Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne signed a five-year, $7.14 million contract with the New York Giants on Friday, opting not to haggle over money so he could report to training camp on time.
The Wisconsin halfback got a $4.5 million signing bonus, but the total value of the deal was less than the $8.175 million package signed by defensive end Shaun Ellis, who was drafted No. 12 by the New York Jets. Dayne was the 11th pick overall.
"After a while, I just said no matter what it is I want to do it," Dayne said Friday evening after attending the opening meeting at training camp. "I didn't feel like going through it and starting off on the wrong foot with the media. They talked me down already from the beginning, so I wanted to get it done."
Dayne, college football's career rushing leader with 6,397 yards, got off to a bad start last month, missing a mandatory league-sponsored rookie conference aimed at teaching life skills to new players. He still faces a possible $10,000 league fine.
"I'm just going to let my talking be done on the field, and try to stay out of as many people's way as I can while I'm off the field," Dayne said. "As long as I can do that and perform on the field, I'll be OK."
After signing the contract about 1 p.m. at Giants Stadium, Dayne drove to the training camp at the University at Albany, and literally had to run up a few stairs to get to the team meeting.
Giants coach Jim Fassel was commenting about his absence when Dayne said he raised his hand to let the coach know he was there.
"I just want to play football," Dayne said. "I'll put the money in the bank and go play football. I can't spend it when I'm in camp."
Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi said the deal was finalized during two hours of talks at Giants Stadium with Dayne and his agent, Ron Hopson on Friday morning.
Accorsi and Hopson had a long meeting earlier this week, but nothing happened until Hopson called Thursday night and asked to meet on Friday.
"I think Ron wanted to get in camp, I really do," Accorsi said in a telephone interview from his office.
"It seems important that he is here," Fassel added. "I think he carried at all times the right attitude. We needed to get him in and Ernie knew that. I expressed that to both Ernie and the agent when they were talking, but I think both sides realized the importance of being here."
Accorsi said that if Dayne does have great years, the Giants would be willing to give him a new contract. The current deal includes incentives that can boost his pay.
Accorsi said th most important thing for Dayne was to be at camp.
"In my 30 years, so many skill players, because they are the speed people running backs, receivers and defensive backs - when they hold out they get hurt right away," Accorsi said.
It marked the fourth straight year that Accorsi signed the Giants' No. 1 pick before the start of camp. Receiver Ike Hilliard, safety Shaun Williams and tackle Luke Petitgout signed before camp the three previous years.
Cornelius Griffin, the Alabama defensive lineman who was the Giants' second-round pick, is their only unsigned draft choice. Accorsi refused to discuss why Griffin had not signed.
"It's not done, that's all I can say," Accorsi said.
Dayne gives the Giants a power runner for a team that averaged only 88.1 yards rushing and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
It was the first time the Giants averaged less than 100 yards in a non-strike season since 1953, but it also came as New York lost its top running back, Gary Brown, for most of the season. Rookie Joe Montgomery's team-high 348 yards were the fewest since Bobby Duhon had 344 in 1971.
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