During a momentary twist-off of the salary cap, NFL GMs are giddily wheeling and dealing like a garage full of fantasy football geeks on draft day. There's no telling what might happen next as typically tight-fisted clubs like the Bears have gone on a spree while characteristically profligate spenders like the Redskins have stood pat. I asked one player who has been the subject of some speculation, San Diego All Pro Linebacker Shawne Merriman, if all this NFL musical chairs is getting to him.
How do like all this wild no-salary-cap spending that's going on?
It's kind of a bind that everybody who came in my year got into. It's about 212 players. We just gotta deal with it and hope for the best. End of the day it's about playing football.
Do you think one of the things that got so out of whack was that owners were paying rookies too much?
I think so. Because whenever a guy comes out of the draft and is unproven and gets that type of money and then you have guys who are proven in the league who aren't getting the same type of money, it creates a problem not just in the locker room but in what we're going through right now with the CBA (collective bargaining agreement). This whole thing is a money issue. That's what it's about. If those problems had already been fixed who knows where we'd be at right now.
When you see prized veterans like Ladainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook and Thomas Jones getting cut for essentially money reasons, how does it make you feel?
It's a part of the business. I'm one of the few that understands that. I'm just here to play football. If I find a five-year deal, my job is to perform for five years. Of course, I'd like to finish out my career with one team but that's not how it is. How it is is it's a business, and that takes precedence over where I want to be.
Then let's talk business. Antonio Cromartie, Ladainian Tomlinson - two former Chargers teammates of yours with Pro Bowl resumes - recently signed with the New York Jets. When are you headed to New York?
Let me tell you something it'd be great to play out there. I'm an East Coast kid. So to be back out on the east coast would be great. I love the San Diego weather and winning, but it'd be great to play on the East Coast.
Let's just keep this between us, but which team under no circumstances would you not want to join?
(long pause) I'm happy where I'm at.
Amidst the debate over new overtime rules maybe the players could benefit. Here's a proposal for the NFLPA: Just like it is for most other Americans if you work OT you get paid time-and-a-half.
We know that won't be the case.
Doesn't that make sense? You play an extra 15 minutes you should get paid extra.
It would make sense if they took away two pre-season games and added two to the regular season and we got paid for those. Now that would make a lot of sense.
All this free agency, players moving around, collective bargaining - it must make you think about how you want your career to end. I read a few weeks ago about Allen Iverson finding out on the same day that an injury ended his season and likely career and his wife filed for divorce. Can you think of worse last day at work than that?
No it doesn't get too much worse than that. But I don't think in that way. My thoughts are all always positive. I don't worry about my career after football. I'm still one of the only active players to have had my own TV show, pro football talk on FOX. I had several radio deals with Clear Channel, and still do. I enjoy talking about the game that I love playing. I'll be doing much more of that when I'm done with football as a player.
I read on your twitter site, www.twitter.com/shawnemerriman, that you're into the WWE. Promise me you won't go into professional wrestling.
No, I just like kicking ass. I don't know about the wrestling thing so much. It's a possibility though. It's been there for while.
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