How much is enough?'s Doug Ritchay explains why he has a problem with NFL players who feel their contracts are suddenly not good enough after they have one or two good seasons. Latest example: Al Harris.

Al Harris' contract extension made me wonder this week what a great deal it is to be a pro athlete. These guys makes millions of dollars for a playing a game in front of thousands of people, who cheer their every move.

Yes, football players' bodies go through a lot in a season, with the physicality of the sport. Still, when you're making seven figures a year, somehow I think it's a small price to pay. I'd pay it.

Harris' deal was a sign the Packers treasure his play over the last few seasons, where he has developed from an average corner to a fringe Pro Bowl player. He could've been voted into this year's Pro Bowl, and I would've had no problem. He's been better than expected since the Packers acquired him in a 2003 trade with Philadelphia, where he was a nickel back.

However, Harris cried last summer when he was threatening to be a training camp holdout, because he wasn't making enough money. He signed a 6-year, $18.6 million contract before the 2004 season, which included a $5.25 million signing bonus. He played two seasons and started whining. Who signed that contract? No wonder why some people despise the greedy pro athlete of today.

Harris' stance likely had to do with the $39 million contract Charles Woodson signed last off-season to play opposite Harris. Woodson had become injury-prone, yet the Packers threw all this money his way. It turned out to be a wise deal, as Woodson picked off a career-high eight passes, but this contract had no chance of getting by Harris' eyes. Kind of like a bad pass.

So when the season ended for the Packers, outside of the Brett Favre retirement watch, maybe the biggest story was going to be Harris' off-season approach. Many expected him to create a stir like last year. But before anything got serious, the Packers gave him an additional $4 million.

It didn't break the bank for the Packers, but, hey, $4 million is $4 million. Which brings me to this: If you or I go to our boss and ask for a significant bump in pay or we'll "hold out," what do you think the response will be?


A one-word response of, "What?"

A two-word response of, "Yeah, right."

Or a response of, "If you don't like your pay, look somewhere else."

And we're not asking for millions of dollars. Maybe enough to make mortgage payments a little easier.

But athletes in team sports do this all the time. They have a good to great season and that contract they signed a year or two ago suddenly isn't enough.

So much for someone being a man of his word, keeping his end of the bargain when he signed the contract.

The Packers felt good enough about him to give him nearly $19 million and how does Harris react? This isn't a slam on Harris; it's a criticism on what team sports have become. What happens when these players have a bad year? Would Harris go into the general manger Ted Thompson's office and say, "Hey, Ted, I stunk this past season. What do you say we renegotiate my deal for less money? I didn't earn my money.'"

That's the day pigs fly and the sky falls.

It's OK if the players play bad and make money, but if they have a breakthrough season, all of a sudden they're knocking the door down, asking for someone to fatten their checkbooks. Football, basketball and hockey go through this all the time. Which is why you have to hand it to golfers and tennis players. Their pay is purely based on performance.

Sure, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer make tons of money in advertising, but so do the likes of Dwyane Wade and Peyton Manning. The other 95 percent of golfers and tennis players rely on their talent to get them their money. Woods wins the Masters, he doesn't go to his GM and ask for more money. If Federer wins Wimbledon (that's really not an if, but a when), he doesn't threaten to hold out of the U.S. Open, does he?


The athletes in individual sports earn their money. As for the likes of Harris, he has earned everything he has, based on how the NFL does its business. But I would just once like these players to realize how good they have it. I wish they would remember the college days, when a meal from McDonald's was a treat. Now, they are deciding between a Mercedes and a Hummer, while I'm wondering if I can push my car over 200,000 miles, so I can put off buying a car for another couple years.

It's quite a lifestyle they live.

As for me, I'm off to McDonald's in my aging car. I might even spoil myself and super size my fries! I can't wait!

Doug Ritchay

Doug Ritchay is a frequent contributor to and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at

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