More than 2,500 players are running around in the heat and humidity throughout NFL training camps across America, trying their best to make a team or make their team better. But a few players have decided that missing camp will help enhance their contract situation -- that withholding their services will force a team to concede money, thus meeting their demands or at least make serious concessions.
Some are even willing to forfeit $16,000 a day to demonstrate the seriousness of their stance. But does this work? Does missing camp really make a team nervous? What is really being accomplished with these holdouts?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
When a veteran player missed camp in the old days, as early as the mid-1980s, it might have been a serious issue. But today with all the minicamps, OTAs, and all the year-round training sessions, missing the first 10 days of camp is really nothing to worry about, especially for veteran players. In fact, missing a few weeks does not impact the team, or the prospects of a winning season.
Jets coach Rex Ryan has already announced holdout cornerback Darrelle Revis as a starter for opening day as long as he is in camp a week prior to the opener. So, why all the fuss? And even more, why do agents or players think missing camp will improve their negotiations?
Former Giants GM George Young used to say, "Players play, coaches coach, and scouts scout." Fairly simple logic, and he is right. Players will come and play football because that is what they do for a living.
It's not like Revis is suddenly going to join the E Street Band and hit the road with Bruce Springsteen. Revis will play football, but first he has to test the Jets' level of commitment to their stance.
Now, this is not to imply that Revis doesn't have a good argument for being the highest paid corner in the league; because he does. But holding out isn't going to gain him more money. He has three more years left on his rookie deal. His holdout might sell more newspapers, it might promote more critics calling the owner cheap with cries to just "pay the man," but it won't get him any more money. In fact, it will cost him $16k per day.
Recently, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum received a five-year contract extension, one year after his team finished 9-7 (how valuable was the Jets' final five quarters of the 2009 season to Tannenbaum?) and two years after firing his friend, Eric Mangini. Now, some may ask, how does owner Woody Johnson pay Tannebaum and not Revis? Fair question, but there's an easy answer:
Tannenbaum is in charge of Johnsson's coin, which makes him more valuable to the owner than Revis' ability to shut down the best receivers in the league.
Johnson gave Tannenbaum a new deal to stand tall in the battle, to send a message to the agents that he is speaking for ownership. Tannenbaum needed a vote of strength to withstand the media criticism and scrutiny that comes when you battle a high-profile holdout.
Without the five years under his belt, Tannenbaum would not have been able to sell the Jets' position to Revis, or Nick Mangold, or David Harris, or any other player seeking more money. The chief negotiator must negotiate from a position of strength; Tannenbaum used these potential holdouts to gain more security from Johnson, in essence to help Johnson, but also to help himself.
Before training camp and Revis' holdout began, I am confident Tannenbaum did his best Bob Ryan impersonation from the HBO series Entourage, constantly asking Revis' representatives, "Is this something you might be interested in?" But each time, Tannenbaum probably didn't come up with either enough guaranteed dollars or total dollars to make the Revis camp happy.
So the holdout begins and both sides send their representatives to the podium to draw their individual lines of power. From this point forward, it is all public relations. Tannenbaum will be doing more radio shows in the coming days that would make you think he's running against Andrew Cuomo in the New York governor's race. He has to sell the Jets' position because being casted as "cheap" when you are asking fans to buy season tickets in a new stadium is not going to win over many new customers.
One thing that is always difficult for fans to understand is why a team with money does not just pay star players who are holding out. But football is a business, and just because the Jets don't acquiesce to Revis, that doesn't make them cheap. Everyone in the league knows the Jets are far from cheap.
So how does it get resolved? Who blinks first? By not attending camp, Revis essentially forfeited his $20 million of guaranteed over the next two years. Did this make the Jets realize he is serious? Probably not, as the Jets and Revis know the guaranteed is a mere formality, as he will be insured for the money in case of injury.
However, the sticking point might occur if a league-wide lockout happen. Then Revis would be costing himself money. But the Jets didn't need Revis to hold out to know he is serious. Revis' agent, Neal Schwartz, has done enough deals with Tannenbaum to know that the Jets are serious.
If I were in the Jets' position, today would be the last day I fielded questions on Revis. It makes no sense to constantly talk about an issue that appears irresolvable -- at least right now. In time, Revis might soften, the Jets might soften, but who cares right now? The first game is still six weeks away, and anything could happen, and likely will.
Yes, the Jets would be a better team with Revis in camp. However, when two sides can't agree, life and football move on, and no one will care until the games are decided.
Whatever actions the Jets take as Revis holds out, it will be viewed in the locker room by other players. If the Jets make huge concessions the week before the opener, then next summer Mangold or Harris might try the same strategy. Each action the Jets take must be viewed in three dimensions:
1) How does it affect the team? 2) How does it affect Revis? And 3) how does it affect other players on the team? Any solution the Jets find must answer these questions.
Winston Churchill once said he was only brought to power as the British prime minister in the early 1940s because the English people were fearful. Their fear did the work of reason. And until one side of this mess becomes fearful, there will be no reason or resolution -- just a lot of talk.
Training camp 2010 has already had some unique aspects. We have welcomed the Twitter age to training camp, as some reporters are giving fans minute-by-minute reports. All of them are great, but I caution fans not to get too excited over the news that players look good or bad. So I have developed some rules to live by for scouting camp:
1. Don't overreact: If you hear that a player is having a good camp, don't put too much stock into it. Instead, it is more good games.
2. Go slow on receivers: Wideouts who look good in one-on-one drills against defensive backs must play well when there is full contact. When a receiver knows he isn't going to be hit crossing the middle of the field, he won't shy away from the ball. That might change in a game, though.
3. Drill work is not for evaluations: Some drills in camp are not fair evaluations. For example, pass-rush drills for offensive linemen or one-on-one drills for defensive backs can make players look bad. Do not overreact.
4. Know the level of competition: You must know who is on the field at all times when watching preseason games or practice. Evaluate the competition as much as the player.
5. Know the drills: One-dimensional drills are not intended for evaluation. When a team is doing a run or pass period, the players know it is run or pass, therefore they play the play.
6. Take a week off: After the first week most players know how their teammates' play, know their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. Familiarity makes evaluations very difficult. Wait for the games.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter at Michaelombardi@twitter.com