Schon: Rumors, Rants & Raves

Ricky Williams, Hines Ward, the Oakland Raiders and Daunte Culpepper all take their hits in today's edition of Rumors, Rants & Raves.

The holdout for Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward entered its second week Monday, with neither side willing to budge in their demands.

Ward wants a new deal, commensurate with other top tier receivers in the league. Considering the fact that he's had four consecutive years of over 1,000-yards and three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, it's hard to blame him.

Under his current contract, which has one year remaining, Ward would earn just shy of $1.7 million – a sharp contrast to the $75 million deal Randy Moss will make over the next eight-years with the Oakland Raiders.

Art Rooney II and the Steelers stand behind team policy, refusing to even think about renegotiations until Ward reports to camp, something the veteran swears he will not do until Pittsburgh reworks his current contract.

On the Steelers side, they claim to have made an offer, supposedly the most lucrative in franchise history, and that Ward refused to even consider it. And they affirm their current stance by pointing to a similar situation with three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Mike Merriweather, who eventually sat out the entire 1988 season with a contract dispute.

So there you have it – an NFL standoff between arguably one of the league's finest receivers up against one of the leagues most tight-fisted ownership groups.

Unfortunately, those stuck in the middle are the Steeler's fans, who were expecting so much after Ben Roethlisberger's break out season last year.

For the Black & Gold crew it will be interesting to see how this one plays out….

10 – number of year's since the Raiders left L.A. to return to Oakland
9 – number of wins the Raiders have had over the past two seasons
8 – number of players who have requested to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame by the Raiders owner
7 – number considered by Al Davis' to be his least favorite if you happen to be a certain quarterback from Stanford
6 – number of fans arrested (per row) during Oakland home games
5 – number of minutes it takes before Al Davis actually realizes you're talking to him
4 – number of drinks it takes for Sebastian Janikowski's dates to find him even remotely acceptable
3 – number of teams in the AFC West not looking forward to facing Randy Moss twice in the same season
2 – number of Super Bowl rings won by the Raiders biggest rival – the Denver Broncos
1 – number of people still living who actually believe the "Just Win Baby" media hype

Ok, so he may not have Randy Moss as his favorite receiver anymore, but Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper could have at least cracked a bigger smile yesterday at the announcement of his new salary increase, rumored to be in the neighborhood of $8 million.

"It is a step toward the direction that I want to get to," Culpepper told reporters. "I feel real confident that the Viking organization is definitely going to be a part of that, helping me get to that, because I'm going to do my part. And I know that they will, because they told me."

A step in the right direction?

An $8 million increase in your 2005 paycheck and it's only a step in the right direction?

Evidently the seven-year veteran was hoping for a more permanent solution. The deal, worked out between Culpepper's agent Mason Ashe and Vikings management only covers the 2005 season. In 2006 the contract will revert back to its original form, paying the quarterback a $2.5 million base salary.

All told, with the roster bonuses he's already received, plus the additional $8 million, Culpepper will have a guaranteed $23 million for his performance this year, making him one of the top five in the league at his position.

A $23 million guarantee for a quarterback that's led his team over the past three-years to a combined 23-25 record with only one playoff appearance - yea, I guess you could say that's a step in the right direction, at least for Culpepper.

Ricky Williams' debut in last night's Hall of Fame game had all the media buildup of a Presidential election. When it was all said and done, his performance on the field was about as boring as one.

Five carries for a total of 8-yards – I guess I wasn't the only one unimpressed.

"I didn't feel rusty," Williams admitted afterwards. "I didn't expect anything, to be honest."

Maybe somebody in South Florida could explain to the bearded guru that, while he may not expect anything - the Miami Dolphins do. They expect a performance at least partially worthy of the $8.6 million they've let slide on his court appointed breach of contract settlement.

But then again, this is Ricky Williams and maybe we shouldn't hold our breath.

Or inhale for that matter.

Michael John Schon has covered the National Football League and the Denver Broncos for the past nine years. As a member of the Pro Football Writers Association he has published and syndicated columns to both newspapers and magazines throughout the United States and Canada. His syndicated radio broadcast: "Schon Live" airs weekly on various radio stations around the country.

Schon can be reached at
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