The NFL brief goes on to state that the Cowboys have circumvented the 1995 cap of $37.1 million by shelling out $40.2 million in bonuses, and it asks that Sanders's $13 million signing bonus be allotted over four seasons ('95 through '98), not seven as it is under the present contract.
The league believes that Jones is playing dirty pool, because he is technically paying Sanders only the veteran's minimum of $178,000 over three years, and though only five years of the seven-year Sanders contract are guaranteed, his bonus is assigned to all seven years. If Jones gets his way, three sevenths of the bonus would be assigned to uncapped years—which begin in 1999 when the collective bargaining agreement expires—even if Sanders is long gone by then. "The destabilizing effects of such a result would be devastating," states the brief. "[It] would turn the NFL into a two-tier league of haves and have-nots."
If the league prevails, the Cowboys will have $1.39 million more assigned to this year's salary cap than they had anticipated. Jones would have to lower his payroll immediately, either by dropping high-paid players or restructuring some player contracts, which he has already had to do for some of his stars. That would also mean that Dallas would have higher salary obligations—and less room under the cap—in years ahead.
Jones said on Sunday that "there is no scenario" that would strip the Cowboys of Sanders's services in 1995. The league is clearly prepared to test his resolve.
Defensive players, including the usually uncomplaining Bill defensive end Bruce Smith, are riled about chop blocks. If an offensive player is going one-on-one with a defender, the chop block is technically legal—though it is perilous to the knees—so there is nothing league officials can do about it without a rule change. "[Defensive players] need to get an advocate, someone who will take their case strongly to competition committee meetings," says the NFL's Gene Washington, who levies the fines for on-field misconduct. Counters Smith: "Why do we have to get someone to make a case for us, while quarterbacks get new rules to protect them all the time?"
This could be the starting 49er backfield when San Francisco confronts the expansion Panthers—and their historic three-game winning streak—this Sunday:
Running back—Derek Loville.
But don't worry, Niner fans; the renowned Ted Popson and Brett Carolan will split the duty at tight end.
The knee injuries on Sunday suffered by fullback William Floyd, who is out for the year, and tight end Brent Jones, coupled with the Niners' 11-7 loss to the feeble Saints and the fact that quarterback Steve Young is still nursing a bruised left shoulder, should convince you that this is not a Niner year. Says tackle Harris Barton, "If anyone is the lifeblood of this team, it's not Jerry Rice or Steve Young. It's William Floyd. His loss is going to be tough to overcome."