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Alex Karras Celebrates Huge Lions Contract

Apr. 30, 1964 - Alex Karras (pictured today with his new contract) became the highest paid lineman in the history of pro football today when he signed a two-year contract with the Detroit Lions calling for a salary of nearly $30,000 a year.

The huge all-pro tackle, suspended through 1963 and only recently reinstated, came to terms with Lion personnel director Russ Thomas after a brief morning meeting.

Neither Thomas nor Karras would indicate the actual value of the contract. But, said Thomas: “We consider him as fine a player at his position as there is in football. Naturally, we expected to pay him that way.”

Karras earned about $18,000 in 1962, the year before his suspension from football for betting on games.

“I wouldn’t say I got back all the money I lost last year,” said Karras today, “but I’m happy with the new contract.”

It was evident that the new contract places Karras somewhere in the $25,000-$30,000 range, and among the top paid players in the NFL.

The Cleveland Browns’ Jim Brown is generally considered the highest paid player in football at about $45,000 a year.

With the exception of linebacker-captain Joe Schmidt, no Lion defensive player has ever been paid more than $20,000. Schmidt, who made $22,000 in 1963, is presently negotiating his new contract.

Thomas said the NFL’s new $14.1 million-a-year television contract is bringing heavier salary demands throughout the league. “It’s my guess,” said Thomas, “that the average pay for pro football players is higher than any other sport, including baseball.”

None of the 1964 Lions, for instance, is expected to make less than $10,000, which is well above the required minimum of $7,500.

Karras’s rich new contract fell in a special category.

In one respect, Karras’s forced absence and notoriety in 1963 make him a sure-fire gate attraction for the Lions wherever they play.

But he is more than that. The Lion organization accepts him as the heart of the team, and his return to the lineup is expected to trigger a strong championship bid.

“He could have a better year in 1964 than he had in 1962,” said head coach George Wilson, “because he really wants to.”

Karras, now a trim 240 pounds, 10 pounds under his normal playing weight, already has begun special weightlifting exercises in the Lions’ training quarters to strengthen and tone his muscles.

A seven-year veteran who three times has been an All-Pro selection, Karras is the first of the Lions’ “big names” to be landed by Thomas.

Negotiations are under way with 21 others who reside in the Detroit area, Thomas said.

Among Lions who might be looking for a big raise is quarterback Earl Morrall, who sparkled in the second half of the 1963 season. Morrall, however, is working on the second half of a two-year contract.

Morrall and quarterback Milt Plum were regarded previously as the top-paid Lions, receiving about $23,000 each.

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