The surprise team of the NFL Playoffs is comprised of highly compensated pros who drive beat-up cars and share apartments.
There are few places more predictable than an NFL team parking lot: There’s a bunch of luxury cars, a spot reserved for the head coach and innumerable signs warning outsiders to park as far away as possible.
You see those things in Washington too, but there’s also a conversion van, a bicycle, a handful of worn-out sedans and a beat-up old Mazda that rolled off the assembly line more than two decades ago.
That’s because the surprise NFC East champion Redskins have a group of stars who are obsessed with spending as little money as possible.
“Maybe someday I’ll have enough saved and I’ll see what I can get,” said starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, who drives a dented GMC Savana passenger van to work. “But it’s better to buy appreciating assets than depreciating. No yachts, no sports cars.”
The average salary for NFL players is roughly $2 million this season, but nobody seems to have told that to the Redskins. Washington, which hosts the Green Bay Packers in a wildcard playoff game Sunday, may be the most frugal team in the league.
Two-time pro bowl running back Alfred Morris, who makes a base salary of $1.5 million this year, has taken to riding a bike to work and leaving it in his reserved parking space. On days when it’s too cold or otherwise inconvenient to cycle to the facility, Morris switches to a splashier ride: a 1991 Mazda 626, which he drove up from Florida as a rookie in 2012. He calls it his Bentley.
Pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan signed a five-year, $57.5 million contract earlier this year. But he still shares his apartment in suburban Virginia with a roommate.
“There are guys who take [saving money] to heart and try to live that frugal lifestyle,” said offensive lineman Tom Compton, who shared an apartment with Cousins for three years.
Cousins said his thriftiness came easily. He worked a minimum-wage job while at Michigan State, picking up golf balls at a driving range, and was used to saving money. Knowing all about the short careers of NFL players, Cousins decided to spend as little as possible. “All you know is being frugal and it takes a little while to know you can spend a little more,” he said.
The quarterback’s penny-pinching ways led to an event that is still discussed in the Redskins locker room: the time Cousins and Compton, then rookies, took a garage-full of unwanted furniture from a teammate—and moved it themselves rather than hiring movers.
“We were trying to save as much as we could, we had hand-me-down goods and we didn’t hire movers,” said Compton. The pair moved into what Compton calls a low-rent apartment close to the facility. “It was a two-bedroom with a nice little breakfast nook,” added Compton, who is making $660,000 this year. “It was a hodge-podge of furniture, green couch, red chairs, a ton of fake trees throughout the house so there was sort of a jungle theme.” The duo “upgraded” to a three-bedroom for the next two years, he said. (Cousins said if he made the move today, he’d probably get splashy and hire movers).
Kerrigan, who has been one of the team’s top players since he was drafted in the first round in 2011, has become legendary for his no-frills approach. He lives with childhood friend Andrew Walker, the managing editor of the Redskins’ website. The duo have “tested the waters” by living in a few apartments, Walker said, including a town house in Leesburg, Va., that was “a little too big.” But mostly they have stuck to modest places.
Walker and Kerrigan joke that their current setup fulfills the star pass rusher’s most important housing requirements. “It’s within walking distance of a Potbelly, a short walk from Chipotle,” Walker said. “He makes most of his own meals but when he does splurge, he’s going to Chipotle.”
Kerrigan’s modest Chevy Tahoe, purchased his rookie year, looks like a Lamborghini compared with some of his teammates’ rides. Morris got his Mazda restored two years ago and still drives it to practice when he takes a car. Cousins’s conversion van initially belonged to his grandparents. He said he liked it for its sentimental value, but also its practicality. The 2000 Savana sat high enough for his 6-feet-3 frame and was comfortable on the inside. “I figured I’d have more fun driving this than a Toyota Corolla, so I might as well just stick with the van,” Cousins said.
There are plenty of theories on why the Redskins have a concentration of frugal players. Inside the locker room, they say it is likely a confluence of the relatively cheap housing around the team’s Virginia facility, compared with Washington D.C., and a crop of unusually low-key stars. Washington’s starting quarterback (Cousins), leading rusher (Morris) and leading receiver (Jordan Reed) were all drafted in the third round or later.
Cousins, who had a breakout year with 4,135 passing yards and 29 touchdown passes, said he’s learning to spend a little more as his career progresses. “But you don’t know how long you’re going to play, you’ve got to save every dollar even though you are making a good salary,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen so I try to put as much money away as I can.”
Cousins is expected to earn a lucrative contract in the offseason. The huge payday may signal the end of an era. Cousins said he’s exploring the possibility of buying a new car once the season comes to an end.
“Maybe I can get something a little less old,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal