Bad Economy? Complain Less

In a rough economy, NFL players wanting new contracts seem to be taking a much lower profile. Is Cleveland Browns KR/PR Josh Cribbs a case study in kinder, gentler contract demands? Scout.com looks at the trend...

Gauging the economy's impact on the country's most popular sport requires dealing with many intangibles. The only hardcore numbers will be the numbers of empty seats in stadiums come September.

But there has been a quiet change during what is often a tumultuous time of the year for NFL teams. May and June minicamps is when the first strong seeds of contract disputes are planted, because players disgruntled with their contracts are visibly absent from Organized Team Activities.

But the rumblings from players making six, seven and eight figures a year has been noticeably quieter than in recent seasons.

The Jets' top two running backs, Thomas Jones and Leon Washington, didn't show up for team workouts earlier this month. But Jones was on-hand this week.

One of the most visible disputes brewing was between return specialist Josh Cribbs and the Browns. But he met with coach Eric Mangini last week, and reported to the team's OTA this week after a decent public backlash from fans. Cribbs returned with words typically not heard from an athlete who hasn't received his desired pay increase.

"I have to put it in my head that many people - thousands of people out there - are without jobs and would love to be in my position just to have the opportunity to earn a paycheck. Just hearing fans, people close to me say, 'Just go back. We want you to stay in this uniform.' It touched me. Ultimately we play for the fans, and that's why I'm back."

The Arizona Cardinals are in the typical situation of a team coming off surprising success, as several of their key players are angling to cash in.

Among them is wide receiver Anquan Boldin, defensive lineman Darnell Dockett, outside linebacker Karlos Dansby and strong safety Adrian Wilson.

There hasn't been much public squabbling, with the biggest media attention going to Boldin's decision to fire super-agent Drew Rosenhaus.

Boldin's reputation has been a bit tarnished after publicly targeting the team last offseason and requesting a trade that doesn't appear likely to happen.

And with Arizona's priorities focused first on Dansby and Wilson, Boldin has very little leverage - publicly or behind closed doors.


CASE EXAMPLE #1 / JOSH CRIBBS: Special teams star Joshua Cribbs is still unhappy with his contract but he has ended his minicamp boycott. Cribbs skipped practice last week because he believes the Browns reneged on a promise to redo his contract which runs through 2012. The Browns are in their second voluntary minicamp and Cribbs is full go.

"It was agony," Cribbs said Wednesday. "I had to put in my mind the team wasn't practicing, that guys were sitting at home like I was. I was trying to fill my day with other things, going to the movies and stuff like that.

"After I met with Coach (Eric) Mangini (last week) it was real evident to me that the team was going on without me. (I thought) 'I have to get back out there with my guys.' Coach expressed it to me. That's why I'll leave it up to my agents. The conversation we had was real friendly, a good rapport. He's a good guy."

Since signing the contract in 2006 Cribbs broke the team record for kick return yardage twice and made the Pro Bowl in 2007. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2006 and 2008.

Cribbs is a fan favorite, yet a majority of supporters, it seems, believe Cribbs should honor the contract he signed even if it isn't a good one.

Cribbs listens to the fans. On Wednesday he said he does not want to be traded. He felt like he let the fans and his teammates down when he didn't practice last week, even though the minicamp is voluntary.

"This team is not going to lose any sleep over one guy," Cribbs said." I'll say that. The team is bigger than just one player. It's bigger than me. This town is bigger than me. I just want to be a part of it.

"I have to put it in my head that many people - thousands of people out there - are without jobs and would love to be in my position just to have the opportunity to earn a paycheck. Just hearing fans, people close to me say, 'Just go back. We want you to stay in this uniform.' It touched me. Ultimately we play for the fans, and that's why I'm back."

Cribbs on Wednesday said the promises were made by former general manager Phil Savage and former coach Romeo Crennel. He was pressed about Browns owner Randy Lerner, but did not want to fan the flames.

"It was just a lot of he said, she said," Cribbs said. "The old regime had made promises to me, as everyone knows. They would tell you themselves. I just felt funny about it. But now I'm back in camp as you see, everything's better. I'm not throwing anybody under the bus, especially our owner."


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