I understand why the NFL lockout happened. The physical nature of the sport makes the game an extremely dangerous one to participate in: each time a player steps on the field, it could be his last. The average lifespan of a football player’s career is short. The long-term repercussions of this sport’s injuries are yet unknown, and as players get stronger and faster, the game becomes increasingly more hazardous to play. Say what you want about athletes being overpaid, but I feel like NFL players deserve the money they earn.
As the lockout came to a close, several players emerged from it with the intention of holding out for a better contract; these individuals felt the one they signed was not fair and equitable for their current level of play. The shortened offseason also lead many players to jump ship to greener pastures where more guaranteed money was offered. I don’t blame them – the unifying cry in the NFL amongst players seems to be “you gotta do what’s right for you.” I can see where they’re coming from.
This past Monday, I watched the Giants and Bears square off in a preseason game. As Ahmad Bradshaw, the starting running back for the NY Giants, gashed the Bears defensive line with a solid run, the camera immediately shifted to his backup, Brandon Jacobs, hooting enthusiastically for him on the sideline. Jacobs used to be the starter for the Giants two years ago, but over time his carries were taken away by Bradshaw – the smaller, faster back who seemed to be on the rise. Last season, Bradshaw became the featured back while Jacobs had to settle for fewer chances coming off the bench. Being as competitive as he is, Jacobs had a few press conferences last season where he bristled at reporters’ questions over his new role as backup. Despite this potential wedge, though, Jacobs and Bradshaw developed an unlikely friendship over the season that really showed its mettle just recently.
When faced with salary cap issues as the lockout ended, the Giants organization knew that they wouldn’t be able to resign free agent Ahmad Bradshaw at his asking price. It began looking like the team would lose him, until Jacobs stepped up and offered to restructure his contract for lower pay in order to bring Bradshaw back. Despite surely giving up carries and minutes (as well as money), Jacobs felt that the Giants had a better chance of winning with both players on the field instead of just one – he wanted his friend back on the team. In an industry (yes, it’s an industry) where players seem to always be looking out for themselves, reading about a player’s selflessness was encouraging. But seeing them on the field together cheering each other on was a beautiful thing.