Don't call Jeremy Newberry a thief.
Newberry's one-year contract with the Raiders, which he signed Tuesday, is for $1.5 million in base salary and comes with no bonus money.
That's the way Newberry said he wanted it.
Having missed all of last season following knee surgery, playing in 10 games in 2005 and just one in 2004, Newberry said he wants to earn his salary.
He said he asked his agent to structure the deal around playing time. The more the two-time Pro Bowl center plays, the more he earns.
"I'm in this thing because I feel I can play," Newberry said. "I didn't want to steal money."
The idea of stealing money is one tossed around locker rooms to insult teammates. It's usually aimed at high draft picks living fat off guaranteed money but doing little on the field.
It's also something said to players who have big contracts with large amounts of guaranteed money but don't deliver, or spend more time in the training room than on the field.
Yes, Raiders fans, Larry Brown won a Super Bowl MVP and then robbed the Raiders blind in the '90s.
While Newberry is to be commended for actually wanting to earn his pay, the contract is also a smart one for the Raiders. Should Newberry hold up and regain his Pro Bowl form, he probably will start at center and be paid like a starter with a Pro Bowl pedigree. At his best, Newberry is a punishing blocker who plays with a tenacity that was absent at times among the Raiders' offensive linemen.
Should Newberry end up a backup, he'll be paid like one.
Regardless of his playing time, Newberry could serve as a valuable mentor. The Raiders finished last season having given up an embarrassing 72 sacks. They also were starting two rookies - Paul McQuistan and Kevin Boothe - at left and right guard, respectively.
There's also Robert Gallery, the second overall pick in the 2004 draft who is far from being a franchise left tackle. Gallery and could find himself back at right tackle in favor of Barry Sims, who was moved to left guard afford Gallery the chance to play left tackle.
The Raiders have a hole at right tackle since the Buffalo Bills were in the mood to throw money at offensive linemen and gave former Raiders right tackle Langston Walker a deal reportedly worth $25 million - $10 million guaranteed - over five years.
But in addition to not being a thief, Newberry could prove to be a valuable help to the new coaching staff. He played for new offensive-line coach Tom Cable at Cal, so he can help Boothe and McQuistan understand Cable's goals. Newberry believes his time in the NFL (nine seasons) will help him pass knowledge to some of the Raiders' young linemen.
Aside from maturity, the Raiders also suffered from embarrassing communication problems the offensive line. There were instances of one side of the line blocking a play one way while the other side blocked it another. It's bad enough not knowing which defender to block. Blocking for a play that wasn't even called is inexcusable. Newberry said what Cable and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp - who was the 49ers' offensive coordinator when Newberry was going to Pro Bowls - plan to do should alleviate confusion up front.
"That (confusion) won't happen under this system," Newberry said. "It's a simple system. It's not a whole lot of communication where there's going to be a lot of people talking."
- Jason Jones