NEW ORLEANS â€“ On one hand, we have quarterback Drew Brees, a consummate professional and the unquestioned leader of the New Orleans Saintsâ€™ â€œplayers onlyâ€™â€™ offseason program at Tulane University.
He is entering the last year of a six-year, $60 million contract with owner Tom Benson and stands to gain tens of millions more from a new deal once NFL owners and players resolve their labor dispute. Â
No. 9 is deserving of every penny he gets, now and in the future. He is all things to all people. Â
That said, if he were not contractually bound, Brees likely would not be physically leading the troops in non-contact drills and weightlifting exercises at Tulane University, not without a multi-millionaire injury insurance policy from Lloydâ€™s of London. Â
On the other hand, there is eight-year veteran Saints free agent linebacker Scott Shanle, who remains in contract limbo while the billionaires and millionaires wage litigious war. Â
If it were business as usual where contract negotiations could be conducted, Shanle would be participating in the Saintsâ€™ offseason program while super agent Drew Rosenhaus tried to hammer out a new deal for his client with General Manager Mickey Loomis. Â
But we are not living in a perfect world. Consequently, the 31-year old Shanle is estranged from his former team and will remain that way until the lockout is lifted and players can return to their normal workplace. Â
â€œObviously, I would like to be there but for me I would never forgive myself if I went to work out with the team and did something stupid while I wasnâ€™t under contract, especially under these circumstances,â€™â€™ Shanle told SportsNOLA.com on Thursday. Â
â€œYou can say what you want, that guys can go at their own speed this time of year. But the bottom line is when you get around other guys and you start to compete, youâ€™re not just going to go through the motions. The danger comes when youâ€™re competing. Itâ€™s in our nature to do that. You can watch film and stuff like that but once you get out on the field, it gets competitive.â€™â€™ Â
It should be noted that a number of restricted and unrestricted free agents participated in Tuesdayâ€™s practice at Tulane, includingÂ strong safety Roman Harper, tight end David Thomas, center Jonathan Goodwin, safety Darren Sharper, safety Pierson Prioleau, left tackle Jermon Bushrod and offensive lineman Zach Strief, among others. Â
They have their own reasons for participating. Â
Shanle not only is thinking of himself but also his wife, Erin, their two young sons, Jagger and Kingston, and their new addition to the family, 3-month-old daughter Aivree. Â
â€œRight now, for the immediate future, I donâ€™t plan on doing anything with the team,â€™â€™ Shanle said. â€œI think itâ€™s better off to play it safe a little bit longer. If this thing continues to go on, I might have to get some football in somehow, someway.â€™â€™ Â
Shanle said if the lockout drags on another month or so, he would consider buying injury/liability insurance and rejoining his teammates in workouts even without a contract.
Currently, he isÂ working out on his own.Â Â
â€œWeâ€™re hoping to find something out within the next couple of weeks as far as the lockout goes,â€™â€™ he said. â€œI donâ€™t want to do anything now but once weâ€™re in June and guys are still getting together, I think you have to start looking at something like that.â€™â€™
Shanle said attempts to negotiate a contract extension with Saints officials began in April 2010 but got nowhere because of the pending labor unrest. He said LoomisÂ reiterated the team's wait-and-see positionÂ again to Rosenhaus prior to the lockout.
â€œWith the number of free agents they have, I think the team wanted to see exactly what was going to happen with this lockout and see where they were going to be with the salary cap number and what they could do,â€™â€™ Shanle explained.
Regardless of Shanleâ€™s free agent status, there is no doubt that he remains tied to Coach Sean Payton, who acquired him from the Cowboys prior to the 2006 season for a seventh-round pick in 2007.Â Â
Whether that kinship (a la Gregg Williams and Prioleau) translates into Shanle receiving a new contract with the Saints remains to be seen. If Shanle can strike aÂ deal in New Orleans, it likely will be more "team friendly'' than ''player friendly.''Â Last week, Team Loomis selected Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson in the third round of the draft and up-and-coming LBÂ Jonathan Casillas isÂ due back after missing last season following Lisfranc surgery.
Shanle can play both strongside and weakside linebacker. Wilson is expected to begin his NFLÂ career at strongside.Â Â
â€œIâ€™m hoping it helps,â€™â€™ Shanle said of his relationship with Payton. â€œIâ€™m very grateful and forever will remain thankful that Sean brought me here in a trade and allowed me to have the experiences that Iâ€™ve had. Iâ€™d like to think Iâ€™m one of his guys that he can rely on and he knows exactly what heâ€™s going to get. Â
â€œThat trust factor is huge as far as signing guys.â€™â€™ Â
When asked to read the tea leaves and predict where he would be at the start of training camp, Shanle replied: â€œFirst and foremost, Iâ€™m hoping Iâ€™m in a training camp somewhere because that means the lockout is over. From a frustration standpoint, being an unrestricted free agent, if I am going to move and I have to go to a different team, it would be nice to get to know coaches and teammates and learn the language they use as far as the defense they play.''
Shanle paused.Â Â
â€œIf I had my preference,'' he continued, "it would definitely be running out there with a Fleur de Lis on my helmet and being with the guys that Iâ€™ve been with the last five years. I feel like I have four really good years left in me. From a comfort standpoint, I donâ€™t want to go anywhere else. My family is set in stone here; my 6-year-old son (Jagger) has friends in school here. I would really like to return here and end my career here.â€™â€™ Â
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