Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Boss Ross seems a proper role model for K2

Once again last Friday, I forgot about my general manager Pete's super hero hearing. I was reading aloud Ross Verba's quotes in May Kay Cabot's Plain Dealer article to my co-workers. I couldn't see Pete but apparently he heard me.
"That's ridiculous," Pete yelled from the shadows. "They should cut him. Get him off the team now."
I know Pete's strong feelings come from more than just being a general manager. GMs always have to have the big picture in mind. They don't want to hear public quibbiles about money. Go out and do your job the best you can. They don't want to hear about how you haven't had a raise in over two years and are the lowest paid sports editor in the country … err I mean left tackle.
I think it is important in any job to have confidence. Ross Verba has a lot of it. He believes he is one of the best left tackles in the game and wants to be paid like it.
So Verba's solution is to continue working out at the Brown's facility but to skip the voluntary passing camp. The one where a new quarterback, two new guards, a new starting running back, a rookie wide reciever and the rest of his teammates are learning a brand new offense.
See, Verba wants his Benjamins. And I believe it is this statement that really got Pete's ire, and I am imagining many of yours as well.
"I played last year for nothing and I just want to be treated fairly," Verba told Cabot. "If not, I'm not coming into camp and I won't play the season."
So Verba was paid nothing last year, is that right? The year the Browns went 4-12 and were horrible on offense. It came on the heels of a dreadful 5-11 2004 season that started to go down the tubes when Verba injured himself in the weight room, not on the field, and missed the entire year. The year he was paid $4 million to do nothing.
Coming off the injury, Verba restructured his deal to get a base salary of $535,000 in 2004 and then $2.925 million in each of the next two years. He said the Browns management (all of whom are getting fat checks for actually doing nothing and are now gone) promised to tear up the deal.
"I really only wanted a one-year deal, but they wanted me to sign the three-year so my cap number would've been even lower," Cabot quoted Verba "I agreed. But they told me if I played last year for $535,000, they'd take care of me. That's what I want them to do."
Verba's most famous quote came before the first game last season. He was referring to Kellen Winslow Jr.
"He's the best tight end in the history of the NFL. I'm serious who better than him? Don't even say (Mark) Bavaro."
So at least we know Verba isn't prone to exageration. When he says something is true, we know that is exactly how it is.
Of course, when Verba restructured his deal, he didn't give up any money. He just agreed to take it later. He also didn't give back any of his original signing bonus or any of the $4 million he made during the season he didn't play. He claims he only made $535,000 last year, but he leaves out the $2.75 million dollar signing bonus he got for restructuring and the $465,000 roster bonus he got this year. Before the holdout, he was due $200,000 as a workout bonus. Hmmm, I am not a math major but it seems like Verba received around 4 million bucks for last year.
He wants a contract that averages between $6 and 7 million annually. Verba is about himself. He left the Packers and Brett Farve and shots at another Super Bowl for a four-year, $16 million contract with the Browns in 2001.
We can all understand the feeling of being underpaid compared to what we feel is a worthy competitor's salary. But this weekend on WTAM, Verba did the ultimate sports paradox. He told Mike Synder he wanted to be a leader for this team but not unless he got his first.
How does boycotting a passing camp designed to quicken the bonding of an offense that is nearly 50 percent new show leadership? Verba is no stranger to holdouts. He infuriated then Packers coach Mike Holmgren when he missed over three weeks the year he was a first round pick.
Verba, it seems, also believes he is owed the money because he has cleaned up his act. Last year, he embarrassed the Browns when his home in Strongsville made headlines twice. That story was well documented in March 16's Scene which can still be found online. Verba claims his partying days are over.
"I've toned it down off the field and I've moved out to the country," he told Cabot. "I've been here every day for the off-season program. Now I just want to get paid."
He also got paid for showing up every day. And in case you missed it the first time, this Browns leader is lifting weights every day with his teammates, but when it comes time to walk over to the practice field, he just doesn't show up.
Then there is the quote in May 23’s Sports Illustrated. Apparently he backed some winning golfers and won over a million and half dollars. So he was quoted as saying “I’m up a million. I’m definetly holding out now.”
Verba has told any reporter who asks him, if he doesn't get paid then he won't play. He told WTAM and others that if the Browns don't want to restructure then he wants to get cut.
I am sure many of you like Pete say give him his wish. I disagree. Don't cut him. Don't do anything. Do we need a left tackle? Yes we do. But at what cost? Let him sit out and really make nothing. Fine him every day and go after his singing bonus.
Six months doesn't make you a solid citizien. And one season of starting every game for a bad football team doesn't make you a pro bowler.
Want to be a leader? Want to get paid? It starts with showing up on the field with your teammates and not just in the weight room.
Verba claims that is what he wants.
"I don't want to hold out," he was quoted as saying. "I want to play. My friend [guard] Joe Andruzzi is here and I'm looking forward to playing with him. I'm looking forward to playing with Trent Dilfer. . . . But I told myself when I came into the league that I'd be treated fairly."
Fairly. Now that's funny.