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'Holdout-itis' infects NFL rookies, Cavalier Daily columnist alike

As some of you might remember, I declared in the spring that I was going pro. So why am I still churning out my unique brand of reference-laden drivel for The Cavalier Daily?

Why haven't I moved on to the big leagues like I said? Because I'm following in the proud tradition of other prized rookies.

That's right: I'm holding out.

With NFL training camps now well underway, who's on the field is not nearly as important as who's not. Some of the most talented players out there are suffering from what I like to call "holdout-itis," which the American Medical Association Dictionary defines as "a disease in which a player develops pathological fear of committing to or playing under any multi-million dollar contract.

"Symptoms include whining, lethargy, chronic tardiness and back-biting to the local media. (NOTE: A new strain of the virus has developed where the sufferer loses the will to play and retires. Thus far, outbreaks have been confined to the Detroit area.)"

Holdout-itis is running rampant at Cincinnati's training camp. The Bengals, a franchise so pitiful it probably deserves its own telethon, can't seem to get any talented players to stick around. Wideout Carl Pickens said he would rather retire than play another down in Cincy. And as of Tuesday, rookie quarterback Akili Smith was still on the sidelines.

Akili's father Ray says his son wants to play. But he also said that Akili's agent Leigh Steinberg "sat down and talked to him at the beginning of the negotiations, and said it was going to be a long one."

An agent should be willing to fight to the death for his players. After all, it's his job. But doesn't the agent work for the player? If Smith wants to play, shouldn't Steinberg find a way to make things happen? If that can't happen, maybe Smith should look elsewhere for representation.

One of the main causes for holdout-itis is the degeneration of contract talks into an arms race. Once one star player gets some new incentive in his deal, all the others want the same thing in their contracts.

The recent rage among NFL quarterback contracts is the notion of voidable years. The way I understand it, if a player plays a certain percentage of a team's downs or meets certain performance levels, the last few years of his deal are voided, allowing him to become a free agent.

Now I don't see how any front office man on any professional team would want to agree to a deal like that. But they don't really have a choice anymore.

Chicago Bears signee Cade McNown got his voidable years. So did Philly's Donovan McNabb. Smith wants the same from the Bengals, and probably will get it.

It doesn't seem to be so much about the money, but more about making sure your contract is just as decadent as all the other star quarterbacks'. I bet if McNabb asked the Eagles for guided cruise missiles, and got them, that McNown and Smith would be taking their own Tomahawks home as we speak.

Of course, McNown, McNabb and Smith didn't have pre-existing contracts, making their situations forgivable when compared to that of Atlanta running back Jamal Anderson. After leading his team to the Super Bowl, Anderson correctly realized he was underpaid under his current deal.

He then proclaimed he would not return to the Dirty Birds until his contract was redone. Rather than go to camp as a sign of good faith, Anderson is using his holdout status as a bargaining chip. Last I heard the stakes were up around $30 million.

But enough about Anderson. What about me? Where's my signing bonus? Where are my incentives? And what about those voidable years?

Oh well. Maybe I'll skip the big league this year. After all, Arena Sports Writing is always looking for some new faces.