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The Pain, Anguish and "Sacrifices" that Some Athletes have to Endure with their Contract Situations

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On Thursday, it was announced that Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins agreed to a 12 year, $104.4 million contract extension that will keep the star hockey player in Pittsburgh until the year 2025.

It is a whopper of a deal, but it's no surprise since Crosby is still only 24, hasn't reached his prime years yet, and is already considered by many to be the best player in the NHL. But if you listened to a lot of sports talk radio over the past few days, you'd think that the Penguins got one heck of a bargain and that Crosby made a huge sacrifice by signing this deal. The $8.7 million that the contract will average annually will be the same as Crosby's current deal.

Considering Crosby's status as hockey's best player, many thought it was admirable that he didn't try to go for the maximum NHL annual salary of $14 million.

Yes, Crosby may have cost himself upwards of around $60 million over the next 12 seasons by making this huge "sacrifice," but I find it hard to feel any sorrow for the lad. He's already a millionaire 100 times over, and he is going to collect another $104.4 million by the time he's in his late 30's. I'm guessing he's going to be OK; I don't think there will be any food drives for him anytime soon.

Don't get me wrong. I understand that, in the world of sports where most athletes keep score with their bank accounts and will sign just about anywhere that pays them top dollar, what Crosby is doing may be considered a sacrifice. What he did helped his team a great deal. It frees up cap space for the Penguins and enables them to go after some top free agent talent. And in the end, this might actually make them a better team if they can sign a winger such as Zach Parise.

But it does get a little annoying when I hear about the great "sacrifice" because when it comes to stuff like that, I really feel a disconnect with the professional athlete.

Even with the Steelers, it irks me when I hear that so and so decided to be a real team player by restructuring his contract so the team could make more room under the salary cap. In most cases, when a football player restructures his contract, the only thing that happens is the language is altered so that how and when the player gets paid changes. It doesn't really hurt the player, and it's not as much of a sacrifice as people make it out to be. Maybe some players get screwed over by this, but usually, the ones who are asked to restructure their deals are among the highest paid players on the team, and therefore probably already have a few million stashed away in the bank.

Alright, that was the "sacrifice" portion of this piece.

What makes me even more irritated is when I hear about professional athletes who had to endure the "pain" and "anguish" of a contract negotiation. You see this every season in every sport. Often, the player will be interviewed about his contract situation, and he'll say something like, "It's been difficult. All I want is to be treated fairly. The sooner this gets done, the sooner I'll be able to put it all behind me and get on with my life."

That isn't an exact quote from any particular athlete, but I'm sure I've read it word-for-word a thousand times over.

Speaking of difficult ordeals, last season, former Browns running back Peyton Hillis was going through so much "hell" over his contract status with his old team, it hurt his ability to function the way he did the year before.

Hillis was only making $600,000 in the last year of his rookie contract, and I guess the thoughts of poverty and being treated "unfairly" by his employers were just too much for him.

Hillis signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs for the upcoming 2012 season, and I don't know how much his new contract will pay him, but because of his hellish 2011 campaign, I'm pretty sure it's around the same as what the Browns were paying him. If that's the case, I hope poor Peyton can find a way to get through another "hellish" season of only making a six-figure salary.

If he can endure that and perform like he did two seasons ago, he'll probably be able to sign a multi-year contract worth seven-figures a season. If that happens, Hillis can then put that whole "$600,000" ordeal behind him.

I get that professional athletes are just like everyone else, and in their world, maybe turning down millions to stay with their current team is a sacrifice. And, maybe, the prospect of getting a new contract done might be a daunting and stressful process.

But, when you look at the big picture..........I will gladly pay these professional athletes Tuesday for some perspective today.