The coming NFL offseason is different because the threat of a lockout means players can't be sure they will be reporting for work as schedule to minicamps and workout programs in March. As the Giants' player rep, center Shaun O'Hara made sure players knew where to get in touch with him during the offseason if they have any questions or want any updates on negotiations.
As O'Hara sees it, solidarity won't be a problem for the NFL Players Association. "In my 11-year career, this is the most unified I've ever seen players," O'Hara said. "I've been a player rep since 2003, and I remember chasing guys around the meeting rooms and the locker room trying to get them to listen. Nobody had any time for it. Nobody cared.
"Now, when they're facing a lockout and people are telling you that you can't come to work, you can't make money for your family, people pay attention. I haven't had to chase anybody. People are coming to me. I feel we're extremely unified and that's good. But this is different. It's a lockout, not a strike. The best thing we've done so far is just prepare. Everybody knows exactly what's going to happen. At the same time, we cross our fingers and hope we're going to get this thing done so we can go back to work."
O'Hara (pictured above doing a Kidsday interview) said many older players won't mind missing offseason workouts in March and April, figuring they can do it just as well at home as at the Giants' training camp. At the same time, he emphasized to all the necessity of making training arrangement ahead of March to be prepared when the lockout becomes reality.
Some players spoke of getting offseason jobs in anticipation of losing their paychecks, and O'Hara said he's been counseling players on what to expect in terms of financial pressures. Comparing the coming negotiations to those between the Yankees and star Derek Jeter, he said there was nothing ugly about it but rather it's the business side of a very wealthy game.
His optimism about a settlement is based on the notion that neither side wants' to ruin a good thing. "A lot of things need to be worked on and agreed to, but it's a good game for everybody," O'Hara said. "We know that, and I think the owners know that. Really, it's up to everybody not to mess it up. This doesn't have to be an ugly thing. This can be done the right way for everyone."