While there was at least some progress made in the labor talks on Monday between the NFL owners and the players; there was also a step back for at least thsoe locked out from the league.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees admitted on Monday to being discouraged at the decision by the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to grant a permanent stay to the 2011 NFL Lockout. This stay means that all lockout rules will apply until a final ruling is handed down by the courts after the league’s full-fledged appeal is heard in St. Louis on June 3.
Brees is one of 10 players name in the antitrust litigation against the NFL.
“I haven’t read the opinion yet but I’m discouraged by the fact that that the U.S. District Court had ruled heavily in our favor and now it seems to be the opposite in the 8th Circuit Court,” said Brees. “We’re in mediation now and I always go in with a positive attitude that we can work towards a settlement. It has to run its course but I’m hoping there is progress made so we can get back to football.”
That’s not to say that players can’t work out on their own as has been evident around the league and here in New Orleans. Brees estimates that around 35-40 of his teammates have shown up and participated in player organized workouts at Tulane University.
“We have had structured, organized workouts with position-specific drills,” said Brees. “We have empowered our leaders to step up. The way I look at it, we as players can only worry about what we can control. We want to make sure we’re ready to put our best effort forward, whether its two months from now, three months, six months … I don’t think anybody knows.
“If we’re only given three weeks to play our first game, how organized will we be? At some point, we’ll be out there competing, trying to win games and we’re taking that to heart.”
One of the biggest problems with these player organized workouts is that they are not covered or sponsored by the league. This means the players are putting themselves at great risk because if an injury occurs during the workouts then they are not covered under their player contracts which are currently not in place as the lockout goes on.
“That’s always a concern and we’ve been open about that with the guys,” said Brees. “We have no injury protection right now but we’ll take the risk. I think the general feeling, is we’d all be working out by ourselves anyway but what this does, it brings us together in an organized fashion and it motivates us to compete. It’s so much more fun being with the fellas. Guys are out here jawing at each other, laughing. Guys crave that camaraderie, brotherhood, not to mention hard work and the commitment we have to work for this season, whenever it gets underway.”
Brees has hopes that more teammates will arrive for the workouts including running back Reggie Bush who has been aat the center of much conversation since the 2011 NFL Draft. While he has not shown up in the first few weeks, Brees believe he’ll show up in time.
“I’m working on him and hope we can get him out at some point,” he said with a laugh. “We’ve got some guys who are free agents who may not be with us next year who are here. Our attitude is that you’re a member of our team until you sign with someone else so get on out here.”
A special raffle is being held by Brees on Tuesday that will have four winners invited to join the Saints’ training sessions for a day. On Wednesday, May 25, the winners will eat, practice, and interact socially with the Saints that are present. The quarterback says this and the workouts are not a publicity stunt but a community engaging event.
“That’s not the motive here,” said Brees. “We have a special relationship with the WhoDat Nation of Saints fans. They’re craving football and this is an unpredictable time. It’s opportunity to reach out to them and to give back to the community. That’s been our mission from the day we arrived and [Hurricane] Katrina hit.”
On Tuesday evening, members of the New Orleans Saints will face off in a softball game pitting the offense against the defense led by Brees and linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Heath Evans Foundation.
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