EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back-return specialist David Meggett, reportedly upset with his 1990 salary, did not report for practice yesterday, leaving his status for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins in doubt.
The agent for the former Towson State star, Tony Agnone of Baltimore, attributed his client's absence to illness. "I don't think he was feeling well," Agnone said. "I think it was a touch of the virus."
Meggett, however, did not contact the Giants to say he would miss practice because of illness and several teammates and an National Football League source close to the player said he missed the workout to force the Giants to redo his current contract, which expires at the end of this year.
"I was told he wasn't here. That's all I know," said general manager George Young.
Bill Parcells said Meggett's absence was "not that big a deal." But one player said the coach was contemplating suspending Meggett if he did not show for today's practice. He is subject to a $1,500 fine for each unexcused absence and can be suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team.
Meggett earned about $205,000 (including a signing bonus) last year, when he set a club record with 1,807 all-purpose yards and made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He leads the league in punt-return yardage (16.1 average), including a 68-yard return for a touchdown against Philadelphia.
While his 1989 income wasn't bad for a fifth-round pick who was a long shot to make the team, Meggett apparently feels those credentials are worthy of more than his 1990 base salary of $90,000 (he also received a roster bonus of $15,000).
At least one veteran player said he thinks Meggett's position is justified. "You look at what his role here is and what he has done for this team. Then you look at other players here who are making more money and doing nothing, it can make you mad," he said.
Meggett wanted the Giants to approach him this summer about a new deal, but Young never responded. It seemed a forgotten matter during training camp when Meggett said he was satisfied with his contract and was willing to wait until next year, when he becomes an unsigned free agent. "A two-year contract is a two-year contract," he said then. "Whether they renegotiate is totally up to them. I'm perfectly satisfied."
His tune apparently has changed, and it's uncertain when he'll come back. Meggett couldn't be reached for comment, but the NFL source said he expected Meggett to report for work today. "He just wanted to make a statement," the source said.