New England linebacker and NFL Players Association player representative Adalius Thomas(notes) vehemently denied that there has been any discussion of a strike by players, particularly during the playoffs.
''To be blunt, it's a flat-out, bald-faced, capital-letters lie,'' Thomas said when asked about a report Tuesday by Profootballtalk.com that there has been discussion of a strike. ''We're not the ones who are interested in not playing. We want to play. We're not going on strike. We signed this [collective bargaining] agreement and we're fine with it. We're happy. We don't want to stop playing football.
''I've never heard that [idea of a strike]. Not one time.''
NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to respond to the report.
Players would face significant fines if they did attempt to strike. As part of the CBA, which expires after the 2010 season, players agreed not to strike during the duration of the agreement.
More important, the players want it to be clear that they aren't the ones unhappy with the CBA. Rather, as Thomas repeatedly pointed out, the players weren't the ones who opted out of the agreement – it was the owners.
''Reporters act like we're the ones who opted out of the agreement and that's not true. We're not the ones who wanted to opt out. We're happy with the agreement. We want to continue the agreement the way it is. We're fine,'' Thomas said. ''We're not interested in a strike. There might be a lockout, not a strike. A lockout by the owners.''
Owners opted out of the CBA in May 2008. Although the owners and players have had several bargaining sessions in recent months, the belief by the union and most players is that the owners will not try to extend the deal until after 2010. The belief is that owners will go to the uncapped year in 2010 and many will choose to pay their teams at well below the minimum salary cap.
Once some owners have saved tens of millions of dollars during 2010, the union believes that the owners will stage a lockout in 2011 in order to leverage the players further. Thus, the theory is that players could possibly scare the owners into doing a deal earlier by boycotting the playoffs.
Thomas ridiculed that theory.
''How would that scare them?'' Thomas said. ''First, we can't do it. Second, why would we go on strike at the time of the year everybody plays for? You play the entire season to get to the playoffs. That's when, as a player, you want to play the most. You want to go to the Super Bowl and you have four weeks to get there. You think we want to stop that? That's the dumbest thing I have ever heard.''