Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs

The decisions handed down in the grievances filed by the NFL Players Association against the league that involved the contracts and payments to Larry Johnson and Plaxico Burress will reverberate for a long time in the league.

Special Master Richard Burbank’s rulings that were announced on Monday basically made it impossible for teams to seek paybacks from players who are not available to play because of their actions off the field.

Get arrested, get suspended, make yourself unavailable for the team that paid you millions of dollars and that’s OK, according to Burbank’s decision. His ruling basically means that once a player receives a bonus, there’s no way for the team to get that money back, even if the player is not around to hold up his end of the bargain by playing.

The only reason the Chiefs were able to win the bigger part of their situation with Johnson was two-fold. One, the money had not yet been paid. It was tied up in guaranteed portions of his base salary in 2009 and 2010 and Burbank ruled that was different than money already paid. Plus, Johnson’s contract contained specific language that he would forfeit the guaranteed money if he were unavailable because of a league suspension.

Johnson did get back the pro-rata portion of his signing bonus that he lost for missing four games (three on team suspension/one on league suspension.) Burbank again ruled that the money was already paid, so Johnson could not be penalized.

Ultimately, Burbank ruling means that once a team pays, it has no way to redress a player’s absence for something other than injury.

If that sounds cockeyed, if that sounds like it’s not fair, if that sounds just wrong, then join the club. Not surprisingly, the NFLPA celebrated the ruling.

“This decision is a real win for the players,” said the NFLPA’s new executive director DeMaurice Smith.  “It means that clubs can’t impose additional discipline by claiming back signing or roster bonus monies after a suspension, either by a club or the league.  The CBA clause they argued from in this case was not intended to apply to suspensions, but instead to cases where a player is holding out from training camp or otherwise refusing to perform.  We are very pleased that Mr. Burbank agreed with our position.”

So a team can go after bonus money paid to a holdout, but not to someone who is suspended and can’t play. Either way, the team loses out on the performance of the player. Why there should be a difference is something that’s hard to understand.

Certainly the league was having that problem on Monday.

“Today’s decision by Professor Burbank again underscores a serious flaw in the current system,” read a statement that was released by the league. “It continues an unfortunate trend of permitting players who are suspended due to serious misconduct to nonetheless retain large bonus payments from their NFL teams.  When clubs pay upfront bonuses as part of a long-term deal, they do it on the assumption that the player’s ability to play will not be limited by his own unlawful activities.

“For that reason, the Plaxico Burress and Larry Johnson contracts expressly provided that a portion of their bonuses would be repaid if the player was unable to perform due to his own misconduct, as was the case for both players last year.  Today’s decision incorrectly holds that the current CBA bars such provisions.  To permit players in these circumstances to retain the entirety of their bonuses, representing millions of dollars, is unfair to both clubs and other players, especially under the current salary cap system.”

The league can appeal this decision, but the appeal would be heard by Judge David Doty, who in the past has shown he favors the NFLPA view of things. It was Doty who overturned the ruling by a special master on Michael Vick’s signing bonus. The NFL did appeal that case and it’s infront of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

You can bet that the NFL owners will not rest in the coming collective bargaining agreements until they have some way to get back money from players who fail to show up due to their own off-field actions.


The question now is just what are the Chiefs plans are for Johnson?

There have been published reports that if the Chiefs prevailed in the grievance they would release the running back.  As of last night, he was still on the roster.

Releasing Johnson is not necessarily the next logical step.  Releasing him now wouldn’t accomplish anything but get him out of the building.  If that’s what Pioli/Haley want, then he will be released fairly quickly.

But there’s really no reason to make that move at this time. It would also seem to go against some of the things that Pioli/Haley have said since arriving in the building. They want players who want to be with the Chiefs. Johnson has wavered on his desire to be gone, asking to be released earlier in the year, but no supposedly changing his mind according to his new agent Peter Schaeffer. Haley has also said that players have a clean slate with the new regime.

There’s nothing to be gained for the Chiefs to release Johnson at this time.

There’s likely more to come with Johnson. After his guilty pleas in two charges against him, it seems likely that Commissioner Roger Goodell will re-visit his situation and is likely to hand down further sanctions. That’s something Goodell said he would do when he gave Johnson a one-game NFL suspension last November.


