Graham doesn't get what he wants, but still plenty to play for

July 2, 2014 

Hey, Jimmy Graham... get in line.

Us normal folk know all about what you're going through.

You helped the Saints and the NFL make tens, perhaps hundreds of millions as one of the league's young stars. And now, you're supposed to be satisfied with less than your perceived worth.

Yeah, I realize to you, it doesn't matter that you're still paid millions. Enough to allow you, your immediate family, perhaps your extended family to live comfortably for generations, if it's managed properly.

It doesn't matter because in professional sports, money means respect.

And you don't think the Saints respect you.

Just a tight end, they say.

Really?

So what do you do the next time coach Sean Payton calls a play this fall on offense and you're supposed to line up wide?

Nah, coach.

Do you even show up for training camp in West Virginia?

Rally the NFL's tight ends and hold the first position-only strike?

Now way you were going to win. Every athlete with a hybrid skill set would be waiting for their day with an arbitrator. Wasn't going to happen.

Behind the scenes, I wonder if the Saints feel like you owe them since they gave you a chance to play the game after your tenure as another big-bodied rebounder on the University of Miami basketball team. I wonder how many private supporters you have in the Saints locker room.

Jimmy, consider this your first step into adulthood. The first time your playing career, your passion in life, became a job. A very lucrative one, of course. But still, a job.

Here's the difference between jobs and careers: on jobs, we don't always get what we need to reach our full potential. Sometimes it's feedback. Sometimes it's resources. Other times, it's a financial peace of mind.

Calling you a tight end, instead of a receiver, takes millions out of your pocket because of the NFL's Collecting Bargaining Agreement. But you still have to find a reason to be happy to don a Saints jersey. Knowing you, your anger will also drive you to prove the Seattle Seahawks defense wrong, to prove Payton and the Saints brass hypocrites as they continue to utilize your advantages against small cornerbacks and slower linebackers.

Do it for yourself, first. Then do it for your family, teammates and fans, most of whom wanted the Saints to pay you. Do it because at this rate, your next contract could be even bigger.

Do it because you realize your place in sports history. Perhaps the first guy brave enough to stand up to sports teams and want to be paid for what you do that makes you special. Nothing more.

Don't worry, Jimmy. Your payday is coming.

Gary Estwick, a correspondent covering the Saints for the Sun Herald, can be reached at gestwick_99@yahoo.com. Find him on Facebook and Twitter@EstwickSaints.

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