Mike Sellers, once an NFL wild child, never figured to wind up as the final link to the Washington Redskins' last NFC East championship back in 1999. But now that he owns that status as well as that of a Pro Bowl player, he wants to be paid like one.
And as numerous opponents can attest, it's not a good thing to have the 6-foot-3, 273-pound hardbody mad at you.
"I don't think I'm even in the top-10-paid fullbacks," said Sellers, who skipped the voluntary portion of the offseason at Redskin Park in protest. "I've been a [Pro Bowl] alternate two years in a row. I've been to the Pro Bowl. I've been here longer than anybody else. I just feel like I'm worth more than I'm being paid. They do have [salary] cap room. I don't feel we're done with the situation."
Redskins executive vice president Vinny Cerrato declined comment on whether he and Sellers' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are negotiating a raise for the 34-year-old fullback. Sellers is slated to earn $945,000 this season, the second-to-last of a four-year deal. Rosenhaus did not return messages seeking comment.
In any case, Sellers believes that he's still at the top of his game despite his age. And running backs coach Stump Mitchell said Sellers can get even better.
"Mike's a young guy as far as I'm concerned," Mitchell said. "He's in excellent shape. He takes care of his body. ... I'd like to see him catch a couple more passes so it will be a disadvantage for the corners trying to come up and make the play on him. But he's doing exactly what we ask him to do."
Sellers smiled when he was told Mitchell didn't consider him an old player, though only four players - including two starters - on the 80-man roster are older than the fullback.
"It's a blessing to be playing this long and be injury-free," he said. "I'm a 34-year-old with a 25-year-old body. It's an honor to be the last guy left from when [Redskins owner Dan] Snyder came in. I thought I would've been the first guy cut."
Sellers left for Cleveland as a restricted free agent in 2001. But felony cocaine possession charges cost him his job with the Browns after just nine games. Two years back in the Canadian Football League - where the Redskins had discovered him in 1998 after he had starred at Walla Walla (Wash.) Community College - followed before coach Joe Gibbs gave him a second chance in Washington in 2004. Sellers called it a "blessing in disguise."
"It humbles you. It lets you know that this is an opportunity," he said. "I made some dumb mistakes, and I try to let all [my teammates] know. I'm smarter than I was then. I'm proud that I became a better person on the field and off."
And a better player. A fan favorite when he scored eight touchdowns on just 13 touches in 2005, Sellers fulfilled Mitchell's prediction last summer that he would finish the season in Hawaii.
"With the road I've come from, to make the Pro Bowl was very fulfilling," Sellers said. "Guys like Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis treating me like I'm at the same level they are. I tell people my story and they look at me twice like, 'Are you serious?' "
Sellers continues to earn rave reviews from Mitchell and coach Jim Zorn for looking better than he did last year. He believes that if he masters his technique in Zorn's offense, he can play until he's 40. With Sellers' durability and work ethic, that's not out of the question.
"Amazing how I don't come here for the offseason and I come in better shape than I've been in for my whole career," said Sellers, who worked out on his own in Tampa, Fla. "I tried to kill myself training. I worked the heck out of my legs. I just wanted to be quicker."
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