Union president Winston says NFL can’t afford a lockout

Footballs are set out on the field during warm up before the NFL Super Bowl XLIX football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Players union President Eric Winston said the NFL can’t afford another lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021, even though he thinks it’s inevitable.

The Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman tweeted on Tuesday that if the league locks out players as it did in 2011, or overlooks the health risks to players, then “they have signaled that they are not worried about the game in 20-30 years.”

Winston told a Cincinnati-area television station on Monday that he thinks another lockout is inevitable and that it will “kill the goose that laid the golden egg.” He said the union is getting the younger players educated about the issues.

“These rookies that are here now are going to be in the middle of that,” he said. “They need to understand what they’re getting into, what they need to prepare for. We have to prepare for that outcome because that’s what happened the last time.”

As for veteran players, Winston said, “Honestly, I don’t care and I don’t think the guys in this locker room care whether this thing’s going to be around in 20 years because none of us are going to be playing.”

The league locked out players in March 2011 after the previous collective bargaining agreement expired. The lockout extended through the summer, with players working out on their own. The Hall of Fame game was called off for the first time in 45 years.

In late July that year, they reached agreement on a 10-year deal that included changes suggested by both sides.

The owners got a higher percentage of revenues — 53 percent, a slight increase from the previous deal — and a system for controlling the amount of money paid to draft picks. Players were pleased that teams agreed to spend nearly all of their salary cap space in cash. They also got concessions on offseason and in-season practice rules.

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