Hot Read: Walker is just doing what he's got to do

You should know that I was planning to hold out for this column. I wanted my contract with PackerReport.com and Packer Report renegotiated. I wanted to be paid like one of the top 10 columnists writing for other NFL team publications and web sites. This space was very close to being blank, except for my smiling mug and the words ‘Hold Out' stamped across this page with one of those red stampy things that people like to use on important documents and government papers.

Unfortunately, agent Drew Rosenhaus never returned any of my calls. Neither did Leigh Steinberg. There's a chance they're not familiar with my work. It also occurred to me that tens of thousands of people aren't shelling out big bucks to watch me crank these columns out on my laptop. It's not televised either, though I made a call to my local cable access station. Really, the only one remotely interested in watching me do this is my 13-month old son, Hayden, and he mostly just likes to pound on the keyboard.

The fact that you're reading this means my holdout obviously didn't go very well. It was really pretty short-lived. Watching the special collector's edition DVD of ‘Jerry Maguire' didn't help like I thought it would. And people kept hanging up on me when I'd yell, ‘Show me the money!' into the phone. Turns out I don't actually have a contract, which seems to be sort of a lynch pin in these matters. But I did guilt them into paying me more for my online work at PackerReport.com, which was enough of a compromise to get me into camp. Thus, another ugly hold out saga comes to a close.

It won't be that quick and easy for receiver Javon Walker and the Packers' organization. The problem is, both of them think they're right. And in a lot of ways, they both are. Bring up the subject of Walker's holdout among Packer fans and you'll hear a familiar refrain: He needs to honor his contract. Even quarterback Brett Favre said Walker should honor his contract. Who's going to argue with Favre? Center Mike Flanagan has said that he didn't go into the GM's office with his hand out asking for more money after his first Pro Bowl appearance. So why should Walker?

Walker was a No. 1 draft pick who wasn't an overnight success. It was three years in the making. Now he's finally playing like everyone hoped he would, in essence, living up to his contract as a No. 1 draft pick, and he wants more cash. In a hard-working, blue-collar town like Green Bay, that doesn't sit will. Even the Subway restaurant commercials that ran throughout Wisconsin and featured Walker disappeared soon after this became a story ... though I've got it on good authority that Jared is also represented by Rosenhaus.

Honor your contract, Javon. C'mon, do it! Report to camp. Don't you know how many fans would trade their left... uh, arm or something else, do be able to do what you do? And they'd do it for a lot less money. They might even do it just for the love of the game. Don't you love the game, Javon?

That's one side of the issue. And don't pretend that you haven't heard each and every one of those statements uttered by someone you know, or even yourself, over the past few months.

But here's the flipside. Walker is a great player. You can't deny it. When he was streaking down the field and hauling in those Favre rainbows, you thought he was a ‘bigger Robert Brooks' and ‘Antonio Freeman without the attitude' all rolled into one. By definition, some of you had a crush on Javon Walker. He was confident, but not cocky. Smooth in his interviews and had a winning smile that could have got him some votes for mayor of Green Bay on more than a few Monday mornings.

So after notching 89 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, he goes to the Pro Bowl. Then he heads home. Takes some time to think and says, ‘You know what? I ought to be paid more.' Who hasn't thought that in their own job? Who hasn't looked around their workplace or in their chosen field and thought, ‘I'm outperforming these people, I deserve to be compensated.' And among top caliber NFL receivers, Walker is definitely on the low end of the pay scale, even though he has two years remaining on a $7.485 million dollar deal and is scheduled to make $515,000 in base salary this year. Yes, that's a whole lot of money. But resist the urge to compare his salary to yours and instead compare it to other receivers putting up comparable numbers.

Ah yes, but he's under contract. He should play it out and then wait for his just reward. Well, here's the cold, hard reality of the NFL. That doesn't always happen. Walker is not the first guy to hold out and he won't be the last. There is a precedent for what he's doing and for better or worse, it's proven to be successful. Let's not forget NFL teams have cut players several years into a multi-year contracts and routinely approach players asking them to take pay cuts or renegotiate so the team can get under the salary cap. How willing would you be to do that in your job?

Perhaps the biggest difference between Walker's job and yours or mine is that on the way to the restroom or water cooler, some defensive back isn't trying to rip our head off. Look at what happened to Robert Ferguson last year when Jacksonville's Donovin Darius made an illegal clothesline hit on him that sent him to the hospital. That could've ended Ferguson's career. It's not a stretch to say it could've ended his life or at least severely limited its quality.

Ask yourself what you'd say if Walker played next year under his current contract and had a career-ending injury. Would there be a little voice inside saying, ‘Maybe he should've held out for that big contract.' The NFL is a very rough game. Don't be fooled by the slow-motion shots and classical music montages of NFL Films. There are human car wrecks occurring on every play. You wouldn't really do this job for free if you had the ability to play. And you wouldn't be the happiest camper in the world if you were making less than what you were worth.

The lifespan of most NFL players is short even if you avoid serious injury. If you knew you had five years to make as much money as you could, you'd do what you needed to do to make sure that happened. Some of us would honor our contract. Some of us wouldn't. Walker chose the latter. He's not a bad guy; he's just doing what he thinks he needs to do, the same way we occasionally do things in our jobs that could be viewed as unpopular. That's his right. Just like it's the Packers' right to wait it out.

But Walker and the Packers will come to terms. And hopefully it's sooner, than later. If you think the Packers and Favre don't need him, you're kidding yourself. Last season wasn't a fluke. Ferguson and Donald Driver are very good receivers. Walker is better. You thought he was last season, so don't let his hold out change your mind. When he's catching touchdowns in December you'll have forgotten all about this.


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