Raising the bar for special teams pay

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GLENDALE, Ariz.The second to final game of the season will go down later today at University of Phoenix Stadium in Super Bowl XLII.

The Pro Bowl will conclude the 2007 season next Sunday in Honolulu. Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (hip) and defensive tackle Tommie Harris (arthroscopic surgery on his left knee) have backed out of the all-star game, but return specialist Devin Hester and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo will be there to represent the organization. Maybe Hester can pick the brains of some of the best receivers in the game while he is there and get a few plays in on offense.

Its expected that Briggs has played his final game wearing a Bears helmet. Agent Drew Rosenhaus said last week that it was simply a precautionary measure for Briggs to remove himself from the game. He expects his client to be in top shape when free agency opens Feb. 29, and hell have to pass a physical to get the big-money contract he has been seeking.

Ayanbadejo could be wearing the wishbone `C on the side of his helmet for the final time in Hawaii. Hes headed to free agency with Rosenhaus also working for him. Ayanbadejo said during the season hed like to become the first special teams player to average $2 million annually. Thats a lofty goal.

New York Giants special teamer David Tyree, who represented the NFC in the Pro Bowl following the 2005 season before Ayanbadejos two-year run took over, is considered to have the best contract for a special teamer. Prior to the 2006 season, Tyree reportedly signed a five-year deal worth $7.5 million with $1.5 million in bonus money.

He said its not quite all that, that it doesnt average the $1.5 million it appears. Apparently, the figure released was the maximum value of the deal.

“No. No. No, Tyree protested prior to the Big Game. “Maybe about $1.2 (million). It could have with incentives maybe shaked out to be that high but I dont think its that. My incentives are kind of hard to reach even at that, Ill be honest with you. Some of them are for being a wide receiver. And the other one is a Pro Bowl incentive. [Ayanbadejo] is screwing my whole deal up [in terms of that].

“I give the kid a ton of credit. I am a fan of his. He earned it. Im a receiver and Ive got to go out there and make my plays like anybody else has to go out and make their plays. But hes got about 35 pounds on me and its easier for him to go down and bust a wedge than it is for me. So when they put a double team on me hes got a better shot. I give him all kudos. Hes earns it each year.

So the question was posed, plain and simple, in this era with the salary cap expected to climb to $116 million for the 2008 season, can a special teamer get a deal averaging $2 million per season? Or is Ayanbadejo over on Fantasy Island?

“Thats definitely a lot of money, Tyree said. “Honestly, and I dont want to make it sound like I am underpaid or anything, but I played a little more receiver than he may have played linebacker. Maybe that could have played into it. I would have loved to have gotten about $2 million a year. I come in in some critical moments and help the football team and its not about me. Its about helping the football team.

“As a special teams player alone, if Brendon gets $2 million a year, thats a lot. I understand it because its tough, its hard. Youre out there helping your team win big time. If you look at his survey of work, I believe he deserves it.

That comes as no surprise. No one wants to see players paid more than … players.

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