Yes, I'm beginning to believe that San Diego Chargers general manager, A.J. Smith is actually Leonardo DiCaprio is disguise. If you have seen the latest hit movie, "Inception", you may know what I mean. Follow my logic and tell me if you think that Leo is filling in for A.J.
As you know, the Chargers have several key players who haven't signed their tender this season. Not just some third string tight end, but rather a starting left tackle (Marcus McNeill), a starting linebacker (Shawne Merriman), and a number one receiver (Vincent Jackson). Yep, that is three potential pro bowl players who are currently missing camp and have talk about lengthy hold outs.
Just in case you missed it, here are the players complaints, in a nut shell. Let's begin with McNeill, the Chargers Pro Bowl left tackle. It seems that he would like a long term deal for an amount worthy of a person who is paid to protect the $92 million investment at quarterback. The Chargers want him to sign his one year tender of about $3.5 million and get his large butt into camp. At this point, McNeill is talking about sitting all of camp and the first 10 games of the season. OUCH! That being said, I do believe there is hope in McNeill's case. I'll get back to that later.
Vincent Jackson would also like top dollar and several years, much like teammate Antonio Gates recently received. Smith is telling him the same thing that he told McNeill. Sign your tender and come into camp! Jackson is also holding out and my not be back until after Week 10. The reason Jackson doesn't have as much hope as McNeill is that he is not the professional that McNeill seems to be.
Jackson has had two D.U.I. arrest and was actually cuffed and sited for driving on a suspended licence and blaring his car stereo, the morning of the Chargers/Jets playoff game last season. Not to mention that during the game, Jackson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and cost the Chargers critical yards. When asked about his behavior during the game, his response was, "I think it's comedical." Yes, I think that says it all.
Then there is Merriman who, in my humble opinion, should just sign and get into camp to prove that he is healthy and is able to return to his old form. He needs to become the player from before the three major injuries and the suspension for PED's. As Steve Martin, or John Belushi would say..."But noooooo!" Merriman says he wants to be assured that he will not have to worry about being traded during the season. Apparently, he forgot that he is a professional football player, not a short order cook somewhere.
Merriman claims to have abandonment issues that stem from when he was a child. Personally, I feel badly for Merriman, but I think he needs to sign and get into camp. He can use his millions to get some help for his problems. Okay, I don't feel that bad.
Now, why is A.J. Smith actually DiCaprio is disguise? The way he is using the media is much like DiCaprio attempts inception during the movie. "Inception" is planting a thought in someone else's mind is hopes that they will do what you want them to do. You want it to seem like their idea, so they don't resent you. Smith is trying hard to achieve inception with his prodigal players.
Here is Smith's work in a nut shell:
1. Now that camp is open, the media has been reporting on how individuals look for the upcoming season. Much has been made about the Chargers moving offensive lineman, Brandon Dombrowski to left tackle (McNeill's position). The Chargers brass was talking him up and sharing how he is a natural on the left side of the line, and they really don't think he is much of a step back from McNeill.
2. Boy, has Buster Davis looked great in camp!!! Wow, you would think this is the second coming of John Jefferson or Charlie Joiner, the way they have been pumping him up. The fact is that he has never made it through a season healthy and I find it hard to believe that the Chargers are counting on him now.
And 3. Larry English is a beast this year! By all accounts, English is reeking havoc this preseason and spending most of his time in Philip River's space.
Well, there is the evidence. Three messages going out of one reason and one reason alone...to make McNeill, Jackson, and Merriman feel like they have no leverage and that they are in danger of losing their positions and a lot of money. With Smith's reputation of being a hard head, they have to already be worried that he would rather lose games on the field than lose them in negotiations.
Now, as I stated earlier, McNeill has hope. For one, he is an upstanding citizen. For two, he is a fine left tackle and keeps Rivers on his feet. Most importantly, if English is prospering, then Dombrowski is struggling and there is really no one else to play the position. Let's face it, if English is blowing away Dombrowski, imagine what other top pass rushers will do to him. It's not a pretty picture.
So with all the facts in, I believe that Merriman will sign after sitting out at least half of camp, because he has no leverage. Jackson will sit out and try to make up more words like comedical, because he is not the sharpest tool in the shed. Finally, McNeill will get a new contract and get to play football in 2010, because even A.J. Smith will have to admit that his back is against the wall and he needs a stud at left tackle.
Enjoy the season!