The lasting image of Riley Reiff for me, regardless of if he’s cut in the offseason or plays in purple for the next 10 years, is of him running out of the tunnel at U.S. Bank Stadium before the Los Angeles Rams game carrying the red, white and blue above his right shoulder. That’s a proud American man right there. A good ol’ boy from Parkston, S.D. raised on oats and barley battling in the trenches for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings.
Unfortunately, as all of us wait on our checks from Uncle Sam, wondering when they’re coming and how much they’re for, Reiff’s gonna be sweating out every possession in Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions. Not because the Vikings are playing his former team, which drafted him in the first round eight years ago. Not because this game means anything for Minnesota’s playoff chances.
It’s because he gets a cool million if the Vikings run 66 or fewer plays in Detroit.
Maybe he doesn’t care about the money. He’s making $5.9 million this year, is due $11 million in 2021, and seems to be getting better every year despite being 32 years old. But in a meaningless game, you’d think the Vikings would do him a solid and keep the play count down for one of the few brights spots on their offensive line.
Here’s the rub: Reiff’s contract dictates that he gets a $1 million bonus if he plays 93.7% of Minnesota’s snaps this year. He’s played every snap this year, so who cares how much they labor moving the ball at Ford Field, right? His track record says he’ll be fine.
Well, he’s on the COVID reserve list and can’t play, so every offensive possession that accumulates moves him closer to missing out on the bonus. It’s like he made a $1 million prop bet on the game to stay engaged, which seems appropriate given that the Vikings may be playing on Bally’s Sports North in the near future and this could be a pretty sloppy game.
Here’s the thing, though, it’s like someone was very precise setting the over/under. It’s a line even Tiny Nick wouldn’t touch. The Vikings are averaging 66.8 plays per game. This is a risky proposition for the hirsute fella.
I get it, this is all ridiculous. He should get the bonus. The man is being held out due to COVID and there should be no penalty for sitting this one out. The contract was signed before the pandemic, of course, but an exception should be made because the league doesn’t want to encourage players to push to get on the field when they could pass a deadly disease onto others.
But a contract is a contract, I suppose, and everyone’s favorite patriot stands to lose a lot of money if the Vikings snap the ball 67 times on Sunday.