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Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Jerry Rice Slams Deion Branch's Decision to Holdout
New England Patriot Deion Branch is one of the NFL's premier wide receivers and most clutch players (he was MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX). By all accounts, he's also well liked and respected by teammates, coaches, fans, and the media--and in the interviews that I've seen of him, he seems genuinely humble and appreciative. He's also overcome very difficult life circumstances.
But he's not happy about his salary for the 2006 season or the Patriots' unwillingness to assent to his demands for a new multi-year contract. Specifically, he is in the last year of his five-year rookie contract, which over the last four seasons has paid him about the league-minimum (plus a $1 million signing bonus), and he is slated to earn about $1 million this year. He wants a new contract that will pay him at least $12 million in bonus and gauranteed dollars. The team has refused, and to show that he's serious/angry, he's decided to holdout of Patriots' minicamp, which began today.
Earlier this afternoon, Branch's holdout generated a very harsh reaction from Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, who was debuting as co-host of the new SIRUS radio show "Afternoon Blitz":
That’s crazy. You go to minicamp, show your loyalty. Get in there and fight and show them you’ve still got it and you just need them to step up to the plate now.Is Rice right? Should Branch honor his contract? He did agree to it, after-all. And shouldn't Branch be loyal to his organization--the same organization that took a chance on him in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft, even when most draft experts projected him as a 4th or 5th round pick?
Or is Branch right? He's vastly underpaid, his contract--like almost all NFL contracts--is not guaranteed (meaning one injury could obliterate his career at any moment), and he was likely pressured by the Patriots into signing a 5-year deal as a rookie.
Branch might also wonder (as we did here in February) why most fans don't seem angry when NFL teams force players into renegotiating their contracts, under the threat of being cut: If Branch isn't being loyal to the Patriots, then shouldn't we say that the Patriots weren't loyal to Willie McGinest and Ty Law and other popular veterans who wouldn't take pay cuts and were released?
So who's right?