Contract disputes steal the spotlight from start of NFL training camp


NFL camps open this week with most of the focus on players who aren’t showing up.

All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones skipped Sunday’s first workout with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs over a contract dispute.

Veterans with the New York Giants and Las Vegas Raiders are scheduled to report on Tuesday, but Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs are expected to hold out because they didn’t receive long-term deals after getting the franchise tag. Both star running backs would earn $10.1 million this season under the tag.

Neither Barkley nor Jacobs signed the franchise tender, which means they wouldn’t be fined for missing practices. They’d lose $560,611 per game if they sit out during the season.

Holdouts are nothing new in the NFL and they used to be more common decades ago. Jones is due to make $19.5 million in base salary this season and carries a salary cap hit of almost $28.3 million, so the Chiefs are motivated to get a new deal done. He faces a mandatory fine of $50,000 per day.

“Look, we love Chris Jones and when he decides to report, we’ll welcome him,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. “I don’t want to get into speculating on when that’ll happen, or if it’ll happen.”

Barkley and Jacobs are a different story. They’re angry and frustrated. They feel undervalued and underappreciated. So do many of their peers around the league.

“There’s really nothing we can do,” Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb said Sunday after he took part in a Zoom call with several backs around the league on Saturday. “We’re kind of handcuffed with the situation.”

Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs on the sideline before game against Kansas City Chiefs, Jan. 7, 2023 – AP Photo/Jeff Lewis

It’s expected Barkley and Jacobs will eventually report. Missing games only costs them money they’ll never regain. But there’s no incentive for them to show up before September.

The biggest story line beyond holdout players surrounds Aaron Rodgers, the New York Jets and their appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Rodgers and the Jets already were going to be under the microscope. Now, television cameras will be there to follow them every step of the way.

Jets coach Robert Saleh downplayed any added pressure to win because of Rodgers.

“What I’ve noticed in New York is that they really don’t care,” he said. “You’re either winning or you’re not, it doesn’t matter who you’ve got. The expectation to win is constant in this league. You’ve always got that monkey on your back, like you’ve got to get that result. I’ve said it before — as important as the result is, if that’s your only focus, you’re going to skip on the process that it takes to get that result that you want, so the pressure lies in how you handle the day, how you’re getting better.”

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs reported last week, eager to get working on becoming the first team to repeat since the New England Patriots in 2003 and ’04.

“It’s hard to win the Super Bowl,” Mahomes said. “I think I’ve noticed that from my first one to my second, you can do everything the right way and you don’t win.”

The Philadelphia Eagles, who report Tuesday, are aiming to become the first team since the 2018 Patriots and fourth ever to win a Super Bowl the year after losing one.

“This team has to find an identity for itself,” Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts said.

Plenty of eyes in camp will be on rookie QBs Bryce Young in Carolina, C.J. Stroud in Houston and Anthony Richardson in Indianapolis.

Young, the No. 1 overall pick, already took over first-team reps in the offseason and appears headed to start Week 1. Stroud, the No. 2 pick, should get a similar opportunity with the Texans and first-year coach DeMeco Ryans. Richardson, who was picked fourth and didn’t have much playing experience in college at Florida, probably won’t start right away for the Colts but he’s expected to supplant veteran Gardner Minshew at some point.

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