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Improved Behavior Stressed

From Wire Reports

Tired of paying signing bonuses equal to small-town budgets and losing their investments for reasons such as drug abuse, National Football League teams have recently taken steps to try to ensure that players live up to their contracts. As a result, the signing bonus money is becoming a sort of good-behavior insurance.

Addendums that teams are putting into contracts address a variety of issues, such as refusing to report to training camp, failure to practice or play, and the most controversial one, failing a drug test. If the clause is violated, even by a player who has had no prior troubles, then a team can take back the signing bonus.

Fail a drug test or abuse alcohol and you could lose your signing bonus - either part or all of it. Go skydiving, the same could happen. Refuse to report to camp in the third year of a four-year deal because you want to renegotiate and you could lose big signing bonus bucks if you signed an addendum agreeing not to do so.

As far as drugs, NFL contracts have sometimes been structured differently for a player who has a history of drug use - one who has failed a drug test, for example.

That still happens, but a relatively new approach has teams taking a sort of pre-emptive strike against drug use, almost guaranteeing they get their money’s worth out of a player by putting the stipulation on signing bonuses into the contracts of players who have never had a drug problem.

“I think these contracts do have an effect on players and helps to keep them focused,” said Andrew Wasynczuk, New England’s vice president of business operations.

Panthers DE suspended

The NFL has suspended Carolina Panthers defensive end Shawn King for the first six games of this season for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the Charlotte Observer reported Saturday.

NFL vice president Joe Browne said the league would have no comment.

Meanwhile, Panthers center Curtis Whitley won his appeal of a possible one-year suspension for allegedly violating the league’s drug and alcohol policy. The newspaper cited unidentified sources for its reports.

Coach Dom Capers and representatives for King and Whitley declined comment.

Success has its price

The Jacksonville Jaguars may soon find out how the other half lives.

Well, to be more precise, how the other 29 teams live.

Like the Carolina Panthers, the Jaguars rode the expansion deal to the conference finals in just two years, thanks in part to extra draft choices and plenty of money to spend on free agents. That isn’t likely to be duplicated the next time the NFL expands.

As Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell said last week, “They utilized their gifts very well, but you won’t see the NFL doing the same thing again.”

Now the Jaguars, who open their season in Baltimore on Aug. 31, are dealing with the problems that come with success.

They picked 21st instead of second in the draft, so they had to settle for Renaldo Wynn on the first round instead of Tony Boselli and Kevin Hardy.

They don’t have as much money to spend in free agency. They weren’t able to lure the free agent they wanted, defensive lineman Gilbert Brown, from Green Bay. Their only free-agent acquisition was cornerback Deon Figures from Pittsburgh.

Redskins QB settles

Gus Frerotte tried to sound liberated. He looked fed up.

After months of hoping for a long-term mega-contract worthy of an NFL starter, the Washington Redskins quarterback had to settle for a one-year, $1.048 million deal Saturday so he could take part in a final minicamp before the start of training camp next week.

“At this point, right now, starting today, I’ve pretty much told myself I’m going to come in and work hard and we’re going to do the best we can right now and push for the playoffs and all that,” Frerotte said. “And I’m going to let those guys take care of their business.


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