When the New York Giants took the field for their first practice of mini-camp on Tuesday, Mathias Kiwanuka was there — filling in at both defensive end and pass-rushing linebacker. He went through the drills, smiled and joked with his teammates and acted as if he were happy to be there.
Kiwanuka, who signed a four-year, $21.75 million deal in 2012, admitted on Tuesday that he was both "very angry" and "very upset" with the Giants for forcing him into a massive pay cut this offseason — a pay cut that reduced his base salary to from $4.375 million to $1.5 million. And while he could have opted to turn down the requested cut and been released, Kiwi and his wife were expecting a baby boy in April and that was the sort of major shakeup he felt the couple and their soon-to-be son could not and should not endure.
Accordingly, the backed into a corner Kiwanuka gritted his teeth and reluctantly agreed to the salary reduction.
"If we are going to be playing on these contracts, make them contracts," Kiwanuka told The Star-Ledger. "Either that or everyone sign a one-year deal every year and we’ll do it that way. It’s not fair to be locked in somewhere and have that place say that we’ve decided not to honor the rest of the deal. I don’t think it is a contract by definition if one side can opt out of it at any point and the other has no recourse."
Despite his anger and emotion, Kiwanuka vows to not let it impact his play in 2014, even if the team once against shifts his position to linebacker — which they did on Tuesday.
"Yeah, I’m a team player, but there is a point," he said. "I don't think it's right. I think that there are plenty of situations where players out-perform their contracts and they’re bashed media-relations wise or fan-wise for asking for more money, so when two sides agree to a contract and one side decides they’re not going to live up to it, it’s disappointing.
"You want to expect that that is the deal, but you’re naive if you think that is what is going to happen. That’s the reality of the situation. That is the reality of the league. I don’t agree with it at all, but these are the rules that we agreed upon. So we could either play or watch."
Although Kiwanuka went on to admit that the NFLPA and free agency have helped level the playing field for players, it doesn't necessarily mean that things are equal between players and management. And, of course, he cites his current situation as the prime example.
On the other side of the coin, there's nothing that protects owners from players holding out for more money — it's something we see every year from rookies (ie. Jay Bromley seeking a larger signing bonus) to veterans (ie. Andre Johnson). It's a cutthroat business and business isn't fair. That's just the nature of the game.
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