I know, it’s not the American way. You’re supposed to take all you can get. And as a sports business journalist, I understand well that the National Football League is a business.
But it feels like Bob Sanders owes the Indianapolis Colts—and the team’s fans—more than what they got.
For the last three years, the Colts and Colts fans waited for the return of the great Bob Sanders. And the Colts paid handsomely while everyone waited. The Colts paid Sanders many millions of dollars to essentially sit on the sidelines. Worse yet, the Colts paid Sanders to rehab his injuries.
And now, Sanders will take the fruits of those Colts-paid labors (if there are any fruits to be had) to San Diego. It was announced that Sanders signed a one-year deal with the Chargers on Thursday.
Maybe the Colts know something we don’t. Maybe Sanders really is permanently damaged goods. But that certainly is a 180-degree change from the tune team president Bill Polian was singing a year ago.
It may not seem like a huge deal now, given Sanders oft-injured past, but if Polian has miscalculated this situation—again—and Sanders returns anywhere near to his healthy self, Colts fans will feel more than just a little betrayed. And they should.
After all, couldn’t Sanders, who is still only 30, have taken the stance that since the Colts, and Polian in particular, showed extra patience and faith in him, that he might want to return that favor?
It might seem a bit fairer had Sanders agreed to play for a league minimum salary for the Colts as long as the team agreed to incentive clauses that would pay Sanders more if he returned to the all-pro form that helped the Colts win the 2007 Super Bowl. It's difficult to believe the Colts wouldn't have taken a bite at that apple had it been offered.
Instead, Sanders shopped himself shamelessly. Not only that, he seemed to shop himself to just about every AFC rival the Colts have.
It’s true, Colts officials cut Sanders after last season. But who can blame them? He would have been owed $5.5 million plus a $500,000 roster bonus.
Who’s going to pay that? Not the Colts.
And not San Diego either. That’s what should sting the Colts and Colts fans so much.