FALCONS – traded WR Laurent Robinson to the Rams for a swap of drafting positions in the fifth and sixth rounds.

LIONS – re-signed OT George Foster and signed C Dylan Gandy.

RAIDERS – signed QB Jeff Garcia (Tampa Bay).

RAVENS – re-signed CB Samari Rolle.

STEELERS – re-signed LB Keyaron Fox.

VIKINGS - restricted free agent DT Fred Evans signed his tender offer.


Born on April 7, 1954 in Thomasville, Georgia was S Herb Christopher. He played four seasons with the Chiefs (1979-82) out of Morris Brown College. Christopher appeared in 50 games with 24 starts at strong safety during the 1979-80 seasons. He had four interceptions.

21 Responses to “Tuesday Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • April 7, 2009  - Merwin says:

    Well then I guess it’s just as well that the league voted out of the CBA. This is an issue that needs to be addressed in the next CBA. I feel all the money that’s paid out in signing bonus’s is just not right. It should all be paid for how you play and how you perform on the field. All this guaranteed money is just not the right way to pay any employee. And for the judges to stand up for the players is giving them the wrong message, that no matter what you do, you still get paid. No wonder there is so much trouble in this country, no one is accountable for their actions. If I’m arrested and can’t be at work, I get fired, these players get a big bonus for bad off the field activities. And they actually extend their careers by being able to play longer. It’s just not right!

  • April 7, 2009  - MenInRed says:

    With Pioli/Haley in charge it’s unsure whats to come, but if Carl/Herm was still here I wouldn’t put it past them to hold-on to LJ all the way up to the final cut down or when said money’s would have to be paid dead line. Even though LJ was King Carl’s boy, just to teach LJ a leason and make the late release hard for him to find a team to play for if any at all this year.

    I think teams should put “OUTS” in all future contracts of players moven forward. Added pay back cluases of the said bonuses as well and that would put an end to all thats been going on. If it’s in writing and signed by all parties to be then theres no room debate. Case Closed!

    18 Days tell the draft and some more of:

    “THE RIGHT 53″

  • April 7, 2009  - Harold C. says:

    Teams simply just need to change the way they hand out bonuses. They need to hold the money back and make it payable after the player has done his part. Maybe make it payable in portions. After a player has played so many games he gets that percentage of the signing bonus. Or…if money MUST be paid up front then only pay a fraction of it at a time…as time goes on so that if the player is unable to perform at some point the team can save some of the money at least. The possibilities are endless….if I understand things correctly they can work around this if they want to.

  • April 7, 2009  - findthedr says:

    LJ isnt worth $4.5 million this yr.

  • April 7, 2009  - Mike says:

    I agree, I think teams should pay the “bonus” money out over the time of the contract rather than all upfront. The teams should also make sure the language in the contract takes away the remaining guaranteed money if the player violates the conduct policy, just like LJ’s contract. If they haven’t been paid the “bonus money”, the player hasn’t “earned” it.

  • April 7, 2009  - Scott says:

    findthedr says:
    “LJ isnt worth $4.5 million this yr”

    I think it’s $3.5 mil. And he’s not worth that, either…I don’t think.

    Problem is, if he’s gone (which I think he will be)…then that’s just one more position to fill somehow.

    Until we get some better blocking up front…it doesn’t matter WHO is running the ball, really.

  • April 7, 2009  - colby says:

    Bob is dead wrong on this one. This decision isn’t “cockeyed” Bob. In baseball, 100% of the contracts are guaranteed. Personally, I think that’s ridiculous. In the NFL as we all know, the contracts are not guaranteed, and that’s why players always try to get as big of a signing bonus as possible. If the team that rolls the dice on a player by giving him a big bonus gets to swoop in and take their money back if a player gets hurt or suspended or whatever, then the player basically has no guarantees period. Merwin points out that if he gets arrested and can’t work as a result, he gets fired and no longer gets paid. That’s true, but they aren’t going to come after him and take back his Christmas bonus he got six months prior either! (hypothetical, I don’t know if Merwin gets a bonus or not) That money was paid a long time ago. If a team is so worried that a player might get into some sort of trouble then DON’T GIVE HIM A FAT BONUS IN THE FIRST PLACE! Use some freaking discretion owners!

