The details have not yet surfaced on everything the Texans have done behind the scenes in the way of reworking other players' deals in order to get Arian Foster signed to a new contract extension. We don't know what the Texans' next moves entail and just how much, if at all, the magnitude of Foster's deal impacts the team's ability to re-sign Mario Williams, if indeed that's what Mario and the Texans both want.
All we know right now is Arian Foster will be a Houston Texan during his prime years, and for now that will do just fine.
Since the book closed on the 2010 season, a season in which Foster burst onto the scene and announced his presence with authority by leading the league in all-purpose yards, talk amongst media members and Texan fans (and I would imagine various family members of Arian Foster) has centered around ensuring that Foster remain a Houston Texan, and a well-paid one, for a long, long time.
That happened today, with the news that Foster would be signing a five-year contract extension worth $43.5 million ($20.75 million guaranteed). $18 million of that will come in 2012, and $30 million of it will come in the first three years, putting his deal on par with the much-publicized deal that Chris Johnson got from Tennessee right before the start of the 2011 season.
Of course, unlike Johnson, Foster did not hold the team hostage with a lengthy holdout in order to get what he wanted. Quite the opposite. In fact, if he weren't busy training for the 2012 season with his brother Abdul or tweeting back to one of his 164,000 Twitter followers, Arian Foster could write a pretty good thesis (likely in iambic pentameter, if he so chose) on how to properly conduct your business when everyone in the free world (including yourself) knows your true value as a football player is exponentially higher than the number on your game check each week.
The outline for such a piece would look something like this:
1. Train maniacally and come in ready. It's well documented that Foster's secret weapon, from a training standpoint, is his brother Abdul, who moved to Houston in 2009 to oversee his training. Abdul has seen every single snap of every one of Arian's games and is basically the eyes in the back of Arian's head.
At a time when a lot of fans and media members would have given Foster a pass if he wanted to send a statement with a training camp holdout (Hell, we'd already been conditioned for it with Dunta Robinson and in past OTA's with Owen Daniels and Andre Johnson), he showed up at training camp in shape and worked, possibly because he knew if he wasn't there, all that would do is give the next undrafted free agent (or Ben Tate) a chance to take his job. That's the thing about having to fight for something -- it makes the fear of losing it that much greater.
2. When asked about your contract, defer. Any time Foster was asked about his contract status during the season, he would give the same answer -- some variation of controlling what he can control, he wants to be a Texan long-term, and if he takes care of his business, he has faith the team will take care of him. For a guy who answers questions as unfiltered and truthfully as any athlete you'll find, it was as close to a canned answer as you'll get from him. And yet, he was still being truthful. And ultimately the plan came together. It all worked.
3. Handle adversity. Coming into the season, everyone wanted to see if Foster's 2010 season (2,220 total yards, 18 touchdowns) was the real deal. He was anxious to prove the doubters wrong in 2011, but hit a bump coming out of the gate with a hamstring injury that lingered, reoccurred and lingered again, enough for him to miss all or part of the first three games of the regular season. Having done a weekly radio show with him during the season, I can tell you that those first few weeks were the hardest to do, not because there was nothing to talk about (Lesson number 1 of radio with Arian Foster -- there's ALWAYS something to talk about), but because you could tell it was eating him up to have to watch from the sideline. Eighteen hundred total yards in 12 games later, I'd say he made up for lost time. 4. Go into beast mode, preferably at the most important times. To boil Arian Foster's 2011 season down to figuratively how big his pile of yards and stack of touchdowns were is missing the point on what makes him one of the elite backs in the game today, one of the few backs who rises above the NFL's trend of backfields by committee. It's not the "how much" with Foster, it's the "when."
In his first full game back from the hamstring injury, a bloodbath with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Texans were having trouble moving the ball in the second half when, out of nowhere, Foster had a "vintage Arian" type run, a 47-yard cutback against the grain in which Troy Polamalu was left face down gasping for air and Foster was left walking into the end zone. In the Texans' playoff win over the Bengals, it was Foster's 42-yard touchdown run (including a soul-crushing corkscrewing of Bengals safety Chris Crocker) that sealed the deal. In the Texans' playoff loss to the Ravens, it was Foster who ran for 132 yards and made play after play (including a ridiculous one-handed catch on a screen pass to keep a drive alive deep in Baltimore territory) when the Texans could get little else going. Those are a few examples. If you need more, go to YouTube. Put in "Arian Foster." You'll see he is two seasons into constructing his own wing there.
5. Stay humble, stay thoughtful. When you talk to Arian Foster about kids' wearing his jersey, he is equal parts flattered and mindful, mindful that his number 23 jersey represents more than just the 120 yards and two touchdowns he put up that Sunday. Yes, he's a football payer, but he's a person, too. He's a free thinker whose love of poetry is well documented. He's one of the few athletes who are legitimately engaging and interesting in 140 character bites.
I'm fairly certain he doesn't hate anybody, although he does have a healthy disdain for "snipers" in Call of Duty. He knows he's one of the best in the game today, yet smiles like a little kid when you play a soundbite of Troy Polamalu specifically mentioning him by name. Yes, like many of us would, Arian Foster thinks it's cool that "Troy Polamalu knows who [he] is." If you want to see him really light up, get him talking about his young daughter Zeniah, who is two going on 20. He punctuates every touchdown with his trademark "Namaste" bow, "namaste" meaning "the God in me recognizes the God in you."
In short, while his ability to carry a football is the primary reason the Texans just made Arian Foster's grandkids wealthy, don't discount the overall brand Arian Foster represents. Character, hard work, intellect, fun. On many levels, this was a deal the Texans had to get done. To their credit, they did.
One of the coolest moments on my show on Yahoo! Sports Radio this past football season was the first show I did with Arian Foster. We had the legendary Jim Brown (a hero of Arian) call the program. The mutual respect was palpable, and it was the easiest ten minutes of radio I did all year -- all I did was sit back and watch two interesting people converse about duty, honor, family and respect.
When Foster asked Jim Brown for words of advice, this is what Brown said:
Don't neglect the game. Don't neglect the game, because when it's all over and done, the money will be important, but the way you played the game will be what people will remember about you. So don't let anyone keep you out of the game, and always give your best....the politics are very difficult sometimes. Sometimes even your own union doesn't represent you properly. Sometimes these things can be discouraging. But if you play the game hard, and give it all you have at all times, then these things have a way of working out.
Indeed, they do. Today, things worked out for Arian Foster.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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