- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2000

Dan Snyder wants you to know he does have a heart, even if it is missing a ventricle or two. To prove his point, he tore up Darrell Green's old contract yesterday and gave him a new, more lucrative one, running through Darrell's 44th birthday. Snyder didn't have to do this, of course, and most owners in these cap-conscious times wouldn't. But he thought it was the best way to acknowledge, in his estimation, "probably the greatest Redskins career in history."

That is, if you don't count Sammy Baugh.

Naturally, Green was more than happy to accept the Golden Parachute. In his 17 seasons in Washington, he said, he has never played the free-agent game, "never been on a plane to go visit another team. A lot of that has to do with Mr. Snyder and the late Jack Kent Cooke. But the main reason is that I've taken an interest in the community. As a Christian, as a man of God, that's what my life is all about."

So now he gets to go on raising money for his youth foundation and to step into some front-office position, no doubt, when his playing days are over. He also gets to shoot for another Super Bowl this year and possibly next. Can't beat that.

This is how it should be in sports. Loyal soldiers should be rewarded at the end of their careers not with money, necessarily, but with proper "burials," if you will. I don't mean to suggest Darrell is used up he ran the 40-yard dash in a team-best 4.24 seconds yesterday but the end is definitely near. That's why the Redskins are thinking of bringing in Deion Sanders and relegating Green to a nickel back role. Nobody, not even Darrell Green, can go on forever.

With the salary cap, though, it has gotten harder for clubs to give players these sendoffs. Art Monk left Washington in a huff, you may recall, because the Redskins wanted to chop his salary in half in '94, his last full season. The same thing has happened to great players all over the league. There just isn't much room for sentiment in team budgets these days.

And Green certainly wasn't looking for any handouts. I know this because, after the San Francisco game last season, some Bay Area writers were talking to him about Jerry Rice possibly having his pay cut by the 49ers. Doesn't the club, they asked him, owe Rice something for his years of meritorious service? Darrell's answer surprised and impressed me.

"No," he said. "Obviously, there are politics and economics involved. But I don't think my team owes me diddly-squat. It was a job, and I did my job well. All they owe me is respect."

Yesterday he got that respect and then some. Snyder made it clear that Green is one of His Guys, not to mention "the highest-integrity Redskin I could ever imagine." Darrell, for his part, sounded like a team infomercial.

"I think it would take a blind, deaf man not to realize that this business, this organization, is going places," he said. "If this company was on the stock market, we'd all be buying stock."

Of course, people were bullish on Snyder Communications once upon a time, too.

Anyway, it was a win-win situation. Darrell Green got a sweet little pre-retirement package, and Dan Snyder got some much-needed positive publicity. After jacking up ticket prices 10-to-36 percent and announcing his plan to charge fans to watch training camp workouts, Dan the Man's act was beginning to wear a little thin. Perhaps you saw the recent column by Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman on the CNN-SI Web site, the one titled, "Why Snyder makes me gag"?

Now Snyder won't come across as hardhearted if the Redskins sign Sanders and shunt Green aside. Darrell has been Taken Care Of. Heck, yesterday he sounded perfectly at peace with the idea of being a backup which wasn't the case a month or so ago. "I'm committed to the team," he said. "If the decision is made for me not to start, then I'm committed to that. If we sign Deion and he enhances our team, I think we've got the best of both worlds."

It will be interesting to see how Snyder deals with Brian Mitchell when the time comes to make a decision on him. Will the Redskins treat him with respect, or will they just leave him out on the curb with the other items to be recycled? Brian isn't going to the Hall of Fame like Darrell, but he has been just as devoted an employee. Was yesterday's testimonial a one-shot deal, or will other end-of-the-line veterans be treated with consideration?

However it turns out, aligning himself with Darrell Green, Mr. Redskin, is a good move on Snyder's part. (Just as bringing the beloved Sonny Jurgensen into the team's inner circle is a good move on Snyder's part.) If I were Dan, I'd be seen with Darrell as much as possible preferably with my arm around him, the two of us grinning broadly. I mean, if Darrell likes Snyder, how bad can the guy be, right?

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