The Factory Training Center – Sherman Oaks, CA – EXT, Day
Four men alternate between running scripted plays and navigating neon green cones via plyometric exercises. Though the facility is otherwise empty, the intensity level of the group is high. The grunts and cheers of the men echo off the small stadium walls as the program facilitator, a man in a beige bucket hat with a stopwatch in his hand, blows his whistle. He removes his hat while the remaining men fall to the ground, breathing heavily.
Marvel Smith: Excellent work today, gentlemen! Brian, you’re a beast. Dez, your work ethic is like no other. Eddie, my man, we’ve always known you got the hunger but now I see you got the THIRST! And Larry — I don’t know why a guy slated to make $11 million this year is with us, but I love that you’re here. Now, catch your breath and hit the cryotherapy chambers tonight. Recovery is key for veterans like yourself. I need to run but, barring any of you three getting picked up before then, I’ll see ya all in the lab next week!
The men lie on the ground for another ten minutes trading groans and brief curses, which pass as breathless conversation. This activity pauses as the sound of a helicopter is heard approaching until a shadow passes over the group, steadying on the far end zone as it sets down for a landing. The men sit up to see an individual exit the vehicle and approach the group.
Terrell Owens: Dang, young bucks! You all workin hard out here today?
Brian Cushing: T.O.? Man, I thought you were up in Canada or something. What are you doing here?
Owens: Nah, fuck that place. They’re a national security threat. I wanted to see what my people were up today.
Dez Bryant: Grinding, my man. Of all people, you should know the value in offseason conditioning. Gotta stay sharp.
Owens: You’re damn right, X! Let ’em all see what a mistake these teams are making by not signing you men yet. All this talent! All this experience! What the fuck is anyone thinking that they’re gonna say any of you all should have taken pay cuts? I ain’t seen an owner take a pay cut. Or a GM. Or a coach. Nah — just us guys on the roster.
Eddie Lacy: It’s causing me some serious economic anxiety!
Owens: As it should, my man, as it should. And that’s why I’m here. To make sure you men know I’m looking out for you. Only me. No one else. Just T.O.
Larry Fitzgerald: Hey T.O., we got an entire union, whose leadership includes current and former players, looking out for us. Granted, there is much to criticize about their performance but I think it’s a stretch to say they aren’t working for our interests.
Owens: Oh, look guys! It’s Loser Larry giving us advice. Listen, when I want to hear about blowing a historic post season run by losing to the Steelers in the closing minutes of the Super Bowl, I’ll give you a call. But, until then, why don’t you just pipe down about the concerns of free agents while your net worth is upwards of $50 million, okay?
Fitzgerald: Hey man, same team. I’m out here grinding just like everyone else. And you think I haven’t had to work twice as hard to make the case for my contracts? You ever been targeted by Max Hall? John Skelton? Fucking Ryan Lindley IN THE PLAYOFFS?
Owens: Psh, playing with Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer. Did you know Brian Cushing here has never been targeted by a top ten quarterback?
Fitzgerald: He’s a linebacker. Why would he be?
Lacy: Quit trying to deflect, Loser Larry! I want some of that $50 million!
Owens: And you will, my friend. Because there’s plenty of money for everyone. We just need to get it out of the hands of the greedy few.
Fitzgerald: Hey, I’m always one to support raising the salary cap.
Owens: No! There is no talk of raising it. The salary cap must be eliminated! See what I’m talking about, Dez? Would a higher salary cap have kept you from being cut?
Bryant: Likely, yeah.
Owens: No, it wouldn’t! Because we need to eliminate the cap to let you earn your true market rate. But what do the likes of Loser Larry want to talk about? Shit like how to improve financial planning services for rookies. You know what financial planning services I got being a third round pick back in ’96? Steve Young told me to invest in dot-coms. That’s it. So why are we babying players now?
Lacy: Yeah! If you can’t do it on your own, why should the rest of us have to prop these young bucks up?! It’s every man for themselves out here. They should be having to pay for programs for me!
Owens: Smart man. Smart man. You get it, Eddie. And by the way, I knew you had the work ethic and the talent — but now I see that I see you up close, I see you got the physique too.
Lacy: I got the physique!
Bryant: Come on man. You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t nobody want to offer Eddie a dollar for his physique.
Owens: My man, X, think about it. You’re thinking like a loser — a Loser Larry. It’s nothing to him because he’s been the best player on a bad team that doesn’t mind losing. But you, X — if Eddie is worth $2million with that body, what should you be worth?
Fitzgerald: Well, Eddie isn’t worth $2million with that body so this is a non-starter for Dez. I’m a wide receiver. I know who is out there, what they’re doing, and where the market for a guy like Dez is. He’s going to either have to go a bad team for a big contract or take a cut to get on with a winner who, if it’s a team like the Vikings, is gonna mean sharing touches. Or feel free to give me the name of a winner with cap space, no WR1, and will take on a bit of a headcase. Then I’ll take it all back.
Owens: I could give you the name of five contenders! But none would be the Cardinals, I can tell you that!
Lacy: Yeah, Loser Larry!
Fitzgerald: Didn’t even see your name on the box score for either of the games we faced the Seahawks last year, Eddie.
Cushing: Hey man! We’re all supposed to be on the same team right now!
Owens: You see? Civility is dead with guys like that. They tell us that it’s just a business and, if Larry is taking all the big money, then we’re all just undeserving of equally large contracts. It’s all rigged. But no more. I’m your new NFLPA President and I want to fight for you. Fight for fairness. Fight for you forgotten players. The stars that have made this league a place where these undeserving rookies can sign huge endorsement deals before ever stepping foot on the NFL gridiron. Eddie, Dez, Brian — we are going to make the NFL a place where you are all stars again. Believe me.
Lacy: We believe you!
Owens: Brian? Do I have your unwavering support?
Cushing: Fuck it. I know Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald are gonna sign. Yeah — sure, I’m game.
Owens: Dez? You ready to play some football?
Fitzgerald: Come on, Dez. You’re a professional. You got plenty left in the tank. You play this right and your second chapter may be even greater than the first. Come on, stick with me. I’ll show you how I increased all my stats by moving to the slot when Bruce Arians identified the severe mismatches a skilled experienced wide receiver can give opposing backers and safety corps.
Owens: The SLOT? X, you gonna be put out to pasture like that?
Bryant: I outlasted Revis. I’m better than Norman. Shit — I know what’s going on here. Patrick Peterson put you up to this, huh Larry? He’s afraid to face me. Afraid I’ll expose him and his little shutdown corner moniker. Why you working with cornerbacks, Larry? I thought you were an offensive guy or something.
Owens: I’m a wide out, X. A wideout who left Dallas and flourished wherever I went. And you know what? I see a lot of me in you, Dez. So you gonna let me help you get these bullshit push-off rules corrected so we can cut you loose to become the greatest ever?
Bryant: I am the greatest, T.O. — and I’m still on my first chapter. So you know I’m all in.