Friday, February 10, 2012
Odds-defying linebacker has earned raise
By Mike Sando
The St. Louis Rams thought they could upgrade from veteran linebacker Paris Lenon following the 2009 season.
Three years later, they still have not adequately replaced him.
The Arizona Cardinals sought to upgrade from Lenon last offseason when they invested $6 million a year in free-agent linebacker Stewart Bradley.
Lenon wound up playing more than 95 percent of the defensive snaps in 2011. He was a team captain, played through multiple injuries (including a cracked tailbone) and triggered a $500,000 salary increase for the 2012 season. His name jumped off the chart below showing NFC West players who have earned 2012 pay raises by meeting incentives.
Lenon, 34, will not go away. He has done what solid, unspectacular veterans must do to remain viable: stay on the field at all costs.
"His story is amazing," Lenon's agent, Jonathan Persch, said Friday. "He is the only XFL player still even remotely around. What makes him amazing is not just his resiliency on the field, but he is a normal soccer dad when he goes home to his wife and kids."
Undrafted from Richmond in 2000, Lenon went to camp with Carolina as a rookie, then caught on with the XFL's Memphis Maniax. He was briefly with Seattle and Green Bay before joining the Packers' practice squad in 2001.
Lenon played for the Amsterdam Adrmirals in NFL Europe and has subsequently played in 159 of 160 regular-season NFL games for the Packers, Detroit Lions, Rams and Cardinals. He has never missed a game to injury. Lenon did not play the 2009 opener only because the Rams had not yet signed him.
"He doesn't verbalize this," Persch said, "but dear God, don't tell him what he cannot do."
The Cardinals credited Lenon with 127 tackles in 2010 and 103 last season. Those totals, combined with playing time, helped Lenon achieve the $500,000 raise. Lenon also set a career high with three sacks. He has five sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble in two seasons with Arizona.
Will Lenon start again in 2012? There are never guarantees, but it's tough betting against him. Coach Ken Whisenhunt has emphasized playing the best players at every position, even when it wasn't convenient to him. That explained why Lenon stayed on the field last season even though the team had more invested in Bradley.
Note: Thanks to Brian McIntyre for putting together the information in the chart below. He has posted a broader NFL list of salary increases here.