Veterans Thurman Thomas and Junior Seau proved last week that they have mastered the art of being their own spin doctors.
When both skipped the start of their minicamps last week, it was assumed they were unhappy -- Thomas because he feels he's being phased out by the Buffalo Bills and Seau because the six-year, $27 million deal he signed last year with the San Diego Chargers is already obsolete.
Although both made their points by being no-shows, they were savvy enough not to whine in public. They both said they were simply being good family men. How clever.
Thomas said he was late because he was coaching his daughter's team in a softball tournament.
"All the media and all the fans always talk about being role models," Thomas said. "You try telling 15 girls that are 8 and 7 years old that I'm not going to be their coach. That's hard to do."
Explaining why he showed up after missing four days, Thomas said, "Once I do something wrong, it goes on for two or three weeks. I just decided to come in here and clear the air."
Coach Wade Phillips promptly stroked Thomas' ego, which is probably what he wanted.
"Some things never change. The Buffalo Bills aren't going to win without Thurman Thomas," Phillips said.
Meanwhile, Seau issued a press release saying he was late because he was on a family vacation.
Noting it was a "voluntary" camp, he said in the statement, "Due to a rigorous travel schedule, I will be away from home for most of the month of June. This is my only opportunity to enjoy a short family vacation."
Meanwhile, coach Kevin Gilbride said he was "shocked" at Seau's absence and general manager Bobby Beathard called him "selfish."
So when Seau did show up, he did more spin doctoring. He again said he wasn't unhappy about his contract and said he'll make up with Beathard and Gilbride.
Seau, who often calls his teammates, "my players," said, "I love Bobby. Bobby and I, we're boyfriend-girlfriend. That's my girlfriend and I'll apologize to her and we'll get back together. It's quite all right. My head coach? That's my other girlfriend. They get kind of temperamental, you know? We'll come to a point where we understand each other."
For Gilbride, that won't be easy.
"I don't even understand that, much less be able to answer it," he said. "Sometimes when you don't have a lot to say, you say some things that don't make a lot of sense."
Gilbride repeated a "leader" like Seau should show up for "voluntary" workouts.
"You know, when you're 4-12, you've got to be here. You've got to be willing to pay the price," he said.
Seau showed he prefers to be a spin doctor.
Former Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde may not have a new home until training camp starts.
Only two teams -- the Bengals and Bears -- have publicly expressed an interest in him, although the Bears may not make a move until Rick Mirer decides if he'll take a pay cut to remain a backup to Erik Kramer.
Meanwhile, Testaverde's agent, Mike Azzarelli, concedes talks have cooled with the Bengals, who are balking at his request for a one-year deal or a deal that voids after a year.
The Bengals can afford Testaverde because they lead the league in cap room with $9 million (the Ravens' $4.6 million is sixth highest), but Azzarelli says they now have "philosophical differences."
Meanwhile, Azzarelli said, "It doesn't hurt him to wait until July or August. So I'm not going to put him in a position where he's not going to have fun or a chance to win."
Packers in clover
Just in case you had any doubts, this is a good time to be an NFL owner.
The Green Bay Packers, the only team that opens its books, prepared their 1997 report and showed they're doing as well off the field as on it.
Their gross income has jumped from $70.2 million to $82.8 million and they showed record profits -- $6.7 million after paying $4.3 million in taxes -- for the third straight year.
They did it even though they were only 11th in the league in revenue in 1996 and probably moved up only a notch or two.
They did it even though they have only 1,920 club seats and their most expensive luxury box costs only $30,000 a year. They had $12.4 million in home-ticket revenue and $4.4 million in luxury box revenue. Teams with new stadiums can more than double those totals with $30 million to $35 million in stadium revenue.
Counting the $20 million from a stock sale, the Packers have a war chest of $51 million and are proving they don't need a deep pockets owner.
"We don't have a deep pockets owner that can feed us, but, at the same time, we're not feeding a deep pockets owner," said team treasurer John Underwood.
With the Packers showing how much is already rolling in, it may turn out the NFL was shortsighted in squeezing the TV networks in last year's negotiations. The result is the NFL may be facing competition from a new well-organized, well-financed Turner-NBC League in 1999 or 2000.
The NFL got a first look at how a shortsighted approach can backfire when it renewed its deal with Coca-Cola for being the official soft drink of the NFL. Naturally, the NFL wanted an increase. Coke balked because some teams, notably Jerry Jones' Cowboys, were making stadium deals with Pepsi.
The result is the NFL took about a $10 million decrease to $4 million-$5 million a year for rights fees although Coke no longer has exclusive rights with individual teams. By contrast, the NBA agreed to a deal with no up-front fees that calls for Coke to spend $100 million a year on the sport around the world.
A Coke spokesman said the difference in approaches is like having $1,000 to spend and deciding whether to spend it on a one-night party or buying something of value that's worth something five years from now.
The NBA is thinking long-term while the NFL is grabbing as much money as it can now for a big party. It may eventually suffer a big hangover.
Names in the news
Denver tackle Gary Zimmerman, who hasn't decided whether he'll retire, will skip the start of training camp to attend a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., in August.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Marcus Robinson, named offensive MVP of the World League, will play in the World Bowl championship game today for the Rhein Fire.
Quarterback Kurt Warner, who played in the Arena League for Iowa last year and passed for 15 touchdowns in the World League this spring for Amsterdam, will try to make the St. Louis Rams' roster in training camp.
"We've put an emphasis on that first game the last three years. Maybe we should put it on the 12th game." -- Coach Dennis Erickson on whether Seattle will put an emphasis on winning the first game after starting 0-2 three straight years.
Pub Date: 6/14/98
Date .. Opponent .. .. .. Time .. .. TV
8/8 ... Chicago .. .. ... 7:30 .. .. 13
8/15 .. at N.Y. Jets .. .. . 7 .. .. 13
8/24 .. Philadelphia .. . 7:30 .. .. 13
8/28 .. at N.Y. Giants .. .. 8 .. .. 13
Date .. Opponent .. .. .. Time .. .. TV
9/6 . . Pittsburgh .. ... 1:01 .. .. 13
9/13 .. at N.Y. Jets .. . 1:01 .. .. 13
9/20 .. at Jacks. .. .. . 4:15 .. .. 13
9/27 .. Cincinnati .. ... 8:20 ... ESPN
10/4 .. Bye
10/11 . Tennessee .. .. . 1:01 .. .. 13
10/18 . at Pittsburgh ... 1:01 .. .. 13
10/25 . at Green Bay .. . 1:01 .. .. 13
11/1 .. Jacksonville .. . 1:01 .. .. 13
11/8 .. Oakland .. .. ... 1:01 .. .. 13
11/15 . at San Diego .. . 4:05 .. .. 13
11/22 . at Cincinnati ... 4:15 .. .. 13
11/29 . Ind. .. .. .. ... 1:01 .. .. 13
12/6 .. at Tennessee .. . 4:15 .. .. 13
12/13 . Minnesota .. .. . 4:15 .. .. 45
12/20 . at Chicago . .. . 1:01 .. .. 13
12/27 . Detroit .. .. ... 1:01 .. .. 45
*-Regular-season home games must be sold out 72 hours in advance to be televised.