Ward Cleaver would have moved to New York too

February 28, 2009 | Drew Forrester

Welcome to life in the NFL. 

Or, as one Ravens associate said to me on Friday, “Welcome to the traveling circus.”

On day one of free agency, players scooted around the country like an author on a book signing tour.

There was action just about everywhere:  Tampa Bay.  Baltimore.  New York.  Denver.  St. Louis.  

Do you know what it all means?  Football players just want to play football.  The color of the jersey only matters to the fans.  Purple looks a lot like green.  Or Red.  Different helmets?  Yes.  Football the same size?  Yes.  

As I get older – and maybe (some might argue differently), a little wiser – I’m starting to see this whole thing for what it really is to the players:  A job.

It’s a JOB “playing” football.  But, it’s a job.  It was a JOB to Jason Brown yesterday.  It was a JOB to Bart Scott yesterday.  It was a JOB to Kellen Winslow, Jr.  He just happened to get transferred to a new home office, that’s all.

I don’t begrudge Ray Lewis for treating like it a “job” anymore than I didn’t hold it against Mike Mussina when he opted out of the baseball-hell-hole-that-was-going-to-be-Baltimore and took more money to “transfer” to New York.  

I DO begrudge Ray for not saying the right things last month…for not, at least, humoring us with at least one, “of course I want to finish my career in Baltimore…” line.  But that has nothing to do with Ray’s desire to be treated fairly by his employer.  Don’t we all expect the same thing from OUR boss?

In the end, though, what Bart Scott did yesterday is the same thing Ward Cleaver would have done in 1960 had some other vacuum sales company offered him $11,000 – a $2,400 raise – to move Beaver and Wally and June 1,500 miles across country.  

You can beat up Ozzie Newsome all you want and say he’s having “an off-year” (as some are saying) and you can chastise the players for being money-grubbing skunks (as some are saying) and you can play armchair GM and say, “I wouldn’t give these guys that kind of money” (and your team wouldn’t win any games).

In the end, there’s a $127 million limit on player salaries and your role, as the guy running the team, is to fit 53 players into $127 million.  There’s no rule – and no WAY – that says you have to fit 53 REALLY GOOD players into $127 million.  53 into $127 million.  

That means, occasionally, some guys who used to be a good fit in your 53/127 formula are no longer comfortably wedged in there when they want (and, perhaps, deserve) the Ward Cleaver pay raise.  

It’s life in the NFL.

We can all get worked up about it, but it’s just reality.  

The fan’s option, of course, is to not buy the tickets anymore.

If you’re that distressed about it, sell your seats and do something else on Sunday afternoons.

If you understand, though, that it’s just a JOB to these guys, you’ll be able to deal with it much better, I think.

I’m getting older and wiser.  I don’t like the “older” part.  I can handle “the wiser”, though.

Bart Scott was transferred to a new branch yesterday.

So was Jason Brown.

And, fortunately for us in Baltimore, Domonique Foxworth took a better job on Friday as well.

If those three were vacuum sales professionals, they would have done the same thing they did yesterday.

They would have moved on to a better life.

Ward Cleaver would have done it too.