Howard Slusher, the agent that teams love to hate, once again is using his favorite intimidation technique in contract negotiations: No deal, no player. On Slusher's advice, Cowboy All-Pro defensive tackle Randy White and the Cincinnati Bengals' No. 1 pick, Ricky Hunley, an All-America linebacker at Arizona, have yet to report to camp.
Because the Cowboys had such a tough go with Slusher in 1981, the last time White's contract was up, club president Tex Schramm has hired Marshall Simmons, a Dallas attorney, to handle the negotiations. Employing an outside negotiator was a Dallas first; VP Gil Brandt has always handled Cowboy contracts. "I guess I am pretty stubborn," Slusher says.
White is supposed to make $330,000 in '84, the last year of his current contract, but wants $750,000 a year starting now. If the Cowboys don't meet his terms by Aug. 25, White says he'll report to the team, play out his option and then shop himself around.
In Cincinnati, the Bengals, who selected Hunley partly because he had no visible agent—he quietly hired Slusher right before the draft—have broken off contract talks, and Slusher hints Hunley may hold out the entire season. Hunley wants in excess of $2 million over four years. Mike Brown, the Bengals' assistant G.M., is frustrated—but not bitter.
August 12, 1984
"I have a high regard for Howard," Brown says. "He's very well qualified to represent players. He knows what he's doing, and if you look at his track record, generally he has made it very good for his clients. That doesn't mean we're going to be able to make a deal with him. I respect him. I don't always agree with him."
As for the rest of the Cowboys, they're squarely on White's side. They want him back—and now. The defensive linemen were the first to protest his absence; they wore armbands with a big black 54 on them. Then most of the veterans got into the act. Some of them stuck tape with the question WHERE'S 54? on the backs of their helmets. Other helmets provided the answer: FISHIN'.
When the players gathered later to watch a team highlight film, they chanted at Schramm, "Where's Randy Where's Randy?" Schramm shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "You guys tell me where Randy is."
Ron Springs shot back, "Seven figures will find him."
Earl Campbell is a man of many moods. He spent most of '83 griping about the Oiler organization and plotting a fast exit out of town. Offers came from New England, Washington, New Orleans, San Diego, Miami and Buffalo. People close to the Oilers say there were two reasons for the running back's disenchantment: He thought too much about money, and he listened too much to agent Mike Trope. During the off-season Campbell severed his ties with Trope and fell back in love with the Oilers.
"I realized money isn't the thing," Campbell said just before Week 1 of training camp. "I've said I wanted to be traded, but I can remember a lot of times talking to God about it. I'd say, 'Please don't let it happen.' If I had been traded, I might have retired."
But in Week 2 Campbell, bothered by swelling and pain in his right knee, was talking retirement again. "I can't tell you I haven't thought about quitting," said Campbell, who had a small piece of cartilage removed by arthroscopic surgery on May 23. "It's like somebody who's lying in bed paralyzed; they wonder if they'll ever walk again. To me, I'm that serious. If I'd known it would be like this, I might have just sucked it up and played on it. It couldn't have been any worse than this."
Warren Moon, the Oilers' $6 million, free-agent quarterback, has complained about a "tired arm." Moon, however, insists that he goes through this during the early part of training camp every year. Stay tuned.
Is Raider All-Pro tight end Todd Christensen regretting his decision to hold out? Before last season Christensen had renegotiated his contract, his '84 base salary rising to $225,000. But after leading the league in receptions (92) in his first full season as a starter, Christensen wanted to renegotiate again—re-renegotiate?—and double his salary.
He didn't figure that Al Davis, one of the fairest men in the NFL when it comes to salary matters, would sign Dave Casper, who had asked the Vikings to waive him after a brief taste of the Marine Corps boot camp approach of new coach Les Steckel. Says one scout, "If Casper is even a shadow of himself as a receiver, he can beat Christensen out and be the starter this year."
Well, says Davis, that's not quite right. But, heck, it isn't that tough to run Christensen's little hook patterns. Or, rather, Casper's little hook patterns. They're what made Casper a five-time All-Pro with the Raiders.
Christensen also didn't figure that nobody on the team would miss him. He's not a popular Raider. Says one veteran, who wearied of Christensen's yakking, "I'm enjoying the peace and quiet."
In the wake of the recent sale of the Chargers to Stockton, Calif. builder Alex Spanos (he reportedly paid $40.7 million for Gene Klein's 56% interest, thus putting the club's value at $72 million), there's word from Seattle that the Nordstrom family is hinting the Seahawks may be for sale. If sold, the Seahawks would be the fourth NFL team to change hands in the past five months, further evidence that NFL owners feel the market for pro football teams has topped out.
The joke in Tampa is that Bandit owner John Bassett has bought the rights to Seattle's 38-0 trouncing of the rival-league Bucs in the Hall of Fame game to use as a promotional film for his USFL team.
St. Louis thinks it has found another Roy Green. In 1982 the Cards moved Green from DB to receiver, and last year he tied the Redskins' Charlie Brown and the Giants' Earnest Gray for the NFC lead in receptions with 78. Now they're trying DB Cedric Mack, a second-round pick last season, at wide receiver.
Here's a modest beginning to a press release: "The World Champion Los Angeles Raiders—professional sport's winningest team...."
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BUBBA
St. Louis Cardinal end Bubba Baker on checking into camp weighing 270, down from 290: "I think I'm anorexic."
On life at 290 pounds: "I couldn't tie a shoelace without breaking into a sweat."
On team meetings: "I heard the average person has an attention span of 22 minutes. I was shortchanged 21 minutes."
On his dislike of practice: "I should have been a tax consultant. I could've done all these guys' taxes and made a lot of money."
On his love of training camp: "Isn't it great? I can come here and get away from the bill collectors and all the stress of everyday life. I don't have to be the responsible citizen I am the rest of the year. I can just put my life in the hands of [Cardinal coach] Jim Hanifan."
On his reading habits: "I read trash. I've got stacks of National Enquirers in my basement. My wife said she wanted to use them for the dog. I said, 'No way.' "
On the Cards' chances in '84: "I'll leave that up to God."
Here, from heaviest to less heavy, are the reporting weights of the NFL's 10 most leviathan linemen. Some are supposed to weigh this much. Others, obviously, have all but eaten themselves out of football.
1. Jerry Baker, NT, Vikings, 340
2. Angelo Fields, T, Saints, 340
3. Curtis Rouse, G, Vikings, 325
4. Bobby Thompson, T, Packers, 315
5. Mike Charles, DT, Dolphins, 310
6. Brian Blados, T, Bengals, 308
7. Mike Stensrud, NT, Oilers, 305
8. Joe Jacoby, T, Redskins, 305
9. Dave Butz, DT, Redskins, 300
10. The Unknown Raider, 300-plus*
*The Raiders concede the presence of a player over 300 pounds on their roster but refuse to disclose his identity.