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Fine line: Increased amount might limit NFL holdouts

7/24/2006 - NFL

An increase in the amount that a team can fine a player under contract who fails to report to training camp, with the maximum sanction nearly tripled, will likely reduce the number of holdouts this summer.

"It definitely changes the landscape. That's a lot of money and a guy who was thinking of sitting [out camp] is going to have to rethink what he wants to do."
Agent for player considering holding out

First reported by The Boston Globe, the league and the NFL Players Association agreed last week, as part of the extension to the collective bargaining agreement, to increase the daily fine from $5,000 to $14,000 for a player who is under contract and fails to report to camp.

That's an enormous increase and one that will likely make players think twice about withholding services when they know that so much money will be withheld from their paycheck. Franchises don't have to fine players the maximum amount permissible, but it is likely that most would, since the increase provides the clubs so much more leverage.

The fine applies only to players who have contracts. Unsigned players cannot be fined for their absences from training camp.

"It definitely changes the landscape," said the agent for one player who is considering staying out of camp. "That's a lot of money and a guy who was thinking of sitting [out camp] is going to have to rethink what he wants to do."

Some players who could most be affected by the increased fine include wide receivers Deion Branch of New England and Denver's Ashley Lelie, along with Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Ellis. Those players missed all or substantial portions of their teams' offseason programs and certainly seemed candidates to not report for the start of camp.

Branch, who is entering the final year of his original contract with the Patriots, is seeking a raise. Lelie wants to be traded and, while the Broncos have dangled him for much of the offseason, have yet to find a team willing to meet their asking price. Ellis has balked at being switched to linebacker, after having played end his entire career, as the Cowboys continue the transition to a 3-4 defense.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.