Money will drive Holmes’ career plans
Bruises are a lot like the concept of playing sports for the love of the game: They go away.
Priest Holmes, as best we can tell, has a bruise/injury that is affecting his back or spine. If you play football (or just about any sport) long enough, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll suffer an injury that causes discomfort in your back.
Mike Sweeney has been playing baseball with back pain for the last few years. I’m sure there are doctors who would tell Sweeney he’s foolish for continuing to play. An honest doctor would tell any athlete that it’s foolish to play football at all. Every football player — high school, collegian or pro — is always one violent collision away from being carried off the field.
I mention this because I listened to Carl Peterson’s and Dick Vermeil’s impromptu press conference discussing Holmes’ latest season-ending injury, and I understand their reluctance to label Holmes’ injury as career-ending.
“At this time, we consider this not to be a career-ending injury,” Peterson said.
Bruises go away. Contracts don’t. So the Chiefs have placed Holmes on injured reserve and announced their intention to have him re-examined in 30 days. Peterson said that doctors have led him to believe that Holmes will completely recover.
Of course, that doesn’t mean Holmes will play football again.
As I listened to Peterson and Vermeil on Wednesday afternoon, I heard two football businessmen justifiably posturing. They were respectful and supportive of Holmes, but they accurately painted the picture that if Holmes exits the NFL after this season, it should be viewed as a voluntary retirement … unless doctors find a more significant injury.
And if Holmes retires, the Chiefs would have a right to ask for a portion of the bonus money they committed to Holmes before the 2003 season. If Holmes suffered a football-related injury that prevented him from playing again, then the Chiefs couldn’t ask for a return of their money.
My take, and this is purely opinion, is that Holmes wants to walk away from football as long as he can get out with all of his money. Holmes has always been more businessman than football player. Holmes has never had the kind of deep, Ray Lewis, Mike Maslowski love of football.
What drove Holmes his first two years in Kansas City was his desire to land a new, restructured contract. After one year in Kansas City, he dumped his agent, signed a new one and started asking the Chiefs for more money. He landed a new deal before his third season in KC, and he put together a record-breaking year to justify the new deal.
Since then, Holmes has struggled with motivation, contemplated retirement and been a total mystery to Vermeil and Peterson. They have no idea what he’s thinking day to day. On Wednesday, Vermeil was reduced to quoting Holmes’ father about Holmes’ injury. Vermeil blamed the local media for Holmes’ enigmatic behavior concerning this latest season-ending injury.
My belief is Holmes has proved all he wants to prove as it relates to football. He won a Super Bowl with Baltimore. He established himself as a great player in Kansas City. He got paid.
At age 32 and with no more new-contract leverage thanks to Larry Johnson, Holmes would much rather munch nachos in a stadium suite than practice three hours a day with Vermeil. Holmes is not much different from his old Texas teammate Ricky Williams. They play football because they’re good at it, not because they love the game.
I’m not trying to belittle the potential significance of Holmes’ health concerns. But when you play football, you get bruised everywhere and you ignore the risk. My roommate in college, a 160-pound cornerback, hurt his neck and shoulder in a game his junior year, and his left arm was paralyzed for 10 days. Doctors suggested that he shouldn’t play his senior year. He started and played every game.
I’m sure there are doctors who think Tedy Bruschi is crazy, playing nine months after suffering a stroke.
The Chiefs should just move on and acknowledge that Holmes somewhat outsmarted them at the negotiating table before the 2003 season. And we should all give Carl Peterson credit for drafting Larry Johnson. Maybe Carl had Holmes figured out long ago.