(Two notes: First, the Stew will return next week. Second, big props to OBOD reader Kathy Wutkowski, who gave me the idea for this post. Writer’s block hits us all, sometimes, you know?)
Good thing Morgan Burnett got all those offseason reps with the starters, huh?
I say that because, on Thursday, we found out Atari Bigby’s return from ankle surgery could be much later rather than sooner. Originally told he’d be out until early September, we’ve now learned Bigby is indeed a candidate to be placed on the PUP list, meaning he may not be available to return to the Green Bay Packers until week seven, at the earliest.
Bigby told reporters he was unaware his ankle injury was as bad as it was. He also said that, had he known it was that bad, he would have opted for surgery much sooner than the Aug. 6 date of his procedure.
And, as an old friend of mine used to say, I’m calling shennanigans on this one.
That’s right – I think Bigby is lying through his teeth.
The ankle was a problem all along. Bigby and his camp – remember, he switched over to super agent Drew Rosenhaus awhile back – purposely kept the ankle injury a guarded secret, as they were pushing hard for a new deal from the team. That’s why he sat out all the offseason activity. To show up with a bad ankle would sink his chances of receiving an extension. But, again, they couldn’t tip their hand on that point, hence, he and Rosenhaus took a hardline stance with the Packers.
But, once the team traded up to get Burnett and continued refusing Bigby’s advances for a new deal, he was left with two options: Sign the reduced one-year RFA tender (down to $1.55 million from the original $1.759 million) or put $0 on his 2011 tax return. Bigby took the former of the two, inking his tender in late July. Of course, there was the little matter of passing a conditioning test first. Bigby and the team led us to believe that it is here where he re-injured his ankle.
Are you serious?
After spending months and months of avoiding any sort of real football activity, you mean to tell us Bigby hurt his ankle so badly that surgery was required during a conditioning test? Even Brett Favre would shake his head if you told him he had to pull off a bluff like that.
If this all sounds a little too, “The Government was behind the Kennedy assassination” for your taste, keep this in mind: Rosenhaus knows a thing or nine about bending the rules of basic human health in order to get his guys bigger deals. The most famous example of this came when he conned the Buffalo Bills into using a first round pick on running back Willis McGahee in 2003, despite the fact that McGahee was only a few months removed from having his knee destroyed.
No doctor on the planet would tell you a recovery was possible that fast, but Rosenhaus – the master of turning chicken you-know-what into chicken salad – threw up some video of McGahee working out a little bit and fielding some calls on his cell phone and PRESTO! A guy who should have fallen to round two at the earliest was gone before round one was up. More money for everyone, nevermind the fact that McGahee played in exactly no games his rookie season because of said knee injury.
He’s doing it now, too, with Minnesota Vikings wideout Sidney Rice. Rice hasn’t practiced at all during camp with an alleged hip injury, yet to read various media reports here in the Twin Cities, it sounds like some within the organization don’t think the injury is that bad at all. No, it has nothing to do with the fact that Rice is coming off a season in which he recorded 83 catches for 1,312 yards and eight touchdowns, yet is only scheduled to earn $550,000 this year. Nope – nothing at all.
Quite honestly, I’d have a great deal more respect for Bigby if he just said the following:
“You know what, guys? I’m busted. I tried to hide the injury because I wanted more money. The team called my bluff, the money didn’t come, I had to show up and the injury got exposed. I got bad advice, completely overplayed my hand and now the team could be hurt, as a result. It was stupid of me and I apologize.”
They never say that, though, do they?
Now, compare what Bigby’s going through to the various struggles of Al Harris. Harris, who in 2008 told the team to remove his injured spleen so he wouldn’t have to miss any time (sorry, I know I mentioned this Wednesday, too, but I think it speaks volumes), has spent the offseason vigorously rehabbing his destroyed knee in order to live up to his pledge that he’d be ready for opening day.
You could point to Harris’ contract security and salary – he’ll make $2.5 million this year, the fourth year of a five-year, $17.8 million extension he signed in 2007 – and Bigby’s lack of those luxuries as a reason for the disparity in urgency between the two. Is there some truth in there? Yeah, a little bit.
But, to me, it’s more than that. It’s about a desire to play, a desire to win, a desire to not let the other guys down. Harris has that; Bigby doesn’t. Sure, the players publicly say they understand such situations as part of the “business” of football, but privately, you know they feel differently. They’re there. They showed up. They’re working. Why isn’t he?
And I’m no fool, either. I understand the pending labor unrest plays a part in all of this; guys are trying to get the money now before the salary landscape is potentially altered for years to come.
Of course, there’s the nagging optimist in me that says this team has a shot to be great, a shot to win the whole damn thing. Wouldn’t you want to do all you could to be a part of that, money be damned? Besides, even if the landscape is altered, if you’re a key player on a world championship squad – something Bigby could be if he returns to his ‘07 form – someone will pay you.
“Super Bowl or die” has become the rallying cry for the 2010 Packers. Nick Barnett’s even had t-shirts made that you can buy.
Let’s get Bigby his own shirt: “Super Bowl or die…as long as I get mine first.”