|Belichick reportedly gave players money for fighting on more than one occasion. (Getty Images)|
Posted by Ryan Wilson
Chad Eaton played eight NFL seasons from 1996 to 2004, including five with the New England Patriots. On Thursday, the Dayton Daily News published a feature on Eaton, who now coaches at Central State University, a historically black college in Wilberforce, Ohio.
It's a wide-ranging piece that covers much of Eaton's professional life as a player and coach, but the part that caught our attention was his time with Bill Belichick. Drafted in the seventh round in 1995 by the Cardinals, Eaton was cut twice before landing on the Browns' practice squad. Belichick was the coach, and he took a liking to Eaton because of his hard-nosed style.
“If practice was going slow, he’d look at me and just say, ‘It’s time,’” Eaton told the Daily News. “He wanted me to get on somebody’s (case) and start a little fight. I was known for that and it paid off on Fridays. There’d always be some extra money in my locker. Practice players don’t make much, so I really appreciated it.”
Coaches instigating fights among players is nothing new. Jets head coach Rex Ryan admitted to as much during prior to the 2010 season on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
ESPN New York's Rich Cimini recounts the incident.
"Ryan was so concerned by [former first-round pick Vernon Gholston's] lack of fire that he actually assigned backup center Rob Turner -- the Jets' version of a hockey goon -- to pick a fight with Gholston in practice. It's a macho thing; the objective is to see if Gholston is man enough to respond. Ryan apparently liked the outcome because he used an off-color, coming-of-age description to compliment Gholston to his coaches."
The difference? Turner didn't find any "extra money" in his locker afterwards.
PFT.com's Mike Florio writes that "Giving extra cash to players raises the specter of potential salary-cap violations."
We suppose, but it still seems like a stretch.
Either way, the strategy backfired. After going 11-5 and leading the Browns to the playoffs in 1994, Belichick's '95 team went 5-11. Then-owner Art Modell promptly announced the team was relocating to Baltimore and, oh, yeah, Belichick was fired.
The Boston Globe's Chad Finn unearthed another example of Belichick paying a player to mix it up during practice. In 2000, then with the Pats, Belichick gave practice squad offensive lineman Rob Gatrell $200 "to go after (safety) Lawyer Milloy… Milloy was chosen because he's considered the most emotional, toughest, and meanest player on the defense. Milloy responded just as Belichick hoped, going after Gatrell and creating a massive brawl that involved up to 30 players - offensive vs. defensive. Smaller fights ensued throughout practice."
You'd have to really be up against the salary cap for what amounts to NFL lunch money to be a violation.
Belichick was asked about Eaton's comments Friday.
"I don't remember that," he said, according to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Greg Bedard.
Works for us.
After a disappointing loss last week over the Steelers, the New England Patriots hope to rebound as they prepare to host the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. Join Jason Horowitz and NFL.com's Pat Kirwan as they break down this game.
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