigned Giants receiver Victor Cruz will rejoin the team, the other big-name player at that same position who has a contract opted to skip OTA practice on Wednesday.

The situation, and the head coach’s reaction, create some potential problems for the Giants.

Throughout the offseason, we’ve pointed out the link between Cruz and Hakeem Nicks.  Cruz has no contract now, Nicks will have no contract in a year.  If Cruz ultimately signs his one-year restricted free agency tender, both will be hitting the market in 2014 — and the team will have only one franchise tender to apply.

It has been believed in some circles that Nicks’ demands will be driven by what Cruz gets.  As one league source with knowledge of the situation has explained it to PFT, Nicks doesn’t care what Cruz gets, because Cruz is a slot receiver.  Nicks, an outside receiver, had his value set by Mike Wallace’s contract in Miami.

While this doesn’t mean Nicks will be looking for $12 million per year, it does mean that Nicks doesn’t regard Cruz’s deal as being relevant to his.

Nicks’ absence from practice on Wednesday undoubtedly means that Nicks isn’t happy with the team’s efforts, or lack thereof, to address his contract with one year remaining on his rookie deal.  With Nicks saying nothing to dispel that notion, it’s safe to assume Nicks was sending a clear message to the team.

The other problem for the Giants comes from the message coach Tom Coughlin sent in response to Nicks’ decision to skip practice.

He should be here,” Coughlin said.  “I expect everybody here. We’re trying to get our team better.”

Under the pre-2011 labor deals, coaches routinely made public comments suggesting that voluntary workouts aren’t truly voluntary, and the NFL and the union rarely if ever did anything about it.  As time went by, with more coaches saying things like “he should be here” and the league and the NFLPA doing nothing, coaches were emboldened to keep doing it.

The new CBA, however, added significant restrictions to offseason workouts, along with a clear commitment to eradicate contact from offseason drills.  The CBA also repeated the unequivocal statement that “[n]o Club official may indicate to a player that the Club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary.”

Last week, Jets coach Rex Ryan danced toward that line by calling out linebacker Quinton Coples for his perceived lack of effort at voluntary lifting sessions.  This week, Coughlin jumped over the line by saying that Nicks and every other player “should be here.”  If the league and union allow those comments to stand uncorrected, other coaches will follow suit, either this year or in the future.

The fact that the comment came from the coach of the team co-owned by John Mara adds some intrigue to this specific situation.  For more than a year, Cowboys and Redskins fans have been riled up by Mara’s role in the stripping of $46 million in total salary-cap space from two of the Giants’ NFC East rivals.  The Cowboys and Redskins, however, broke no rules.

Here, Coughlin clearly did.  The only question is whether the rule will be enforced.  Cowboys and Redskins fans, whose teams were punished for rules they didn’t break, surely will be watching closely.

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24 Responses to “Nicks OTA boycott causes unexpected problems for Giants”
  1. floratiotime says: May 23, 2013 8:33 AM

    The NFL is a business. The owners agreed to behave as if the cap was in place last year. A business decision agreed upon by everyone … all 32 teams.

    The Redskins and Cowboys tried to pay off contracts early, and violated that business rule the corporation put in place.

    They were told that the payments had to count against the cap … as always.

    This is NOT a penalty. This ishow it works for all 32 teams, and they knew it. They agreed to it.

    This constant whining is misdirected … and really boring.

  2. thc850 says: May 23, 2013 8:37 AM

    I agree, Nicks doesn’t have to be there. its voluntary

  3. tombradyswig says: May 23, 2013 8:43 AM

    only fair punishment I see for coughlin doing this is to strip a 1st round draft pick in ’14!

  4. laxman1944 says: May 23, 2013 8:54 AM

    Unless your a QB…….The Giants don’t pay, they replace

  5. champ1118 says: May 23, 2013 8:56 AM

    In these types of disputes, I always side with the players. Take the situation that happened with Johnny Knox. He suffered an injury and the Bears cut him. I’m not saying the Bears did anything wrong. Football is the Bears’ business and Knox can no longer play football–contract terminated. Those who say the player signed a contract and should abide by it don’t apply the same logic to the clubs/owners. If Nicks reports and subsequently blows out a knee will the Giants still reward him with a contract next year that is reflective of his value as a top WR? I’d wager everything that they won’t. I think players have a shelf life and they should get as much money as they can while they can because when the day come that they can no longer play, the clubs will discard them without remorse.

