By TomE. Curran
BOSTON -- Tom Brady has agreed to be one of four player-plaintiffs against theowners if this labor mess ever gets to court.
But one of the stickier decisions for Brady -- and for all players facing this work stoppage right now -- is deciding between the game of football and the business of football. Winning a lawsuit or a negotiation could probably never excitea player'ssenses the way winning a single game can. The game and the competition are in the players' DNA.Yet if the players really want to make the owners (and coaches) sweat, they need to show they can wait out a work stoppage over the long haul. "Lock us out? Fine. But we aren't taking less money than we make right now and we'll just wait until you see we're serious."Conducting player-organized workouts during a lockout isn't going to give the owners that vibe. The owners think the players will cave because, well, they always have.The rank-and-file guys who don't have millions socked away (and that's most of the league) need the paycheck. But there's that other dynamic at play here, too. The need to compete, to be a "football player." The need to work a craft that's been a way of life since, for many, the second grade. You know how we never believe guys when they say, "I'd play the game for free"?When it comes right down to it, some of them might just consider doing that.Houston Texans' offensive lineman Eric Winston talked to PFTLive recently and pointed out that any player injured during a lockout training session could land on the non-football injury list and miss out on his 2011 salary. To say nothing of the fact they may be running, lifting and preparing for free when they are normally paid to do so. Thursday, during a charity appearance at Children's Hospital in Boston, several Patriots spoke of their very serious intention to stay in shape and prepare for football during this lockout. Patriots All-Pro linebacker Jerod Mayo said he's all set with a DVR to watch game film and a Bowflex and treadmill in his basement. Asked about the disconnect between the union imploring players to not organize workouts and give the owners something for nothing, Mayo said, "I'm staying in shape, I'm telling you that. That's the mindset guys have. Stay in shape and wait for a phone call. It's personal preference what each player does but at the end of the day, I'm a football player."A football player in an excellent program. A program that is so cloistered and managed, the word of Bill Belichick is -- for most players -- going to trump that of Kevin Mawae or DeMaurice Smith. In aline of work where careers are short, players don't want to see a season wasted because they or their teammates aren't ready when the bell rings.Andcan any marginal playerthat does jack squat during the lockout and shows up out of shape and unprepared expect to make it past the first round of cuts? Probably not. "This is football, this is what I do," said Rob Ninkovich. "What they tell us to do, I do. I'm always gonna be working out. I'll be working out every day. When the season starts, I'll be ready to roll." Think about it. Tom Brady, Terrell Suggsand Antonio Cromartie are on the same team during this lockout. But the second it ends, they return to being adversaries. The players that remember thatand show a unified front whilestill preparing to kick the other guy's behind will be the teams that are successful in 2011. "I'm gonna be prepared," promised Leigh Bodden. "That's all I can do, is be prepared myself. The guys are gonna do what they're gonna do. I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna prepare myself in any way possible to make myself the best player when things hopefully do get worked out." Tom E. Curran canbe reached at email@example.com.Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
By TomE. Curran