The following is an excerpt from the cover feature in the current issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine, *A Story That Should End Differently*.
This is one of those stories that should end differently. And maybe it will, as the final chapter is yet to be written. Perhaps, somehow, someway, it'll work itself out. Jason Hatcher would like that very much. Do not mistake otherwise. His pride and passion for this franchise, for this very team here and now, are beyond dispute.
The NFL is a business, though, and Hatcher has prepared himself and his family for this being his eighth and final season with the Dallas Cowboys.
Alas, Hatcher is arguably the most underpaid player in the league this season, that case can easily be made. And yes, it's unlike the Cowboys not to take care of their players in such instances, but "Hatch" hasn't said word one about his situation. He has just gone about his business anchoring the overachieving "No-Name" defensive line and being one of this team's leaders, on and off the field.
Still, though, the man's human. He has a wife and three kids, as well as a slew of other family members who also are dependent on him, too many, truth be told. And each time he takes the field there's risk. No one is throwing a ton of dough at an injured player entering his ninth NFL campaign, so while Hatcher is easily in the best physical condition of his career, each game is another challenge. Not only to win and play at the highest level possible, but to stay healthy.
The first week of November saw another top-tier defensive tackle, Cincinnati's Geno Atkins, tear his ACL while Hatcher himself left the Minnesota victory early in the fourth quarter with a stinger and then missed the team's loss at New Orleans. The difference is, Atkins signed a six-year extension this past September for $56 million while Hatcher is playing out the final season of a three-year, $6 million deal. For those non-math majors, that's a big difference.
"Yeah, I can understand the Cowboys not signing me to an extension before this season started," Hatcher said. "But at the same time, I know for a fact that I have outplayed my contract, and for those guys not to acknowledge it, it's just one of those things I'm starting to lean on, starting to think about more and more. I've talked to my family about the worst-case scenario, playing somewhere else.
"The longer I play without a deal, the more my value goes up. I don't want to hear about I'm 31 years old, either. I'm one of the best in the league at my position. So, yeah, it's hard not to think about. You can't put a gun to those guys' heads and make them step up to the plate and do something. Maybe I'm not that guy for them, but thank God there are 31 other teams out there. I guarantee there's a lot that love me as a player.
"I would love to retire here, that's always been the dream, but it's just one of those things. Every game that goes on, it's kind of disrespectful. You start feeling a little disrespected."
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