As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, the story this morning in the Kansas City Star that Chris pointed out just a little bit ago made me feel pretty good. Eric Berry, one of the players who would arguably be hurt the most in a lockout, said Chiefs players may reconvene in Kansas City sometime this spring for player-organized practices.
Like I said, as a fan, I like hearing this. Several months ago, former Washington front office man and current CBS analyst Charlie Casserly said the Redskins were aided in their Super Bowl seasons in 1982 and 1987 -- both work stoppage seasons -- because coach Joe Gibbs had the players organize their own practices.
These days, though, the money is more and the stakes are higher. If I'm a player, or someone looking out for the best interest in a player (like an agent or the NFLPA), I am going to think long and hard about participating in player-run offseason practices.
Here are a few concerns I'd have if I were a player.
First, what if I get injured? The best case scenario obviously is that it's a minor injury and I know how to treat it because the trained professionals normally standing 20 feet away won't be there to treat it. The worst case scenario is that I suffer an injury and get placed on the non-football injury list with my 2011 pay wiped out.
Actually, the worst case scenario is suffering a career-ending injury. The chances of suffering a career-ending or even season-ending injury aren't very good but, looking at my salary, I'm not sure I'm willing to take that potentially multi-million dollar gamble.
Second, how can my union, the NFLPA, support something like this when they just issued a report in January on injuries titled "Dangers Of The Game" cautioning us that injuries are rising and becoming more severe year by year? And then that they found 40 percent of those injuries occurred before the regular season even started? In the middle of a lockout, the NFLPA is going to support workouts not run by professional coaches or trainers? What would Brian Waters or Mike Vrabel, members of the NFLPA's executive committee, have to say about our player workouts?
Third, organizing player workouts would be telling the owners that we're so ready to play football and be prepared for the season that we'll risk injury and practice for free when, in reality, the players want to be sending the message that they can handle a summer-long lockout (which is why the union has been telling the players to save their money). One of the biggest pieces of leverage folks think the owners have in Lockout 2011 is their ability to withstand a lockout. The players need to give the impression they can do the same, and in some ways, it would be counterproductive to immediately be ready for the season if the lockout ended. I'd be thinking, 'The owners caused this lockout, and we're going to bust our you-know-what to be ready when they decide to call it off? Yeah, right.'. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has been banging the drum on this one, and explains it nicely. We agree.
Fourth, let's be realistic here, can we get enough players in town at the same time to get some legitimate work in? What good does it do if only a dozen players come in town? Many players do not live year-round in the city in which they primarily play. Just last week the Chiefs didn't have active players participating in Read Across America due in part to the fact that not all of them live in Kansas City. It's one thing to come back because coach Haley tells you to. What about when coach Cassel or coach Berry tells you to?
Fifth, and continued from my fourth point, will we be creating any tension amongst the team if some players simply don't show up to our practices? For example, if Dwayne Bowe says he doesn't want to take the injury risk and doesn't show up, are we going to think he doesn't want to win as much as us, creating internal tension?
My point is that while organizing practices sounds great, the reality doesn't seem so great. If I'm a player, I'm not sure I want to do this. That's something to keep in mind if you hear Player X didn't show up to a player-organized practice. Well, that doesn't mean Player X doesn't want to win. It means Player X made a business decision and, frankly, probably a good one.