  6. wjmoffatt says: May 23, 2013 9:07 AM

    All of New York football looks a little shaky right now. Looks like the Cowboys legitimately have a shot at winning the division now with RG3 hurting, Eagles transitioning, and Giants not have their two stud WRs there (hopefully for them Tuck doesn’t follow suit).

  7. FinFan68 says: May 23, 2013 9:21 AM

    Coughlin broke no rule with his statement. It seems you are confusing “should” with “must”. The player should be there to help the team gets better but it is not mandatory. His choice to not show up reflects poorly on his character and priorities. He was free to make the wrong choice and he clearly did.

  8. nananatman says: May 23, 2013 9:22 AM

    It’s an uncapped year lets spend a trillion dollars wooo-hooo!

  9. djstat says: May 23, 2013 9:24 AM

    The Goants not having their two stud WR in may means nothing when they are there in September. Lets see Nocks skip a mandatory camp, then panic

  10. tommyribs says: May 23, 2013 9:40 AM

    What rule did Coughlin break?

    He said a guy “Should” be here, in order to make the team better.

    Coughlin did not say that he was “Required” to be here.

    While I agree that Cowboys and Redskins fans are correct in being upset with John Mara, and Goodell, making a huge issue over someone that “should” be there is a stretch at best. What the league did to those two teams was a disgrace. I hate the Cowboys, and don’t particularly care for the Redskins, but they got the shaft from league and it was very unfair.

    Coaches want to win, and they want their guys there. There is not issue with that. There would be an issue if they fined or punished Nicks for this.

    Nicks also needs to get through this season healthy to get his pay-day. When he is healthy, he is a damn good receiver, we know that. But I ould be hesitant to give $10 million per year to a guy that has durability concerns.

    He does need to be there if he wants to get paid top-dollar.

  11. dadeyemi says: May 23, 2013 9:48 AM

    It will be a cold day on hell when the Cowboys win the NFC East. Giants or Skins will be the top 2

  12. mn2long says: May 23, 2013 10:07 AM

    Floratiotime says:

    “The owners agreed to behave as if the cap was in place last year.”

    Ummm. Wrong and wrong.

    First: The penalties weren’t for anything that was done last year.

    Second: Wink, nod deals between each other are not legal when you have a binding contract with the Players Association.

    Any other brilliant comments to add?

  13. cliffordc05 says: May 23, 2013 10:34 AM

    Unbelievable! Even I did not see the connection between Nick’s OTA absence and the Redskin/Cowboy punishment coming. As soon as it was made I double checked to make certain it was Florio who had written this crap.

  14. ziplock10 says: May 23, 2013 10:42 AM

    Obliviously floratiotime is a f-ing owners shrill..

  15. bigbosscrispy says: May 23, 2013 10:55 AM

    Guys, lets look at the bigger, more important fact on this article – if both Cruz & Nicks hold out then who is Eli throwing the ball to? Ruben Randle, Jernigan and Luis Murphy? I’m not sure where the giants are with cap space at this point, but for the love of all things holy – Mr Reese please go get your check book and make this right. Otherwise we might be in the Clowney hunt for next year…..

  16. meytonpanning says: May 23, 2013 10:57 AM

    Wow iPhones are horrible…

    Anyways what I was trying to say is that as a Giants/Broncos fan, I have low expectations for the Giants this season. But that doesn’t mean much, they usually find a way to surprise.

  17. stanklepoot says: May 23, 2013 11:18 AM

    So, some people seem to still be under the impression that the Cowboys and Redskins were punished for spending too much money in the uncapped year. Whether or not you agree with the league’s actions, let’s at least all be clear as to what exactly they were punished for. No team was punished for spending too much money, nor were they punished for any new contracts that they negotiated. The Cowboys and Redskins were punished for reworking existing contracts so that as much as possible of that pre-existing salary would now be dumped into the uncapped year, so that the players who were already (and would continue to be) on their rosters would have artificially depressed salary cap hits after the uncapped year was done. They didn’t even try to disguise what they were doing by adding an extra year to the contracts and claiming they were extensions. The amount of cap space they lost was equal to the pre-existing salary that was shifted to the uncapped year. So, in reality, the cap penalties didn’t really hurt the teams directly, it simply forced them to operate as if they had never reworked the contracts to begin with. Again, I’m not taking a side in this debate, and I really don’t care what side anyone else is on. I simply believe we should all be on the same page if we’re going to continue to discuss it.

