Agent and Rams share the blame for Barron mess
By Bryan Burwell
Of the Post-Dispatch
Tuesday, Aug. 09 2005

Somewhere along the way, the boys who engage in these annual summer
clutch-and-grab battles for the purse strings of NFL rookie salary structures
have all lost sight of the big picture.

In this corner, you have the overprotective club executive who guards his
team's well-stocked cash vault with an uncommon
bite-your-nose-to-spite-your-face zeal. In the other corner, it's the overly
ambitious player agent who's blinded by the prospect of a bigger, better
commission. And somewhere in the middle of this mess, obscured by this
contentious struggle between the immovable object and the irresistible force,
is the essential forgotten aim of all these negotiating skirmishes:

Get the No. 1 draft pick signed, sealed and delivered as soon as possible so he
can begin helping the team.

There's no point in trying to take sides in these holdouts, because there are
no good guys in sight, only villains. Every summer, we see the same obnoxious
grind, repeating itself like an agonizing, never-ending loop of "Groundhog
Day." Stubborn negotiators wasting time, pointing fingers and accusing the
other guy of being the obstructionist, and ultimately getting absolutely
nothing done until it's too late.

That brings us to the exasperating holdout of Rams No. 1 pick Alex Barron,
which has led the offensive tackle from Florida State to miss two critical
weeks of training camp while his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, and Rams president
Jay Zygmunt engage in a counterproductive stalemate.

We love to judge players and coaches during their seasons, carefully evaluating
whether they are geniuses or idiots, stars or benchwarmers. So if coaches and
players are harshly evaluated, then why not judge Zygmunt and Barnes the same
way? They are in the thick of their championship season - the hotly contested
summer negotiating wars - and neither one has distinguished himself. I blame
Zygmunt and Barnes equally for the predicament.

Their only job is to get Barron in camp, and they're both failing miserably.
While Barnes tries to squeeze out every dime from the Rams, which is his job,
he fails to grasp the other equally important facet of his responsibilities to
his client. The kid's moving to a new position, shifting from left to right
tackle. Maybe Barnes didn't notice that the kid struggled mightily during
minicamp, going from an anointed starter during draft weekend to a
head-spinning sub by the end of his first week of practice. How much is this
last-minute haggling worth if it ultimately costs Barron a large chunk of his
rookie season?

But since we are playing The Blame Game ...

Jay Zygmunt, come on down!

The Rams president seems to have forgotten those less-than-cherished memories
of the Andy Kings, Jason Lenzmeiers and Greg Randalls who were among the
never-ending parade of barely warm bodies who came rolling through Rams Park
last season masquerading as NFL offensive linemen. He seems to have forgotten
the disturbing sight of the most important man on the roster - quarterback Marc
Bulger - nearly being decapitated behind that porous line of well-intentioned,
but physically inept pretenders on last year's injury-riddled offensive line.

So please spare me the weak explanations for why you can't get on the same page
with Barnes as the rookie's opportunity to immediately leap into the starting
lineup rapidly diminishes. Coach Mike Martz does not want to start the regular
season with another patchwork quilt for an offensive line, not with so much at
stake in a make-or-break season, and certainly not with an offense that is
loaded with a deadly skill-position assault team but hinges on how well the
offensive line will hold up.

So allow me, gentlemen, to paraphrase a political phrase that seems appropriate
to this moment:

The kid needs to be in camp, stupid.