Several stars could miss start of NFL season over contract disputes

Sep 5, 2023, 10:02 AM | Updated: 10:03 am

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 22: Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers reacts as he takes t...

(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

(Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images)

By Arnie Stapleton – AP Pro Football Writer

It’s opening week in the NFL, time for the stars to shine.

Or sit out.

With Week 1 preparations under way across the league, the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are still missing defensive tackle Chris Jones and the San Francisco 49ers, one of the NFC’s heavyweights, are still without the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Nick Bosa.

Both stars skipped all of training camp and the preseason in their quest for more money.

Jones, who had 15 1/2 sacks last season in helping the Chiefs win their second Super Bowl ring in four years, is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million pact. He’s been racking up millions in fines for missing offseason workouts, training camp and all three preseason games.

Bosa, who had a whopping 18 1/2 sacks and 90 pressures last year, is under contract for a fifth-year option at $17.9 million. Whenver it’s signed, his new deal is expected to surpass Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald’s three-year, $95 million extension he signed last offseason.

Bosa led the NFL in sacks last season and has 43 sacks in 51 games. Jones has 65 career sacks in seven seasons. Last year he tied his career high with 15 1/2 sacks and added a pair of QB takedowns in the playoffs.

Both Jones and Bosa could report anytime, but making an impact in the opener would be difficult given their protracted absences. The Chiefs kick off the season Thursday night against offseason darling Detroit and the Niners open Sunday at Pittsburgh.

At least their fans can hold out hope that these holdouts will soon come to an end. In Indianapolis, it’s a certainty that disgruntled star running back Jonathan Taylor will miss the first month of the season because the Colts kept him on the physically unable to perform list with an ankle injury when nothing materialized after he requested a trade last month.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard wants Taylor back but isn’t sure if or when the 2021 NFL rushing champ might return.

With all the drama going on in Kansas City, San Francisco and Indianapolis, Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Brian Burns is holding IN.

Burns long ago reported to work but like many Americans he took the long weekend to rest and relax. He’s set to make $16 million this season in the final year of his contract, but he sat out his second consecutive practice Monday, raising questions about whether the two-time Pro Bowler with 38 sacks in four seasons will play Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Burns did not practice last Thursday, with the team saying that was because of “personal reasons.” But after the Panthers returned to practice on Monday following the long weekend, Burns again sat out a walkthrough practice and coach Frank Reich indicated it was because of his contract stalemate.

While the Colts and Panthers aren’t among the league’s elite teams right now, the Chiefs and Niners certainly are contenders to win the Super Bowl in Las Vegas Feb. 11.

Thirty years ago, Emmitt Smith and the Dallas Cowboys were coming off their first Super Bowl win of the Jerry Jones/Jimmy Johnson regime when Smith’s holdout cost the Cowboys dearly in their 0-2 start.

After a 13-10 loss to Buffalo following a 35-16 whooping at the hands of Washington, future Hall of Fame defender Charles Haley slammed his helmet through a wall in the Cowboys locker room at Texas Stadium and implored Jones to sign Smith already.

Jones promised he would, but it was Smith who came off his demand for quarterback money and he signed a deal making him the league’s highest-paid running back, then helped Dallas win 15 of 17 games, including the Super Bowl rematch against the Bills.

It all ended up working out for Smith, Haley and the Cowboys. But would the Chiefs and 49ers weather a similar slow start without their superstars? Even a single loss due to their absences could make all the more arduous the path to Super Bowl 58 for either team.

And who knows, somewhere some drywall might end up in need of a little spackling.



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