Man this guy needs to start getting his props from the league!
Edwards keeps making tackles, and not being recognized for it
Donnie Edwards again leads the Chargers and is second in the NFL in tackles.
He also has an interception, a forced fumble and a sack.
That means, a quarter of the way through the season, he is well on his way to another year in which he could run away with the unofficial and dubious title of NFL MUP (Most Underrated Player).
"Oh, cool," Edwards said. "This is wonderful. It would be a great honor again; another great year. I can do it."
Certainly, somewhere inside, he is motivated by the slights that keep on coming from foes and friends alike.
But it's difficult to do much more than he has done for so long, so Edwards just smiles and says things such as this:
"Hey, whatever. I can just continue to try to play the way I play."
But, because it has reached a point where Edwards can laugh, he also fights frustration with facetiousness.
"It's funny," he said. "Hopefully, when I get older I'll turn into a good player."
At 32, in his 10th NFL season, there is no doubt Edwards is a good player.
Since 1999, only Miami's Zach Thomas has more tackles. None of the league's other elite linebackers has played in more games in that span. Edwards has led his team – first the Kansas City Chiefs and, since 2002, the Chargers – in tackles seven straight seasons.
He has played outside and inside and played for five different coordinators, often switching schemes and/or positions from one year to the next.
He has missed one start since 1997 and failed to get more than 128 tackles only in his rookie season of '96. Three times, he has had five interceptions in a season.
Yet, he has never been voted into a Pro Bowl and has played in only one. He was a second alternate in 2002 and participated when Al Wilson and Kendrell Bell withdrew because of injury.
Last season, Edwards was not even a second alternate, despite finishing second in the league in tackles and leading his team (a 12-4 team, at that) with five interceptions and 14 passes defended.
He said that day in December when he found out he had been snubbed yet again by the coaches and players who vote for Pro Bowl spots: "It's very disappointing."
Time has not been much of a salve.
He said yesterday: "I'm still upset right now. . . . I thought for sure I was going to make the Pro Bowl."
Edwards has some theories as to why he has not been voted to a Pro Bowl. He has played away from the East Coast and its media exclusivity, and he is not a character.
"I'm not a big, out there, in-your-face, ESPN highlights guy, doing dances and stuff like that," he said.
What is less clear to him is the reasoning behind a more recent rebuff, one that came from the Chargers.
It was in the offseason that Edwards and the Chargers talked about a new contract. Those talks did not go well.
The team offered a salary bump of $2 million over the next two years in exchange for adding two more years to Edwards' contract at a reduced price, according to a source.
Edwards will not specify what he is looking for, but it is likely more in line with the league's other top linebackers.
Edwards signed a five-year contract when he came to San Diego in 2002. The deal paid him $5.75 million in bonus money and another $4.35 million over the first three seasons.
It is not pennies, but Edwards believes he has outplayed the pact.
A perusal of the contracts of the league's other top linebackers reveals those men have had their deals done and redone at premium prices in recent years.
Ray Lewis got $19 million in bonus money from a new contract signed in 2002 and made another $8.67 million over the first three years of that deal.
Brian Urlacher redid his contract in 2003, receiving $13 million in bonuses. LaVar Arrington got $15.5 million in bonuses when he signed an extension in 2003. Derrick Brooks has had his contract redone three times and made $16 million in bonuses since 2001. Jamie Sharper got $6 million in bonuses from a 2001 signing and made $10.75 million over the next three seasons.
Chargers General Manager A.J. Smith was typically guarded about negotiations with Edwards.
"Donnie is under contract," Smith said. "I'm happy with the player, and I'm happy with the contract." Edwards, however, has watched the team compensate other veterans and trumpet its desire to take care of its own, and he remains annoyed. "I was highly upset, because I think both parties knew where it stood – my production, how much I'm being compensated and where I rank in the league," he said.
Edwards, who will make $3 million this season, showed up for offseason workouts early in the spring. When talks broke off, he stopped attending, needing to get away for a while. But he did attend both minicamps and was on time to training camp. "Although I disagree, I'm going to be professional," he said. "I hope they saw that, and hopefully we can get something done."
Edwards grew up in San Diego. He remains among the most active Chargers players in the community. He wants to stay here.
He believes he has "a good five years left, at least" in the league. But his current contract runs out after the 2006 season, and there is no guarantee he will finish his career here.
"I do everything right," he said. "I just want to be compensated."
There is no threat, implied or otherwise, in Edwards' musings. Edwards would know no other way to play than all out. His consistency proves that.
"I'm going to make plays when I'm on the field," he said. "And that's not going to change."