The NFLPA* has implemented a passive-aggressive strategy for persuading rookies invited to the 2011 NFL draft to not attend. Though not calling for a boycott, the players’ trade association wants the men who receive an invitation to realize that they will be attending an event hosted by the entity that is locking all players out.
As former NFL players and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi, who knows a thing or two about the dynamics of a football team, recently wrote in urging players to stay away, “I would hate to be a rookie walking into a locker room if the last image veterans have of him is his shaking hands with the very man who canceled the health insurance for veterans’ families.”
It’s a great point. No matter how many times men like NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith claim that there will be no repercussions if rookies attend, the reality is that, yes, some teammates will take a dim view of a new arrival who supported a draft occurring during a lockout. On the field and before (or after) the whistle, some opposing players may feel the same way.
So what’s an incoming rookie to do? Our advice would be to watch the broadcast operation owned by the NFL and take notes as to the current players who accept invitations to appear on screen.
On Tuesday, Browns receiver Josh Cribbs appeared via satellite. On Wednesday, Pats tight end Rob Gronkowki appeared in studio. On Monday, March 28, and Tuesday, March 29, Colts center Jeff Saturday — who has participated in the negotiations between the NFL and the players — will work as a guest analyst on NFL Network. Also appearing on March 29 will be 49ers tackle Anthony Davis.
There’s no difference, in our view, between veteran players showing up at the NFL Network studio and incoming players showing up at Radio City Music Hall. The entity that is locking out the players owns NFL Network. Even if guys like Saturday take advantage of the platform to push the players’ position in the work stoppage, the fact remains that guys like Saturday are supporting a property of the NFL by showing up at NFL Network.
We’re not suggesting that Saturday or any other veteran should decline to appear on NFLN. Our point is that rookies invited to attend the draft should accept, and they should show up on the first day of work (whenever that may happen) with a complete list of all veteran players who said “yes” when the NFL offered them a chance to be on TV.