How many of us have gone to work sick? You wake up still tired from coughing all night, and think to yourself man I don't want to go to work today. As you slowly get to your feet to head to the phone to call the boss, you think it's only August and I only have two sick days left - I guess I don't feel that bad. Or maybe the last time you were gone, the boss gushed about the way Dave did a fantastic job filling in for you. Or maybe you are the boss, the cashier, the janitor, and the owner wrapped into one headache filled package and the doors don't open unless you are the one opening them. Whatever the reason, we have all sat through eight hours agony when we should have been resting in bed.
Football players are no different. In fact, most of the time they are going to work when we mortals would be home recuperating from a similar injury. Chief's lore can reveal many instances of players somehow making themselves fit enough to suit up on Sunday. There was Dino Hackett who was so desperate to play in the post season that he had the trainer make a wooden insert for his shoe to keep his foot stable. Who can forget the giant finger appendage the Steve DeBerg wore after finally getting the shot to be a number one quarterback for Marty Schottenheimer's team. Every week each team has four or five players listed as questionable with everything from the flu to dislocated shoulders. The will of these young men to continue to play in spite of their pain is shocking and inspiring.
This brings us to the Jarrad Page saga.
For those of you that are still clinging to the vain hope that the Royals will start a 45 game winning streak and slip into the MLB playoffs, and thus have your attention diverted to baseball, here is a brief rundown of what has occurred... There was a dust up between Jarrad Page and Todd Haley over an unspecified injury that Page suffered in the 2009 training camp. After a time, Page went to the injured reserve list and disappeared from all aspects of Chief's football. Page has lawyered up. Here we are - I told you it would be brief.
The latest chapter in which Page removed the leash from his agent was a desperation move. He wants to go back to work, he sees the NFL regular season looming on the horizon just three weeks away, and he sees that the team that owns the rights for him to play in the NFL is not exactly aggressive in finding a trading partner. I termed that "lawyering up" because it has attorney speak all over the release. "There was an unspecified injury that happened at an unspecified time on or before the third preseason game in an unspecified season that coincided with the a year 2009 annual planetary cycles after a man who might have been named Jesus of Nazareth may or may not have died." Naturally the release was signed "Staff." The report was so vague that it was hard to tell the half-truths from the out and out lies and the things that really happened.
Before I go further, I will disclose that I have not spoken to any of the principal parties who make up this mini drama. This is just my opinion that is based on my experiences as a man that has been in the shoes of every actor to some extent (with the exception of being an agent.)
The owner's perspective...
At the end of the 2008 season, Clark Hunt owned a football franchise in tatters. He had to shock his Kansas City Chiefs back into relevance. He chose the highly successful Patriot Way. In so doing he chose to make his club a team that views its players in terms of their value to the team above all else. He also chose a front office that keeps its dealing private and out of the media spotlight. The new front office would not be swayed by personal likes and dislikes. Former Patriots Bethel Johnson and Lawyer Milloy could tell Page about how easy it is to disengage from the Patriot Way on the player's terms.
The GM's perspective...
Jarrad Page has value as a player. He isn't Ed Reed, but he has far outplayed his seventh round draft slot. However, what Scott Pioli has to deal is an average NFL safety that has not played since going on injured reserve and who hasn't been involved in supervised workouts. Page's value as a trading commodity will never be lower than right now. Sooner or later a playoff contending team will have an injury at safety Page's value will spike at that moment.
The coach's perspective...
Todd Haley was elbow deep in problems as the third 2009 preseason game approached. To call the players returning from the Herm Edwards regime out of shape would be generous. Especially disappointing were the supposed team leaders. Their lack of conditioning was punctuated by attitudes that reflected the defeated spirit of the team. He needed young veterans like Page, Larry Johnson, Dewayne Bowe, and Derrick Johnson to break through the mist of negativity and do things that even they did not think were in their capabilities. Haley needed these guys to practice hard and be excellent even when it hurts. Haley by nature is direct, but now he has a franchise qb that doesn't look like one, an underwhelming defense, he was at odds with his offensive coordinator, and his team dress rehearsal is pending. He wanted his men to put their inner divas aside and play.
The player's perspective...
Jarrad Page is preparing for the season. He is laboring under a new coach who is a cold shower compared to the warmth of Herman Edwards. Edwards had a special affection for his players in the defensive backfield, but not his new head coach - he had universal dislike for everyone. Page knows that he is in his contract year and only needs to put up with this for one season. He would then be free to join one of his former Chief coaches. They knew he can play. Page also knew that he was hurting. If this were a regular season game, he would tough it out. However he is not going to take a chance on further injury by playing a meaningless preseason game in a contract year.
The fan's perspective...
The fan knows that the average length of an NFL career is close to five years. Many also know that the average salary for a safety is $950,000. Even taking out the agents cut, that player will make more in those five years than a fan that works for 30 years at $60,000 per year. Sympathy does not run rampant for players who can retire comfortably before their 30th birthday. The fan's attitude runs along the lines of shut up and play ball.
I have a son the same age as Jarrad Page. As a father, it would tear me up to see my son caught in this web; I have some empathy for the young man. He is the victim of bad timing more than anything else. By rights he fulfilled his contractual obligations to the Chiefs, and should be free to explore the open market. The same player's agency that obtained that player's right failed to secure it when the time was right for Page. I have been a coach and seen players who were capable of more than their mind allowed them to believe. It is a coachâ€™s job to dispel that notion. I have managed a business, and I know that once you allow one asset to go for less than asking price, you will never again be able to set the market for your goods. There are no bad guys here. Nobody went out of their way to be vindictive or generally evil. Everyone did what they were hired to do. The Page saga is the first birth pang of a bad labor situation that is just going to get worse.