    I know these guys make lots of money and I’m not trying to play my little violin for them. But let’s remember when we chastise the players for being rich, selfish, and irresponsible with their money, that they are getting paid by people who are richer, more selfish, sometimes (in Dan Snyder’s case) much more irresponsible with their money.

  • April 7, 2009  - Double A says:

    The next CBA needs to contain provisions about unlawful activities and, thus, permit teams to re-coup bonuses. Or, teams need to do what Carl smartly did and prorate the allocation of bonuses over the years of the contract.

    I’m hoping the Chiefs trade LJ for a pick (any pick). What are the chances the Chiefs trade LJ, plus a million $$, for a 3 or 4? Thing is, the Chiefs need a pick to draft a replacement RB. Although there are some FA RBs out there that can block a blitzing LB…hmmm.

  • April 7, 2009  - Will H. says:

    Todd Haley stood in front of the team the very first day of “off season conditioning” and proclaimed “everyone has a clean slate.” To trade or release LJ now would make those words hollow and cause irreperable harm in the “trust” factor with the other players. Let’s see if LJ has really changed his attitude (along with his new advisor) and if that starts showing up in the workouts and OTAs. He actually might be worth the 3.5 mil if he’s healthy and changes a significant portion of his beliefs. We’ll see!

  • April 7, 2009  - Redcoater says:

    I agree with what is being said to not give them the keys to the team bank right off, but these bonuses are also the way teams work around not getting such a big cap hit are they not? Yes I think the player should have to earn his due.. We do have 2 things to be happy about in all this. One, not tooting the carl horn, but he was shrude enough to get that into Larrys contract. Two I think Mr. P. is a very good contract man as well, whens the last time you herd of New England getting shafted in a contract deal? We are safe I think.


  • April 7, 2009  - Enrique says:

    Kudos to Colby on his take and it should surprise no one the ruling that eventually panned out. First of all, the league SHOULD be HAPPY with the decision the Special Master handed out because that’s the way they have operated in recent instances; for example: take Denver. The Broncos blatantly circunvented the Salary Cap during their Super Bowl years and, did the punishment for violating a disposition that applies to every team cost them their Lombardis? Absolutely not, because what was past is past. Take the Patriots. They obviously broke league rules by taping opponents signals in the games leading to their championship runs, and, did the Patriots forfeited their Super Bowl victories even though they were found guilty as well? Heck no. Again because as Mark McGwire said, we’re not here to talk about the past, nonetheless this examples showed clear transgressions from outside the hashmarks in order to gain an edge on the playing field. Same as with the Larry Johnson case in which something outside the gridiron causes him to miss time inside the white lines. I’m not saying that this is right nor I’m defending Johnson, but this ruling is all about not opening a can of worms disguised as a proverbial coulda-shoulda-woulda. After all, no one was after Johnson’s money until he stopped carrying the pigskin. That’s where Colby’s point hits a home run and maybe why the Chiefs should have not re-signed him in the first place.

  • April 7, 2009  - alex k says:

    Looked over a few games from last year that are taped to my Satelite…and I must say, larry can still help someone, just not the Kansas City Chiefs…his comments at the end of the year were just so over the top.

    Im tired of him, personally I love that Charles is our speed guy, and he has the ability to be a chris johnson type with just a few less carries…At least Charles can block, people talk of how Larry is a bruiser…well then how is Charles more physical in the pass blocking game? Heart.

  • April 7, 2009  - colby says:

    I’m just going to add a hypothetical here because I feel pretty strongly about this.

    Say a player signs a 5 year, 50 million dollar contract with a 15 million dollar signing bonus. The remainder due is 35 mil over 5 years. Say the player plays for two seasons and then gets arrested and thrown in jail for a year (a la Vick and potentially Burress). The team will most certainly end up cutting the player and the three years 21 mil left on his deal becomes null and void. The team does not have to honor the “contract”. They should then have NO RIGHT, no matter how awful a human being the player may be, to try and go after a chunk of his original bonus as well. Signing bonuses give players the assurance that they will at least make that much money and teams need to be careful who they commit large chunks of upfront cash to. In this scenario, the team is already off the hook for 21 million dollars, leave the dumbass in jail alone! You made a bad investment…live with it!

    LJ’s contract was obviously a unique sitiuation because his bonus was spread out over the course of the deal. Kudos to Carl on that one. If there was one thing Carl did well, it was manage the cap and even though the LJ signing was foolish, (should have traded him to GB for a 1st and 4th back in 2007) this provision he wrote in really saved the Chiefs organization a lot of money.

