And the PR battle between the NFL and the players continues.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been visiting NFL players in a tour of training camp across the league. He kicked off his camp tour with the Kansas City Chiefs last week.
"He's walking around kissing babies, you know, shaking hands, and he just wants to say that the owners are over here, the players are over here and I'm in the middle, I'm for the game," top cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "But to ask him a question about anything, he couldn't answer. He couldn't answer this, go check with this, go ask these people, I don't really know. It was a waste of time."
When Roger Goodell visited the Kansas City Chiefs last week on the eve of training camp, he had to know he'd be getting a hard line of questioning. The Chiefs have two players -- Brian Waters and Mike Vrabel -- on the NFLPA's Executive Committee. Rudy Niswanger is alternate team rep. And we know Jon McGraw is well-informed with these issues considering the last time I talked to him was on Capitol Hill with other NFLPA folks.
After Goodell's meeting with the Chiefs last week, it was Waters who, like the Redskins players, spoke out against what the players are calling his inability (or refusal) to answer certain labor-related questions.
In Kansas City, Waters asked Goodell directly whether the owners were planning to cut health benefits for players in the event of a 2011 lockout. Linebacker Tamba Hali stood up and flat-out asked why the owners had opted out of the collective bargaining agreement.
"He couldn't give us any answers," Waters said. "All he said was, 'They weren't happy.' If we ask you why they weren't happy and all you can say is, 'They weren't," then how can you say we're having an open dialogue and this isn't just a P.R. move so you can say, 'Hey, I went and talked to the players?'"
The story with Dan Graziano of FanHouse.com includes accounts from other players of similar meetings with Goodell.
This is just a taste of what's to come. This will get more and more public as the days roll along (as if it already isn't) and it'll make it more and more interesting for each player to walk into work each day. Waters is completely, 100% within his rights to make these criticisms of Goodell (as are the other players) and the lack of answers does seem to be a problem, even if we've heard just one side. He's also criticizing the guy (Goodell) who is leading the group of owners, one of whom signs Waters' paycheck (Clark Hunt), against the players so you can see how it might get a little messy.
For the record, I'm not saying who's right and who's wrong. I'm just saying that it's going to make daily life a challenge for both sides when they have to work together (while there's still football) and then handle the labor issues on the side. It's a slippery slope for all sides involved and it's not going to get any easier anytime soon.
I get the feeling that fans, while they may take certain sides on individual battles like this one, understand the ultimate goal: Playing football in 2011 and beyond. As a fan, you're naturally going to be drawn into thinking one side is right and the other is wrong. That's OK but I think it's just as (if not more) important to keep your eyes on the ultimate goal.
At some point this offseason, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith will likely make a similar trip and hold a meeting with the Chiefs. I don't think the players will be walking away from that one like they are the Goodell meeting.