    The issue of Coughlin’s comments are a completely different issue, however. Anyone who states that Coughlin’s comments were simply a suggestion because he used the word should are either naive, or they’re pretending to be because they don’t think players should have the right to opt out of “voluntary” OTAs. When the boss states that everyone should be here, he’s clearly stating that everyone is expected to be there. We’re talking about someone who either has the final authority or a tremendous degree of input on which players start, sit, get traded, or get cut. Coughlin’s comments are a clear statement that he expects everyone to show up for “voluntary” OTAs, and that not doing so could earn his ire. Now, Cruz and Nicks are players whose skills are in high demand, so those threats carry a little less weight with them. I guarantee you, however, that every other player on the team heard or read about that comment. Most players in the league don’t have the same security that Cruz and Nicks currently do, and Coughlin’s message came through loud and clear to them. Remember, Coughlin is the same guy who fined players for being late when they showed up on time. So, comments like this coming from Coughlin constitute an even greater threat. Coughlin clearly crossed the line (as agreed upon in the current CBA…and let’s face it, the players got very little out of this CBA) and some form of punishment is appropriate. I think the idea of the Giants losing a 1st round pick that someone else suggested is a bit extreme, but both the coach and the team should be writing a check to the league and issuing a public apology.

  18. d0minate says: May 23, 2013 11:23 AM

    “the NFL is a business” hahaha I keep seeing these comments over and over and over again.. guys, you do all realize that the NFL is a “Non Profit”

    How’s that for corporate greed and screwing of us tax payers.

  19. surfinbird1 says: May 23, 2013 1:27 PM

    He’s just sick of all the Cruz talk,cause he knows he is twice as good.

  20. garyhd01 says: May 23, 2013 2:19 PM

    adding to what champ1118 said people are always saying that players need to play out their contracts but in football a team signs a player and if they aren’t happy they cut him yet you don’t hear people saying that isn’t fair its business in baseball if alex rodriguez doesn’t retire on his own the Yankees have to pay him off in total the whole contract is guaranteed if football did that the lay of the land would certainly be different and I wouldn’t for one almost always be taking the players side

  21. Mr. Wright 212 says: May 23, 2013 2:37 PM

    People are trying to make something out of nothing here.

  22. walkinginthewasteland says: May 23, 2013 4:16 PM

    Figures, another lame attempt at stirring the pot.

    Coughlin never said it was mandatory.

    Coughlin said Nicks “should be here”.

    RiF.

  23. stanklepoot says: May 23, 2013 7:14 PM

    walkinginthewasteland says: May 23, 2013 4:16 PM

    Figures, another lame attempt at stirring the pot.

    Coughlin never said it was mandatory.

    Coughlin said Nicks “should be here”.

    RiF.
    ___________________________________
    I don’t know where you work, but in most places when your boss publicly states that everyone should be there, it’s not a mild suggestion.

  24. jsrdc says: May 24, 2013 12:14 AM

    @ floratiotime

    Another commentor who knows NOTHING about the actual situation.

    “The Redskins and Cowboys tried to pay off contracts early, and violated that business rule the corporation put in place”.

    First of all, there was NO RULE. So, care to explain what rule was violated? With no cap in place in 2010, please enlighten us ALL, because ZERO rules were violated in this by either team. This has been confirmed, and you obviously don’t know what you are talking about. Collusion is what took place, plain and simple.

    IF the 2 teams did what you are saying they did, the league would NOT have approved all of their contracts for that year. Then, 2 years later, right before FA begins, they are stripped of cap space.

    This is the crux of it right here: The NFL Players Association believed that the Redskins and Cowboys did nothing wrong but reluctantly agreed to the league’s resolution to avoid this season’s salary cap being set lower, perhaps around $115 million per team. DeMaurice Smith was up for re-election, and he wasn’t about to make any waves that would potentially cause him to lose his job.

    Mara is Goodell’s golden boy. The fact that Mara was also calling for draft picks to be taken away just goes to show you how much of a scumbag he is. Would Mara have asked for the same if both teams just happened to be outside of his division? I doubt it.

    There will be no fines, no cap space penalties, or anything else negative coming down the pike for Mara. As a matter of fact, you won’t hear a PEEP from Mara on this, unless the press forces it out of him.

    Doesn’t matter. The Giant will suck this year, and
    Mara won’t have any excuses.

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