Talk with Cowher coaxed Steelers LB Porter into camp

Updated: August 18, 2006, 1:16 AM ET
Associated Press

LATROBE, Pa. -- Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter, unhappy with his contract situation, said Thursday he considered not showing up for the Pittsburgh Steelers' training camp until a long talk with coach Bill Cowher persuaded him to report.

Jerry Porter

Porter is signed through 2007, making $4 million in salary and a roster bonus this season and $5.2 million in salary plus roster and signing bonuses next year. But he said he deserves a reworked contract after helping lead the Steelers to their Super Bowl victory last season.

"I definitely feel that I have outplayed the contract that I am under," Porter said Thursday night in an interview with the NFL Network. "The whole city of Pittsburgh knows what I bring, coach Cowher knows what I bring. We had a talk and it was 'I need you.' I was unhappy. There was no use me lying about it."

Porter said Cowher reassured him that the coach will remain with the team, though Porter did not say specifically if that meant until the end of the linebacker's contract. Cowher and the Steelers broke off their contract talks this week and, while also signed through 2007, Cowher has not said if he will return next year.

"He's one of the main reasons why I'm back here at camp," Porter said. "Contract-wise, I wasn't too happy with the situation that we're going into. But I talked to coach Cowher and, after me and him had our words, he said he's going to be here. So he had a big impact on me being here in camp this year."

Porter missed some of the team's voluntary workouts last spring, apparently because of his contract situation. After that, he needed arthroscopic knee surgery in May and missed the rest of the workouts.

"I didn't have to come out here and be nice to anybody, but me having a talk with coach Cowher and the relationship we have, I feel like I can suck it in, even though I'm not happy with the contract," Porter said. "I'll go out there for coach Cowher and play like I know how to play and just put it all in God's hands and see what happens next year."

Porter's 2007 salary terms are not salary cap-friendly to the Steelers -- he would have a cap value of $6.6 million -- and it is possible they will ask him to rework the deal. Porter apparently wanted to redo the contract this year, getting some of the money this season he was due next year.

Porter, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker and one of the NFL's best-known defensive players, seemed surprised by the questions about his contract situation and declined to discuss it further with The Associated Press following the NFL Network interview.

"That's over with it, I'm here now and it's nothing I'm going to bring up or talk about," he said.

Porter also said the Steelers have been unaffected by the uncertainty created by Cowher's contract situation. The Steelers and Cowher announced Tuesday they have ended their talks, though the team hopes to revive them once the season ends.

However, Cowher has purchased a $2.5 million home in Raleigh, N.C., where his wife and youngest daughter apparently plan to live this season. That has created considerable speculation that Cowher will retire and not coach next season, even though, at age 50, he would be relatively young next year by NFL coaching standards.

"The team hasn't been affected at all. Most guys talk about it -- 'What do you think? Do you think he's going to be here?,' " Porter said. "Coach Cowher is here now. Until we see otherwise, we're going to go out there and fight for coach like we always do. If something happens before the end of the season then we'll know, but, right now, coach Cowher is here and we're going to play like he's here."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press