NFL players anxious about impending lockout

Winston Justice (right), Pete Kendall visit Jon Runyan in his office in Washington.
Winston Justice (right), Pete Kendall visit Jon Runyan in his office in Washington.
Posted: January 25, 2011

Eagles right tackle Winston Justice writes a weekly column for the Daily News this season.

 I REALLY HOPE there is football next season. I love playing the game - it is my passion and one of the things that drive me each day. I feel confident I'm speaking on behalf of all players when I tell you that we want to play. It is even more true for me, because of the bitter taste left with how our season ended. I plan on taking 2 weeks off to let my body heal, and then I will be getting right back to work. I will come back smarter, stronger and a better player for the Eagles. With the chance of a lockout in the NFL, we are not sure of anything. As a first-year players' representative for the Eagles, I had the opportunity to spend last week in Washington, learning about the mission of the NFL Players Association. This year is pivotal, with much on the line for the future of the NFL, as the current collective bargaining agreement will soon expire.

As a player, I know our health insurance expires March 3 and will not be renewed. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo already told me that after March 3, neither he nor any of the staff will be able to contact players or they will risk losing their jobs. I have heard rumors of players' pregnant wives asking to be induced into labor early before their health benefits are cut short. It is really an unsettling and unfortunate time.

I also have read a lot of articles recently and have seen a lot of fans who don't seem to understand the players' worries over the current bargaining situation. But I assure you, it is not just about millionaire players wanting more millions. Fact of the matter is, most guys aren't millionaires, and, although they are making a good living, many need to play to sustain their livelihood. The average NFL career lasts less than 4 years, and the owners know that. The players are not the ones going on strike. The NFLPA, on behalf of all players, asked to continue the agreement from 2006, but the owners declined. They will lock us out. It's also not just about players. The lockout will affect people in every NFL city around the country. It will hurt local business owners, employees at restaurants, hotels, and all of the great people who work at Lincoln Financial Field, on game day, just to name a few.

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of walking Capitol Hill and meeting with local members of Congress as we tried to make the message loud and clear that we want to play. We felt there was no better place to spread the message to than the ones we elect to represent us.

Of course, a proposed 18-game schedule worries all of us who play. As each game goes on, injuries mount, including concussions and traumatic injuries like the neck injuries Ellis Hobbs incurred the past two seasons. It is unanimous that players do not want an 18-game season. By the end of the year, the training room gets so packed, its almost impossible for trainers to treat everyone. And that is just with 16 games. No "special" equipment can protect us from injury. We play a brutal, brutal sport, and an extra two games will just add to that chance of injury. Obviously, two extra games (without extra compensation for the players) will bring in more revenue for the NFL, and the owners, unfortunately at the expense of the players' careers and possible long-term health.

I tried to give you a little insight into the players' perspective regarding the potential lockout, and I hope we all come together and do what is best for the game.

Super Bowl

My pick to win the Super Bowl: Pittsburgh Steelers.

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