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AWOL and Unlamented
Bruce Newman
August 09, 1993
By holding out, Indianapolis quarterback Jeff George is enhancing his reputation as a quitter
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August 09, 1993

Awol And Unlamented

By holding out, Indianapolis quarterback Jeff George is enhancing his reputation as a quitter

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He was booed thunderously again at home the following week during the team introductions, raising his arms to the crowd as if to ask if that was the best it could do. But George played well in that game, in which he helped lead the Colts to a 16-13 win over the Phoenix Cardinals. The next week Trudeau once again came to the rescue, replacing George—who was suffering from a mild concussion—with Indianapolis trailing the Cincinnati Bengals 17-0. Trudeau marched the team down the field for touchdowns on three consecutive drives, and Indy came back to win 21-17. Still, George's position as this season's starting quarterback remained unthreatened (though since George began his holdout, the Colts have picked up former Green Bay Packer quarterback Don Majkowski).

Jim Irsay has described George's holdout as "suicidal," and like most suicides, it seems calculated to punish those left behind. "He doesn't like playing for this town because the people here have been hard on him," says Langhorne. "When he started playing bad, they turned on him, and he didn't know how to handle it. It's like when you're married and you have a big fight. The first thing some people do is walk out the door because they think if you have a problem, you just leave, that it's going to be better somewhere else. But it isn't."

George, who is single, has said that he resents all the local criticism of his parents, who have been mocked for coming to every training camp practice when Jeff isn't holding out. Irsay, however, doesn't consider George's concern for his family to be a valid reason to be traded. "No one knows better than I do how hard the game is on your family," said Irsay. "My family's lives have been threatened; we've had to wear bulletproof vests. It's part of being in the game." Bulletproof vests? In Indianapolis? And people call it the No Fun League.

Langhorne's theory is that George, the consensus high school player of the year in 1985 and a three-sport star at Warren Central High, is suffering from a stubborn case of golden-boy syndrome, an ailment common among those who experience fame at a young age and become convinced that they can do no wrong. "As a high school player, he got the world handed to him," says Langhorne. "He goes to college, same thing. He didn't have to practice a lot to throw 300 yards a game. Always taken care of, always natural, always easy. It's different now. There are guys who live and die by what they do on Sunday. When it got to the point where he had to buckle down and he didn't always have people cheering for him, he didn't know how to accept it."

George is only halfway through a six-year, $12.48 million contract, but no one has brought up money yet. All he seems to want is a way out. "There will be no trade," says Irsay. "We won't consider it, no way in hell. It's a direct slap in the face for him not to be here. He begged to play in his hometown, and I gave up a lot to bring him here. [The Colts traded two Pro Bowl players, tackle Chris Hinton and receiver Andre Rison, and a first-round draft choice to Atlanta to get the top pick in the '90 draft.] Now he owes a debt to this organization."

Irsay, who hints darkly about the precedent set in the recent $8.9 million jury verdict against actress Kim Basinger, who had reneged on a commitment to appear in a movie, intends to see that George pays. "I really feel a line has been crossed where damage has been done to the team," says Irsay. "He has two options—continue his NFL career here or don't continue it. And if he doesn't, then we have some other business to settle up."

As of Monday, George faced fines of $76,000, which were mounting at a rate of $4,000 a day. Even if he does rejoin the Colts, George will have a good deal of settling up to do with his teammates. "I don't see how he can mend any fences." says offensive tackle Kevin Call. "He's pretty much torn them all down. You don't forgive these things. He wants the fans to leave him alone. I mean, grow up and learn a little bit. If you don't want to get into the limelight, then get out. Go be a trashman, or whatever it was he studied in school."

Actually, it was speech communications. And, believe it or not, he finished the courses.

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