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Giving long-term deals to young players is double-edged sword

What exactly is the incentive for an NFL team to lock up a player early in his career with a long-term contract with palatable salary cap numbers? It used to be the gold standard but now is being derided in some circles.

Critics point out the policy leads to unhappy players who can become a distraction. But the teams with the most noticeable examples right now of this policy, Philadelphia with Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard, and Arizona with Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett, met in last year's NFC championship game, so it can't be all that bad. Each of those players received lucrative second contracts early in their careers and achieved a huge measure of financial security while mitigating future injury risk.

But that was then and this is now. Since Brown, Sheppard, Boldin and Dockett signed their second deals, their salaries have been far surpassed by their peer group around the league and the players aren't happy about it. Brown, for example, signed a long-term contract extension in 2004, which included a $7.5 million signing bonus, after his second season in the league. Scheduled to make $2 million this season, Brown now wants to renegotiate again to bring his salary into the $8 million to $10 million per season range.

I don't blame the players for wanting a contract upgrade if they feel like they are outperforming their current contract. NFL players still do not receive guaranteed contracts like their brethren in other sports. Even though NFL players receive sizable signing bonuses and other guarantees in their contracts, teams have the option to ask them to take a pay cut or to outright release them should they get injured or their play decline. The players, however, don't have very much leverage once they have signed the contract.

They can withhold their services, become a distraction to the team or feign an injury, but ultimately their choice will be to play football in the fall for several million or not. There is no place else to go.

Teams like the Eagles and Cards try to make the young player expressly aware of the enormous benefit he is receiving by getting a sizable second deal in only his second or third year. But players have a short memory and two or three years later they are usually looking for an upgrade. The Eagles and Cardinals strategy is still a good one. It may cause some PR problems down the road with disastified players who decide to go public, but in the end there are always going to be guys who want more money.

Lots of good e-mail this week ...

Why, that Javon Walker has some nerve! Imagine consulting a doctor who will put the interest and health of his patient ahead of what's best for an NFL team and owner. Who does he think he is -- a human being or something? We certainly better put a stop to this kind of heresy. The next thing you know all the players might start to believe it and there goes the NFL as we know it.--Steve B, Pelham, N.Y.

Your sarcasm is duly noted and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a player both seeking multiple opinions and receiving medical treatment from outside physicians. In fact, I would highly encourage any player to do that, even though it may not be looked upon favorably by management. One's health and body are just too important.

But having surgery without even letting the team know about it opens up a litany of issues for the player and the team and sets a very dangerous precedent. Even if there is a lack of trust among many players with the team doctors, it would be impossible for team physicians to do their job if players got procedures done without letting them know about it. How would teams even know to limit a player's reps or rehab him correctly if he never said a peep? Ultimately the player needs to do what he thinks is right with his personal health situation, but there is no doubt he should keep his employer in the loop with whatever he decides and not spring it on them.

I am still trying to figure out if Walker paid for the surgery with a credit card or straight cash, considering the Raiders didn't know about it and his health insurance is through the team.

Yeah, you got it right. Let's take the Super Bowl away from the very fans who supported and grew the league. Having been to a Super Bowl, I know the costs involved, so let's make it even harder and more expensive for the fans to go. Makes sense to me.--Ben Hart, Brunswick Ga.

Man, you guys are laying it on this week. My thoughts on having a Super Bowl internationally got ripped to shreds by the readers. I didn't expect the idea to be popular with fans in the U.S., because they derive no real or immediate benefit from it.

My point is the NFL is a business and is constantly looking for ways to generate more sustainable growth. The American market is getting close to being maxed out; the propensity of teams to sell PSLs and the discussion of adding additional games is evidence of that fact. If a Super Bowl abroad could generate meaningful growth overseas, that seems like a better option than continuing to try to suck every penny out of the domestic faithful. I still think it makes sense from a business perspective for the NFL to hold a Super Bowl elsewhere. Growing the game in Europe or internationally probably won't have a huge impact if the NFL looks at their business solely over the next 5-10 years. If the NFL has more of a 30-40 year time horizon and really thinks about its business growth going forward for the long term, international expansion is a must.

If you think the Super Bowl should be played in London, then how about a Super Bowl in New York? The main argument against a Super Bowl anywhere north has been the weather, yet London's weather is just as cold as New York in early February.--John D, New York

You would get no complaints from me about a Super Bowl in New York or any cold-weather city for that matter. If the championship games can be played in sub-freezing temperatures, like at Lambeau Field a couple of years ago, why can't the biggest game of them all? I understand the reasoning behind wanting the event in a warm-weather climate or in a dome, but I personally think a Super Bowl in New York would be awesome. It rained in Miami the last time the game was played down there, so even though a warm-weather city gives the game a better opportunity to be weather neutral it is not exactly fool-proof.

My question, as a Bills fan, is how much control will the Bills have over what is shown on T.O.'s VH-1 show? They signed him after the deal was done, so they knew it was going to happen. Could they refuse to cooperate? I suppose they wouldn't have signed him if they objected. But would they have any say on content?--Aron Schneider, Sundridge, Ontario

I would imagine the Bills would forbid T.O. from filming anything that could either put the organization at a competitive disadvantage or paint the Bills in a negative light. Buffalo is a small market, so maybe the franchise is happy to get this type of exposure and coverage just like the Bengals are thrilled to be this year's featured team on HBO's Hard Knocks. That said, I can't imagine teams like New England, Pittsburgh or even Kansas City, now that Scott Pioli is in charge, condoning something like this in any way, shape, or form because of the either real or perceived distraction.

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