Although every Jets fan should be happy to see Leon Washington in camp in upstate Cortland, NY, there is reason to be annoyed with the way the running back and the team are spinning his willingness to participate.
As Washington’s Twitter-loving agent Alvin Keels tweeted Friday, “Leon Washington is at practice 2day as we continue to try to nail down the business side of things. He’s a Jet and has put the team b4self.”
Head Coach Rex Ryan chimed in, telling reporters Friday that Washington’s presence proves he’s a team-first guy.
If only that were completely true.
Washington is due to earn $535,000 this season in the final year of a deal he signed as a rookie in 2006.
He signed that contract and should honor it.
Never mind that Maurice Jones-Drew, a similarly versatile running back, is reportedly getting $6 million this season from the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If another NFL team chooses to rework a deal for a player, that does not mean a player on another team should hold out, or threaten to hold out, to try to get a similar deal.
One of the biggest problems in sports today concerns athletes who have been taught by their agents not to respect the validity of a contract.
The Jets should have already told Washington as well as teammate Thomas Jones that there will be contract renegotiations. Period.
Jones signed a four-year, $20 million deal in 2007 and he’s not happy.
What a joke! In this terrible economy, this pampered football player isn’t happy with a contract that averages $5 million a year?
Yet we’re supposed to applaud Jones and Washington for “putting the team first” by showing up for training camp with the rest of their teammates.
Showing up for work is the least they could do. Playing hard for their teammates and earning the money for which they signed is the minimum requirement for a professional athlete.
It’s time for Jones and Washington to focus on having big seasons to help accelerate the learning curve of franchise quarterback Mark Sanchez. That way, the Jets could actually achieve something this year.
Certainly Jones is proud to have led the American Football Conference in rushing in 2008, and Washington is proud to have set a franchise record for all-purpose yards last season.
But those individual accomplishments did nothing to satisfy Jets fans who saw their team choke away a divisional lead in the AFC East and miss the playoffs.
It would be better if the Jets’ organization from owner Woody Johnson to general manager Mike Tannenbaum to Ryan told Washington and Jones that we are not going to rip up the contracts you signed.
Honor your contract. Honor your profession. Stop griping.
That’s how an athlete truly puts his team first.