Work in Sports
Tigers by the tail
Bengals seek loyalty clause in new contracts
Posted: Monday June 12, 2000 11:01 AM
CINCINNATI (AP) -- The Cincinnati Bengals are trying to include a loyalty clause in new player contracts to avoid another situation like last year when wide receiver Carl Pickens teed off on coach Bruce Coslet in public.
Players who agree to the clause would have to pay back part of their signing bonus if they publicly criticize teammates, management or, like Pickens, the coach, who has a 21-35 record since taking over during the 1996 season.
"A year ago, we signed Carl to a huge contract and we didn't feel like what he did was something that any company would have accepted," Bengals president Mike Brown told The Cincinnati Post.
Pickens is the Bengals' all-time leading receiver. He held out last year, finally signing a five-year deal worth $23.25 million three days before the season opener.
Although he seldom talked to reporters, he summoned them to his locker when the season ended to express amazement that the Bengals would bring Coslet back for another year, as Brown had announced.
The Bengals are waiting to resolve a grievance with the NFL Players Association to release Pickens.
"We don't want to go through the kind of situation we went through with Carl," Brown said. "And we feel the players, who are the club's employees, should be loyal to the team."
Brown said the clause is only meant to be enacted under extreme circumstances.
Players "are free to talk internally, and they know that," he said. "And I would tell you that we aren't looking to restrict players' conversations unreasonably."
Offensive tackle Willie Anderson agreed to the clause as part of the six-year, $30.6 million contract extension he signed last month. A violation could cost him some of his $8 million signing bonus.
The clause is going to cut the media short, Anderson said. "You're not going to get a lot of answers. Guys are going to be like, 'Hey, I don't want to (lose any money).'"
Agents for some unsigned players chosen in the 2000 draft are balking at the clause, which was not part of the contracts signed by first-round draft pick Peter Warrick and free agents Vaughn Booker and Tom Barndt.
But Anderson's agent, Terry Bolar, expects it to become standard throughout the league.
"I think a lot of teams are moving in that direction," he said.
Anderson said it's not entirely clear what constitutes a violation.
Pickens' agent, Steve Zucker, was amused by Brown's move.
"I have to give Mike credit," Zucker said. "It's inventive."
Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, an NFL team can fine a player one week's salary and suspend him without pay for up to four weeks for any action the club considers detrimental to the team.
Ball hired to guide current playersCINCINNATI -- The Bengals, moving to try and keep their players from making off-field mistakes, have hired former Bengals running back Eric Ball to help guide current players in their life decisions and continuing education.
As director of player development and community relations, Ball will offer Bengals players advice and services in life skills and non-football career development, the team announced Sunday.
Ball, 33, played for the Bengals from 1989 to 1994 after the team drafted him in the second round in 1989 from UCLA. He finished his NFL career in 1995 with the Raiders.
Since then, Ball has worked for a Cincinnati bank and for a private partnership in property investing.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to get back into the game of pro football," Ball said. "I'm going to share my experiences with our players, and I think I can relate to their needs because I've been there."
The NFL received a barrage of bad publicity during the off-season after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was charged with murder in connection with two Atlanta slayings and former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Rae Carruth was charged with murder in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend.
The murder and assault charges against Lewis were dropped last week when he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and agreed to testify about what he saw during a post-Super Bowl fight that led to the killings. Carruth still faces the charge in his case.
Some Bengals players have had high-profile problems through the years: