The real question is this: Is Hopkins holding in?
It’s a dynamic that is far from rare, even though it’s rarely talked about. A player who wants a new contract shows up for practices generally but refuses to participate in padded practices until he gets what he wants. In most cases, there’s an injury that technically isn’t keeping the player for participating but that is, as a practical matter, something that could set him up for a bigger problem down the road, at a time when he’s carrying the financial risk of a significant injury.
If the player gets the contract he wants, then he’ll gladly assume the risk of practicing or playing at a percentage below 100. Until then, he’s not willing to roll the dice on the kind of physical impairment that would keep him from getting the deal he wants.
It’s no secret that Hopkins wants to re-set the market at the receiver position, vaulting from an annual average of $16.2 million to something more than the Julio Jones new-money average of $22 million per year. That’s why the Texans traded Jones, and the Cardinals embraced Hopkins knowing that Hopkins wanted a new deal.
He hasn’t gotten one. Along the way, he parted ways with CAA, technically going it alone. Even if he isn’t. Some believe that Hopkins is using the same team that Texans tackle Laremy Tunsil utilized to get his three-year, $66 million extension: Business manager Laolu Sanni and advisor Pete “Saint” Riley.
Whatever the approach, it has yet to get Hopkins the contract he covets. He definitely didn’t hold out to get it. But it appears that he quite possibly is holding in.
Given that the NFL’s teams have so many tools available when it comes to handling business issues with their players, there’s nothing wrong with players using whatever leverage is available to them. For any player looking for greater financial security, declining to practice when a small injury could become a much bigger injury is one way to get that security.