  • April 7, 2009  - Johnfromfairfax says:

    Colby has a great take on this. One of the main points factoring into the signing bonus is the fact it’s the only guaranteed money a player receives. If the player has all the talent in the world and signs a 100 million dollar contract only to get injured so badly in the first practice that he can never play again he is only entitled to the money in signing bonus and for that year depending on the date. I’ll add another hypothetical. This is a violent sport with no guarantees and I it’s probably not fair to hold the players responsible (even the idiots and miscreants) for getting all they can out of the owners who negotiate and pay the big bucks. The players realize they’re a replaceable commodity and who ever heard of an owner honoring the remaining years of a multi-million dollar contract of an injured player when they can no longer do anything for the club. . It’s a performance driven entertainment business and if you look at some of the money other entertainers in other fields earn in one performance (without any of the long term health issues these guys risk) it changes your perspective. Performance bonuses and a rookie cap would rectify some of the issues but I’m not sure there is a simple solution. As for LJ, despite the fact he now wants to be a Chief (gee, I wonder why the sudden change of heart?) it’s too little too late. I could care less what they do with him and only hope we can get anything for him when he goes.

  • April 7, 2009  - Merwin says:

    Colby, I got a thanksgiving bonus in the form of a pink slip due to the company running out of work! So it’s tough for me to see where these guys get to keep all their money. I believe, either the teams don’t give out the big signing bonuses which then become fully guaranteed according to the special masters. Or the league now needs to include in the new CBA, whereby if a player holds out, is injured or gets into trouble and gets arrested or suspended, then they will lose their money. Other wise the special masters are saying the signing and guaranteed money is the players to keep. It will be interesting to see how teams structure this years players contracts to try to hold players accountable. In the 1960′s the teams were able to hold players accountable, now that the agents are holding players responsible, they get the big signing bonuses so no matter what they still get their money, and that’s not right!

  • April 7, 2009  - colby says:

    Sorry to hear about that Merwin. What a rotten economy for us little guys! I do agree that if a player is holding out and refusing to practice/play, that the team would then have a right to recoup a portion of that bonus money, but ONLY then. DeMaurice Smith mentions that about players holding out in Bob’s above article. And, as johnfromfairfax points out, if a player is injured, an incident that is of no one’s fault, the owners are not on the hook for the millions of dollars they may have been, so the players should have the right to keep their signing bonuses no matter what in my opinion.

    I understand where you’re coming from, I’m just siding with the Player’s Union on this one…..something I usually don’t do.

  • April 7, 2009  - SG says:

    I foresee one or two more holdouts this summer as teams drastically lower the guaranteed money or restructure the way those contracts are set up.

  • April 7, 2009  - Mark says:

    Great point Will H.. IF LJ’s really ALL IN, as it appears, then Haley’s words are the proving ground of clean slate, and cutting him would violate that trust.

  • April 7, 2009  - RedandGoldRice says:

    Here’s a different angle to the question.

    Why is it so hard for NFL players to comprehend that all they have to do is keep their noses clean for the 10-12 years that they play in the NFL? (Rickey Williams comes to mind here. Pacman too.)

    Play out your contracts, make your millions, and then if you want to be a total screw up, by all means, screw up. Want to take an illeagal gun to a night club and shoot yourself in the leg? Be my guest. Punk some girl out in public to show everyone how big and bad you are? Have at her. “Make it rain” for a bunch of strippers, but not let them keep it? You’re a dumb-a$$, but ok. Just wait til you’ve finished your career in Pro sports.

    I work in a union, but not because I was searching out employers that had unions as a part of the work force. IMO, part of what unions provide are protection for lazy people who don’t want to work, and in the NFL’s case they’re protecting the players that won’t take responsibility for their own actions.

  • April 7, 2009  - Merwin says:

    I understand what you are saying Colby, and I think in the past the teams have frowned on certain behavior (such as skydiving or bungee jumping). But if a player gets arrested for a crime that is truly against the law like Mr. Vick or Pacman Jones and continue to flaunt the law then IMO the teams should have a recourse to recoup some of that money. This just seems a fair system so the players have second thoughts about brazenly braking the law without consequences. I still think this is a good thing to visit in the next CBA.

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