The Rouge: Did Ricky Foley break the code with the Lions?

Paul Hoogkamp,
9/21/2010 10:26:08 AM
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Remember the Seinfeld episode where George and Jerry make a pact that they'll both get engaged to their girlfriends? Of course, Jerry doesn't pop the question and George does, leading to the following exchange:

George: You know, it was really wrong of you to back out on that deal.
Jerry: I didn't make a deal. I just shook your hand.
George: Yeah, well that's a deal where I come from.
Jerry: We come from the same place.

If what transpired last week is any indication, Ricky Foley and the B.C. Lions don't come from the same place. The former Lion was returning to the CFL as a free agent after  training camp stints with the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks. He agreed to terms with the Lions, and during an interview on a Vancouver radio station he said he was happy to be returning. The team even issued a press release to announce the imminent deal.

But a funny thing happened to Foley on the way to the Toronto airport. The Courtice, Ontario native stopped by the training camp facility of the Argonauts to thank them for their interest in his services and ending up signing a contract. So much for agreeing to terms.

Foley's reasons seemed genuine; he said the looks on the faces of his family members made it clear they wanted him to play closer to home. And perhaps the Argonauts came to the table with more money than the Lions. After all, Foley tied for the league lead in quarterback sacks last season with 12.

There are a couple of ways to look at this. On the one hand, it could be argued that Foley had agreed to terms with the Lions, so it was too late to change his mind. On the other hand, some would say that a deal is not a deal until it's on paper. But the question is, in principle, did Ricky Foley break the code with the Lions?

It's certainly not uncommon in professional sport for a team to announce it has come to terms with a player; usually it's simply a formality to get the player's name on the contract. Very seldom does an “agree to terms” situation not result in a subsequent announcement that the player has signed with the club a few days later.

But what if another team comes along with a better deal in the meantime? The career of a professional athlete can be fleeting and football is certainly no exception.

CFL on TSN analyst Milt Stegall admits he would have made the same decision as Foley simply because of the uncertainty of a pro athlete's career.

"As professional football players, there are no guaranteed contracts. You don't know what tomorrow holds," said Stegall. "This may be Ricky Foley's only big contract. You have to get all you can while you can. I would have made the same decision and I guarantee you everyone else would have done the same thing."

Upon hearing of Foley's about-face, Lions general manager and head coach Wally Buono was understanding but Foley's former teammates were none too pleased and made their feelings known in no uncertain terms.

"It was totally unprofessional. If you don't want to play here that's fine, but don't lie about it," said offensive lineman Angus Reid. "Don't go on the radio and be so heartfelt when you say there's no place you'd rather be. The guy has no credibility. It was a joke."

"We don't want a guy here that doesn't want to be here. Was it unscrupulous, yes. But it works both ways," said defensive lineman Brent Johnson. "This organization does everything it can to be honest with players. But I'm sure in the history of this organization some players have gotten burned. This time we got burned."

So the Lions thought they had a deal before Foley put his name on the contract. Were they naïve or simply trusting? The Argonauts were fortunate enough to give it one last try and sign one of the league's most dominant pass rushers. Were they underhanded or simply competitive? Should Foley have said 'Thanks but no thanks' when the Argonauts made their last offer on the way to the airport? Was he dishonest or just looking after #1?

Let us know in the Your Call feature below.

Ricky Foley (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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