WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. — Texans general manager Rick Smith may not be the head coach, but he arrived to training camp with a game plan.
It was a simple plan: Flip the script.
Ever since Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown skipped mandatory mini-camp early this summer, a holdout by Brown was fully expected. And sure enough, Brown was a no-show for Texans camp. Dissatisfied with a contract that is neither guaranteed nor in line with the roughly $13 million salary upper-echelon NFL tackles average today, Brown wanted to re-do the deal.
It officially became a holdout, except Smith refused to call a hold out a holdout when the inevitable question came.
He said it was not a hold out as far as he was concerned. He said there would be no contract talks with Brown. He intimated that this was all on Brown, as Brown was under contract and was expected to be here with his teammates. He even played the sympathy card, talking about how good a relationship he had with Brown and even sharing a story about family members being close with Brown.
It was a bold, Sean Spicer-like move for Smith to ignore what was by any definition a contract holdout.
It also was dangerous.
No matter where you may fall on whether Brown should, or deserves, to get that contract extension when Smith drew a line in the sand, it became about much more. Smith dug in his heels and dared Brown to either show up for his teammates or sit out longer — perhaps well into the regular-season.
That’s dangerous — not just for the prospects of getting Brown into camp, but to the well-being of his young quarterbacks and the stability of the Texans offensive line.
As well as Smith knows Duane Brown, he should know that his star left tackle is his own man. Brown’s demeanor colors outside the lines. He thinks for himself, stays true to his ideals and has deep convictions about what is and is not right.
Brown already has lost more than $400,000 in fines with his holdout. That number multiplies by the week. Clearly, Brown believes in this holdout and is willing to take it deep into training camp or longer.
It doesn’t matter what you or I believe is right in this contract dispute. Worse, with his cutting, decisive words, it no longer matters what Smith believes, either.
He dared the big man to dig-in. Here’s the thing about Duane Brown, and bad news for Texans fans: He probably will.