Lombardi: Holdouts

Sometimes I struggle to think of something to write about, especially this time of year. But luckily, Grady Jackson bails me out and gives me a nice juicy topic to comment on.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I bet the New Orleans Saints and Coach Jim Haslett are laughing right now. They released Jackson in the middle of the 2003 season because of his attitude. Here is how USA Today remembers it:

Oct. 29, 2003- The Saints suspended Grady Jackson for one game for "conduct detrimental to the team," according to the Times-Picayune. The team offered no details, but sources said that Jackson did not report to the team's hotel on Saturday night as mandated by club policy. Jackson did not play on Sunday because of a finger injury. The 6-foot-2, 368 pound defensive tackle is also drawing weekly fines for being overweight.

Nov. 4, 2003 - The Saints released Grady Jackson on Monday, the same day he was scheduled to return to the team after serving a one-week suspension, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Coach Jim Haslett said that Jackson, who's been fined numerous times during his tenure with the team, was no longer a good fit on a defensive line loaded with young, impressionable players. The Redskins are rumored to be one of several teams interested in acquiring him.

Jackson did not sign with Washington, and he did not seem to be a bad apple during the past two seasons with the Packers. The team is better off with him in the lineup. They went 14-4 with Jackson on the field and 6-8 without him. He is such a force in the middle that he affects the game just by his presence.

But, let's be realistic Mr. Jackson (and of course Drew Rosenhaus, Jackson's new agent). You are 32 years old. You were hobbled by injuries last year and have not participated in any football drills since you had surgery. You are not in a real position to be holding out. Sure the Packers need you, but you need them too. They pulled you off the waiver wire and then gave you a two-year extension back in December of 2003. In fact, this is what you had to say after you got that extension:

"This place has been a great fit for me. I never should have signed with the Saints and I feel like this is a second chance for me and I'm going to make the most of it," Jackson said.

I got that off of the NFL.com website. Seems like Grady feels differently these days.

I like the way Jackson plays. He is a mammoth man who plugs up the middle. He has deceptive speed and quickness for a man of his weight. The Packers will need him, especially if Cletidius Hunt continues his disappearing act.

My guess is Hunt's situation figures into it. Rosenhaus surveys the big picture and figures that the Packers will be desperate to keep Grady on the field. The other linemen behind these two guys are untested and therefore the team will bend to Jackson's demands. That opens the door to dealing on Javon Walker's part. If they renegotiate with Jackson, they cannot continue to deny Walker's right to a raise. It is brinksmanship at its best, and Rosenhaus considers himself a master negotiator.

How the Packers respond is yet to be seen. The top brass is "unavailable" for comment, according to the local press. Good move on their part. No need to fight this in the media. Lump Bubba Franks into this and the Packers have four starters - Hunt, Franks, Walker and Jackson, who may not report to training camp. None of the top draft picks have signed and camp is less than three weeks away.

If it were up to me, I would play hardball on all four. Jackson just got an extension a year ago. Walker has two years to go on his contract. Hunt is a dog. Who needs him? Franks will more than likely come back into the fold. He is a transition player. Due to salary cap rules I do not understand, the team and the player will probably work it out before camp.

I do not make millions of dollars to make these decisions and as we all know, guys who do not win, get fired. Principals are great when you have the flexibility to sit back and wait a few years for it to play out. Mike Sherman does not have that flexibility, but Ted Thompson does. So it depends on what Thompson wants to do.

John Lombardi

Editor's note: John Lombardi is the grandson of legendary coach Vince Lombardi. John resides with his family in Green Bay . His football experience includes stints with two teams in the World League (now NFL Europe); in the scouting departments of the Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans; and graduate assistant coach and director of football operations at Vanderbilt. He will be contributing columns for PackerReport.com.

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