Injury to Giants S Chad Jones influenced Penn to sign a long-term deal with Bucs
Injuries are like little assassins that hide behind every door for NFL players, whose contracts are not guaranteed.
If Donald Penn needed a reminder of that, he got it this summer when LSU rookie safety Chad Jones severely injured his left leg in a terrifying car crash June 25 in New Orleans.
Jones underwent several surgerical procedures on his leg and ankle and spent a month at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The Giants waived Jones with the intention of putting him on the reserve/non-football injury list.
Penn, the Bucs starting left tackle, signed a 6-year, $48-million contract Saturday that includes nearly $20-million guaranteed. Jones and Penn are represented by agent Rocky Arceneaux.
"I got a 20-month year old son at home. You never know what tomorrow is going to entail,'' Penn said. "Chad Jones was a great friend of mine and still is a good friend of mine. You guys see what happened to him. You never know what's going to happen the next day. You can try everything to be careful, but still, that was a freak accident. He couldn't have stopped that if he wanted to.
"My family was a big part. I wanted to get something now, because if I had gone out this year, knock on wood, I'm not injury prone -- but what if I got hurt? Where would that have left me? I just wanted to get it done because I felt it was well overdue and I think the organization felt it was well overdue.''
Penn, 27, had refused to sign the Bucs' $3.168-million tender as a restricted free agent and saw the club reduce the offer by about $100,000. He missed the entire off-season and mandatory minicamp. But as the reporting date for training camp approached, Penn said he didn't want to miss much time holding out.
"I called my agent a couple days ago. I told em,"Dude, let's see what you could do,''' Penn said. "Do whatever it takes to be in there, because when it was getting closer, it was like, "Man, I've never missed a camp before. I don't want to do that. That's not the type of guy I am.' I had a long talk with (Rocky) and said, "Let's get it done. I'll make some sacrifices if I have to, but let's get it done.
"It's a big load off my shoulders. I go out there every week and I play my butt off and play my butt off and I look at other guys that aren't playing as good as me, who aren't doing as much as me but they might have been a first-round pick. Their team is winning and they're getting all this glory when somebody whom is deserving isn't.''
General manager Mark Dominik criticized Penn for gaining 40 pounds during the 2009 season and not performing well the final eight games. But Penn, who has lost 30 pounds, refuted that claim Saturday.
"You guys made it out to be like, "Oh my Gosh, it was like 60 pounds,'' Penn said. "I mean, how is somebody going to gain 60 pounds in a season? I didn't gain not 60 pounds. I thought I played well, but I could've played better. I'm my harshest critic. Before this season was over, we had a plan set up. In January, I hired a nuritionist. I hired a trainer. I already had that set up.''
In the end, Penn said he would not have held out very long even without a new contract.
"To tell you guys the truth, if it had come to it, I wasn't going to hold at that long,'' Penn said. "You've got to get in football shape. I've got a lot of pride...I talk to much trash, I've got to be able to back it up.''