Today the NFL preseason finally ends, and all the NFL players who were terrified of being bullied into a pay cut can finally exhale.
Background: On August 22, the 49ers signed Seneca Wallace to a one-year deal, supposedly to try out for the backup quarterback position. But now Wallace alleges he was not invited to actually compete for the job. He says he was used by the 49ers as leverage to manipulate current backup Colt McCoy into taking a pay cut. Welcome to the NFL preseason, where the games mean nothing, except if they are mind games.
This accusation by Wallace appears surprisingly credible.
That is because on August 26, McCoy mysteriously agreed to have his salary for 2013 reduced from $1.5 million to $630,000. Then the next day, Harbaugh announced, “I feel real good right now that Colt’s the backup” and Wallace was out.
In the NFL, no contract is guaranteed. In a legal contract, both sides follow terms that are agreed upon and documented. But not in the NFL. An NFL player can be cut at any time for pretty much any reason. For example, Mike Patterson of the Eagles had a seizure and then got cut. If someone is hurt due to team activities, then an injury settlement must be made. However, the only money an NFL player will get for sure is the amount of his signing bonus. This is in stark contrast to baseball and basketball where teams have to pay every cent of a contract for its entire duration. The fact that football is more dangerous is an insight into how poorly the NFL players’ union has represented them compared to other sports; or more to the point, how much more powerful the NFL is than other professional sports leagues.
Anyhow, it was McCoy’s lucky day, because he still has the opportunity to make up the difference of his pay cut if he suits up for each game. So let me get this right. In McCoy’s original contract, the 49ers could cut McCoy at any time and owe him nothing. All power to the 49ers. Well surprise, the 49ers actually found a way to become even more powerful. Now McCoy has to wait until the weekly active roster is determined each week to see if he gets the pay that had been guaranteed by his first contract. I’m now waiting for week ten, when the 49ers re-restructure the contract and make McCoy buy a game ticket from the 49ers so he can go play in the game.
If this type of power play feels familiar to you, then you must be an NFL season ticket holder. It’s not just Seneca Wallace and Colt McCoy who are being pushed around. The preseason is feeding time for the NFL to flex its power vs. customers and employees.
In order to become an NFL season ticket holder, each season ticket holder for any NFL team must purchase all preseason games at approximately full season price. There are two home preseason games and eight regular season games, so NFL teams successfully force their customers to spend an extra 25% on something most fans want no part of. It’s like making the condition that someone who wants to buy a Cadillac must also purchase two weekends in traffic school.
The NFL preseason could not be more different from baseball spring training. Spring training is held at a sun-filled vacation destination, with nobody putting anybody in a head lock to make them buy tickets. And spring training tickets are priced much below major league prices. Unlike the NFL preseason, where the stars play only a series or two, big name baseball players often play the whole game. Spring training is a celebration of baseball and the coming of summer. It feels relaxed, while the NFL preseason feels more like an overhyped B grade spy novel.
In this story, Seneca Wallace gets the satisfaction of taking some revenge against the 49ers. He signed with the Packers the next week. The Packers, who are first week opponent of the 49ers, will learn what is happening behind enemy lines– including what Wallace knows about the 49ers game plan for their first week matchup. Wallace has always taken pride as a player in being a multi-dimensional quarterback. During this preseason he has not gotten a chance to play much football, but he has become a multidimensional benefit for team payroll savings and game planning. The 49ers are not the only victim in this preseason game of chess, as the 49ers went out and signed the Seahawks practice squad receiver Chris Harper for some undercover info.
So let’s celebrate that the NFL preseason is over! Although the 49ers are sure taking it down to the wire with no shame. On September 2, they brought quarterback John Skelton into camp for a try out. We are all now waiting for the other shoe to drop to see which current quarterback gets squeezed and takes a paycut. Are the 49ers after B.J Daniels on the practice squad now?