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More NFL Players Show Signs Of Solidarity Before Week One Games

Players at "half of the 12 NFL afternoon games Sunday ... showed their solidarity in support of the union in collective bargaining negotiations," according to Barry Wilner of the AP. Players "held up their index fingers before kickoff" ahead of yesterday's Colts-Texans, Broncos-Jaguars, Browns-Buccaneers, 49ers-Seahawks, Cardinals-Rams and Dolphins-Bills games, "replicating the gestures made by the Saints and Vikings before Thursday night's season opener." Texans OT Eric Winston: "It's about the $140 million that every city loses if we don't have football next year. That's really what it's about. It's not just about us. We want football, because they deserve it, too." But "no such gestures were done" ahead of Panthers-Giants, Bengals-Patriots, Lions-Bears, Falcons-Steelers, Raiders-Titans or Packers-Eagles. Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara: "Players right now, our responsibility is our jobs and focusing on games. We have people to negotiate for us. We are not negotiating ourselves so it's not anything we are concerned about now" (AP, 9/12). Jaguars G Uche Nwaneri: "Everybody just wanted a sign of unity. We're all in this together. With the CBA issue hovering around, we want everybody to know that the players want to play football" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 9/13).

NOT JUST MESSAGE FOR PLAYERS: NFLPA Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah said that the hope behind the message is that "those watching understand the message wasn't just for other players." Atallah: "The one thing we've tried to convey to fans of the game is the dynamic of this season -- hopefully, not the last as we know it -- doesn't just impact the stars or the rank-and-file or the practice squad guys. It's going to impact all the people that are associated with the game in any way." Atallah said that the gesture before Thursday's opening game "wasn't union-driven, but hatched by the Vikings and Saints themselves." NFLPA President Kevin Mawae "heard about it from" Vikings QB Brett Favre "about an hour before the game, and word trickled down to Atallah" (BOSTON GLOBE, 9/12).

PLAYERS REAX: Jets FB Tony Richardson said, "Obviously, the owners are showing a sign of solidarity, because they have to stay together through this whole issue just like we do. It's not trying to make a 'We mean war' type of thing. It's more so, 'Hey, through all of this, we stand together, and we want to support all of our players, past, present and future.' I thought that was a good way to show that Thursday night" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 9/11). Patriots LB Tully Banta-Cain: "As long as everyone understands we're all fighting this thing together, we've got each other's back, that'll help us if things don't go the way we want." Patriots TE Alge Crumpler: "I thought it was good for our players to show that sense of solidarity early on in the opening game" (BOSTON HERALD, 9/12). Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees and OT and player rep Jon Stinchcomb said that they "think the majority of fans understand what is at stake." Stinchcomb: "It's not players who want to stop. We want to work. I want to play football. Everybody in this locker room wants to play football. If anything, we're in the same boat as the fans" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 9/11). Giants DE Osi Umenyiora: "From the outside looking in, it can probably look like two groups of people who are making a bunch of money who are squabbling over semantics or whatever" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 9/11).

SHOULD PLAYERS DROP GESTURE? ESPN.com's Gene Wojciechowski wrote under the header, "NFL Players Should Bag Silly Gesture." Wojciechowski: "The last thing I want on my football Sunday, Monday or Thursday is a reminder of labor unrest. I want the NFL, not the NFLPA. ... Nobody who pays thousands of hard-earned dollars for those rip-off personal seat licenses comes to games for labor demonstrations. ... That's all this was -- a well-intentioned but silly public gesture that will have zero impact on future negotiations" (ESPN.com, 9/11). SI.com's Don Banks noted when the Colts and Texans "did their little pre-game show of NFLPA solidarity on Sunday ... the fans on hand in Houston reportedly booed." Banks: "No surprise there. If the players believe the fans will side with either party in the league's looming labor standoff, they're not too swift on the uptake. The fans just want their football without interruption, and I think any reminders of the potential trouble to come is going to elicit a building sense of wrath" (SI.com, 9/12). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "They shouldn't do this again. The fans don't want to see this. ... This whole sign of unity meant nothing except to remind the fans that these guys are all about the money and all about the mercenary thing, which a lot of them are, and a lot of these guys don't even understand the issues" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 9/10). ESPN's Jim Rome: "It's a good idea but it probably backfired. You see, you can be right but in the fans eyes you're almost wrong. They don't want to know the issues. They don't care about the issues. In fact, there's nothing they hate more than millionaires v. billionaires" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 9/10). In Ft. Worth, Gary West writes, "Don't bring your raised fingers onto the field on the first days or on any day of this NFL season. Don't taint the game; don't try to draw the fans into your negotiations. Have some respect. ... We don't care about your solidarity. That's why we booed in Houston, where your fingers went up just as the national anthem concluded" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/13).

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