By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
Much has been said and written about how the fans are getting the short end of the current NFL labor stalemate, and while that is true, there are a lot of guys we'll eventually be seeing out there on Sundays who are learning a little bit about how the other half lives right about now.
For the NFL players already under contract, it still isn't life as usual. NFL teams stopped paying their health insurance in March, and now signed players, free agents and drafted rookies are either paying on federal COBRA policies made available by the NFLPA, or using their spouse's plans or even living at home under their parent's health plans.
A good number of Bills players - both veterans and some of the recently drafted rookies - are in the Buffalo area this week trying to stay mentally and physically ready for an eventual new CBA, which I still think will happen in time for a full season, but their workouts here are not without risk.
That would be the case no matter where they are working out, but getting a bunch of players together on the field at the same time can be different if they get a little carried away and become too competitive. Many of these players, but not all of them, have taken out their own life insurance policies and disability policies, but while the lockout is in place, any injury could be bad news indeed.
Bills top pick Marcell Dareus said last week he intends to join his new team in Buffalo for the workouts, but Dareus simply can't afford to get hurt. He was pronounced healthy after the Bills looked at him before they grabbed him third overall, and the Bills are prepared to pay Dareus a truck load of money.
But what happens if he blows out a knee when somebody accidentally trips over somebody else before he signs that deal and before he is even covered by the Bills in any way? This isn't to say he shouldn't be here; he has to stay in shape somewhere or he wouldn't be worth the millions he'll eventually receive, but the point is, these workouts right now are immensely different than normal OTA's and Minicamps.
Sure, the coaches won't be looking over their shoulders, but the trainers won't be standing by with the latest information and equipment to diagnose and treat any injury as would usually be the case.
You'd think that players going without paychecks for awhile would begin to see just how fortunate they are in relation to just about everybody else about now. Guys who wouldn't normally notice that gasoline is now headed towards 5 bucks a gallon are noticing it, I assure you. Food prices are going up as well, but for the most part, salaries are not.
Unless, of course, you've been an NFL player. Their salaries have been outpacing the rest of the nation by huge per centages over the past several years, yet they now act as if the owners are taking their livelihoods away.
The owners aren't making their case for public support very well as they continue to avoid allowing their playing partners to look at their books to see why they need to take back some aspects of the last CBA, but make no mistake, the owners have the leverage since the 8th Circuit Court reinstated their lockout, and I think that lockout will stay in place after the June 3rd hearing.
The players had hoped to "win" this battle through the courts, but it now looks like that won't happen, and to me, their best chance to make a good deal is sooner rather than later.
The owners don't care if they miss a paycheck or two if it means getting the deal they want. Still, there'll be plenty left over for the players.
This isn't to suggest players don't risk anything - they do - and recent studies are showing more and more just how dangerous playing football at the NFL level can impact their health in later years. The owners say they're trying to recognize that, and they are also trying to take better care of past players who are now struggling with pensions that look minuscule compared to many other professions.
Many former players are also dealing with a host of other physical and mental problems in later years that need to be studied much more thoroughly as well.
I'm not sure anything positive can come from this bizarre stalemate of owners and players not being able to agree on how to split $9 billion a year in revenue, but free agents and rookies especially are certainly a part of the "real" world right now.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing.