I haven't felt compelled to comment on many of the non-Steelers related offseason happenings dominating the banter of NFL fans around the league. I would one day like to reflect on what Brett Favre was able to accomplish, and what he meant to me as a fan, and to the league and game of football as a whole. Now isn't the time for me and I felt no need to force anything contrived down anyone's throat when there was ample Steelers fodder in the trough for us to chew on. But other than the great Brett Favre's somewhat stunning decision to finally hang it up, not much has caught my attention.
This did however, even though it will likely have little to no impact on the 2008 NFL season, or on any season in the near future while we're at it.
I'm talking about the signing of Trent Green by the St. Louis Rams to a 3-year deal, worth nearly $9 million dollars. More than $2 million of that comes guranteed in the form of a signing bonus. Trent Green just got signed for 37.5% as long as Ben Roethlisberger and for roughly 8% or 9% as much money. I know we can argue about the structures of contracts and how few get lived out in their entireity. St. Louis may very well be viewing this as a 1-year trial run for a couple million with a contigency plan to cut him after '08 barring an unforseeable development. But on paper, that's how the two contracts compare.
This is dead money spent by the Rams in my mind, even if they're only locked in to roughly a quarter of the entire $8-9 million in the contract. And more importantly, as I'll comment on later, it's a dangerously risky move on Green's part. The reason it's dead money for St. Louis is because there's simply no way Trent Green survives even a paucity of playing time, provided it is not in late-game mop-up duty behind Marc Bulger. If he plays, he gets hurt. That's harsh and debatedbly an erroneous assumption, but after seeing him being served up in recent years, and considering the offensive line he'd be lining up behind, I contend there's little to no chance at all Trent Green would avoid any injury, let alone another frigtening concussion.
There were only 6 teams that surrendered more sacks than the Steelers did in '07. St. Louis was one of them, giving up 48. It's not implausible to think Bulger will get battered and bruised again in '08. If so, it's also not inconceivable that the Rams throw Green into the fire at age 38, wanting to at least get some potential output for the minimum $2+ million they pumped into their investment. The Rams may have courted Green for partially irrational sentimental and sympathetic reasons, but they can't disregard the economics of their decision entirely. If he's there, he'll be expected to be ready for immediate back-up duty (provided he survives camp and the preseason).
Now, let me say that I do not blame Green's decision a priori. I think I would choose otherwise and not risk serious long-term damage to my mental faculties, but I can't be sure. I've never been faced with a multi-million dollar decision. Green's simply making an economic decision based on what he thinks is rational reasoning. I can not blame a man for making an internal caluculation, rolling the dice, and then being willing to accept the (potentially irreperable) consequences thereafter. He simply thinks the reward of at least $2.5 million dollars, plus the potential for another $6 mil or so, outweighs the risk of not only a career-threatening injury (that wouldn't much matter), but a potentially life-threatening or, only slightly better, life-altering injury. The good news is the severity of Green's last concussion, which you can reacquaint yourself with if you choose in the clip below, has turned out to be less serious than originally feared. I'm not a doctor, and I'm not well versed enough in the various degrees of concussions, but I think I know enough to believe that if Greeen suffers another bruise to his brain, he may pay the price for the rest of his life. There's a reason we've been hearing about the campaign to compensante the pioneers of the game with larger pensions and health care packages. The scary thing is we likely only hear about a tiny fraction of the physical and mental suffering now endured by players of year's past. It's a violently dangerous game, and especially in the past, players were/are expected to just man up and keep going. That's great and all as it relates to the toughness and warrior mentality that delineates the narrative of the NFL and it's players. But actually, it's fairly tragic.
It's a fascinating, if not somewhat twisted, dillema that Green is facing, just like countless others have in the past. Steve Young and Troy Aikman, who may not have had quite the need for another financial windfall as Trent Green, decided to hang it up due to prior concussions. Of course, those two would have been asked to be starters, not reserves as Green will be. But still, I bring them up to demonstrate that not every man comes down on the same side of the decision when having to choose betweeen retirement and continuing on for more glory/money/pride/loveofthegame/whatever.
Trent Green has not, and though I vow to never judge a soul for his or her own interpretations of the right and/or wrong thing to do for themselves in each unique circumstance, I can't help but feel sad that Green has made this decision. He's eloquent, engaging, well-liked, and well-connected. He's impressed incumbent journalists with his inisights and relevant first-hand perspective. There's plenty for him to do in other words, be it as a broadcaster, in business, as someone who raises awareness for concussions. Whatever it is he finds interesting and worthwhile.
Instead, Green is heading back out there one last time, hoping to prove to either himself, the world, or some combination of both, that he still has it. One one hand, that's admirable. On the other, it's risky. I'll just leave it at that. I said I wouldn't judge and I will not. If he wins, he's a (even more) rich man. If he loses, he, along with his wife and three kids, may pay a very big and scary price for years to come. That's not drama. That's fact. If it weren't for the outpouring of stories of former players holed up, depressed, physically obliterated, and otherwise totally incapable of living a normal life into old age, I wouldn't even bring it up.
I sure hope Trent Green doesn't find that fate awaiting him after this final go around in the fastest, most violent, and most physically demanding game on the planet.