From time to time, we (specifically I) get accused of tilting at windmills, making arguments aimed at (from our . . . my . . . perspective) making certain aspects of football more fair for the people who play the game at both the pro and college levels. Some don’t particularly care for our (my) anti-establishment positions, primarily those who have a vested interest in keeping things they way they are.
Meanwhile, a trend has emerged among college football players to make business decisions to skip bowl games and to pass on private workouts. So maybe the windmills are starting to tilt back, a little.
Here’s the windmill at which I try to tilt every year at this time, in the days after the draft: Draft picks should refuse to participate in rookie minicamps or ongoing offseason workouts without signed contracts.
Yes, draft picks can sign so-called letters of protection that will guarantee them the contracts that they would otherwise get under the slotted wage scale if they pop an Achilles or tear an ACL or suffer a more permanent injury. But why not just sign the players to their contracts and make them official employees before expecting them to show up and work?
It’s not an unreasonable request, especially since it’s now so easy to work out the rookie deals. And if there is any haggling to be done, the player has leverage in his ability to withhold services until he gets that to which he’s entitled.
It’s also not unreasonable because plenty of teams will get their entire classes of picks signed quickly, leaving no ambiguity as to the protections that apply if the worst-case scenario unfolds while at work. If some teams actually do it, all teams can do it, and all players should insist that every team does do it.
This is a message not just for the players, since most of them will just go along with whatever they’re expected to do. The agents who represent them need to be willing to stand up and say, “The kid will be there when his contract is signed.”
That’s the way it works once training camp opens, and that’s the way it should work during the pre-training camp portion of the calendar.