At a time when the NFL continues to call for negotiations to resume and the players continue to resist, one player has made his wishes known.
He wants negotiations. Now.
Falcons running back Jason Snelling, a four-year veteran who may or may not be an unrestricted free agent when the labor dust settles, recently told Tim Ryan and Pat Kirwan of SiriusXM NFL Radio that he thinks it’s time to try to work out a deal.
“My thoughts on it really is that we need to get back to the bargaining table,” Snelling said. “I’ve actually spoken to one of my reps . . . . We kind of feel like at a point like this, you know, with everything that’s going through the courts, that all these court dates and everything but nothing’s getting resolved. We kind of wonder at some point, what are we really fighting for? Do we want to play, do we want to just keep these things through the courts? I know that a lot of guys may feel like going through the courts and taking it to the end and waiting for a judge to make a ruling may work, but after they make another ruling, we still don’t have a Collective Bargaining Agreement.”
As the interview proceeded, Snelling became more candid. “The best thing for this league is to get back to the table and make this happen together, and take this thing out of the courts,” Snelling said. “Because with this being in court I don’t think any of us are going to win.”
Ryan and Kirwan eventually focused on an extremely pertinent question — if the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the lockout, will a deal be negotiated at that point, or will progress be delayed until the next step in the litigation effort is resolved, which necessarily would eat into the 2011 regular season?
“Nobody wants to take it to that,” Snelling said. “I feel like this situation has gone on long enough. Everyone is anxious to get back and play football.”
That said, there are reasons to believe that NFLPA* leadership plans to indeed “take it to that,” with ultimate failure to lift the lockout in the Eighth Circuit followed by a likely fruitless appeal to the Supreme Court and/or some other effort to get leverage via litigation before meaningful talks will occur. Even if a full season is lost before that ever happens.
The conversation later turned to the question of whether Snelling and other players in his situation — men with four or five years of service and expired contracts who possibly will be unrestricted free agents — are being adequately represented by the NFLPA*. “I know [DeMaurice Smith] represents us, but when you look at it personally, I’m wondering if he’s going to looking out for my best interests as a free agent,” Snelling said. “Not intentionally not doing it, but if I have no voice then how can he ever be really looking out for my best interests?”
Snelling also hinted that, at some point, the players whose paydays have been delayed by two-plus months and counting may attempt to be heard. “That would be ideal,” Snelling said, “[for] guys in my position to come together and be our own voice.”
It should never get to that point, because if that happens the NFL will be even more likely to emerge from the process with a favorable labor deal. Instead, the players should work hard to stick together until the Eighth Circuit rules. If the lockout isn’t lifted, then the players should commit to working out the best deal possible.
Snelling believes that such an effort should begin now, before the Eighth Circuit rules. And his position has merit. If the appeals court eventually will allow the lockout to continue, the players necessarily have more leverage before that ruling is issued.
Still, if the NFLPA* is committed to pursuing ultimate leverage in lieu of making the most out of some leverage, nothing will be happening — either in the coming weeks or in the coming months. Regardless of how it all plays out, Snelling comments indicate that this approach will soon be facing growing opposition from certain segments of the rank and file.