A tale of two negotiations

While Nick Collins will not rule out a holdout, Greg Jennings says that is not even a consideration. Does that make Jennings a good guy and a team-first player? Yes. What does it say about Collins? We have our opinion.

On Monday, Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins wouldn't rule out a holdout if he doesn't have a new contract in place by the start of training camp.

On Tuesday, Pro Bowl-caliber receiver Greg Jennings completely ruled out a holdout if he doesn't have a contract in place when camp begins on Aug. 1.

Collins, set to make $3.045 million in 2009 as the final year of his five-year rookie contract, missed 11 of 12 practices of organized team activities and skipped most of the offseason program in a not-so-subtle protest of the lack of progress toward a new deal.

Jennings, set to make close to the league-minimum $530,000 in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, has skipped only a few workouts to spend time with his new daughter. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, treading lightly on a subject as to not cause any controversy, praised Jennings on Tuesday for being a "professional."

"I've got one year left on my contract," Jennings said on Tuesday, when he refuted a story from Monday that said he was close to signing a contract but before news broke on Tuesday evening that he was, in fact, on the verge of becoming the Packers' second-highest paid player.

"Until next year, until that year is up, then I'm in a contract situation. But other than that, I'm going to play ball. Regardless of if we get a deal done or not. This is me being honest. I'm going to play ball. I'm not the holdout type of a guy. I've said that before."

If the differing stances for two equally productive and happy-go-lucky players seem illogical, it's because it is illogical. Well, mostly.

Does Jennings' commitment to serving out his contract, when a new deal would give him a game check roughly the equivalent of what he was set to make for the entire season under his current contract, make him a good guy and a team-first player? Absolutely.

Does Collins' thinly veiled threat of a holdout, even though he's set to earn a salary that's going to rank in the top half of starting safeties in the league, make him a bad guy and an unselfish player? Absolutely not.

In Jennings' case, he's gotten better in each of his first three seasons. With an obvious chemistry with Rodgers, there's no reason to believe Jennings is going to regress after posting his first career 1,000-yard season last year.

Collins' case isn't so cut-and-dried. First, there are the off-the-field issues, such as having a new child and losing his father. On the field, seasons like Collins posted last year, when he tied teammate Charles Woodson for the NFC high with seven interceptions and returned a league-high three of them for touchdowns, don't come around very often. It's impossible to know how well Collins will mesh in the new defensive system. And even if he shows up well on tapes following games, there's no guarantee the glittering statistics will return.

Jennings and Collins are just two of the starting players who are set to become free agents following this season. Aaron Kampman, Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz are among the others. Jennings admits he's talked to "quite a few guys, but Nick in particular."

The fate of talks for a new collective bargaining agreement is another issue for young players like Collins and Jennings. If a deal is reached this year and free agency rules remain status quo, players with four years of accrued service are eligible for unrestricted free agency. If no deal is reached, the salary cap vanishes but unrestricted free agency moves to six years of experience. So, Jennings and Collins could miss out on big paydays. It's likely another reason why Collins in pressing for a deal, even though he's set to receive a nice chunk of change this year.

"Every situation is a little bit different," Jennings, the son of a minister, said. "Everyone goes about it a little differently. Some people give different advice than others."

Jennings is certain his teammates are monitoring how he handles the situation, and the same no doubt is true for Collins.

"I want to be looked upon as a leader, and a positive leader, at that," Jennings said.

Jennings, meanwhile, refuted a published report on Monday that said he was "close" to agreeing to a new contract.

"I said ‘close could mean far.' So, I said ‘far', too," Jennings said before news broke that he was close to signing a three-year extension that would be worth as much as $30.5 million and keep him in Green Bay through 2012.

Asked if he had a hunch whether an extension was "close or far," Jennings played coy and called it an either-or situation. When asked if his wide smile foreshadowed a not-so-distant conclusion, Jennings responded with typical humor.

"I always have a smile on my face. Do I not? OK, I'm just checking. Nothing has changed," he said.

What is changing through this process is Jennings' role as a leader. Just like fans will take note of Jennings' willingness to be a regular during four weeks of voluntary practices, regardless of his contract situation, teammates will take note of a player who elected to sweat side by side with them when he could have been a full-time dad for a few months, instead.

"I would have to say yes (to being a leader), just because of my mentality, my mind-set, my work ethic, the way I go about my business," Jennings said. "I'm not a ‘me' guy. I've never been a ‘me' guy. I always try to put the team first. I think with putting the team first, knowing the potential of play that I put out there for my team, then the individual accolades will start to come my way."

Apparently, the accolades - and money - are starting to come his way already.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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