Patriots are all for it

Team in favor of decertifying union

By Albert R. Breer
Globe Staff / September 25, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Two more teams voted over the last two days to authorize NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith to decertify the union to prepare for what appears to be an inevitable lockout.

The Jets made eight Thursday. The Ravens made nine yesterday.

And it appears that the Patriots will make 10 early next week, if other teams don’t beat them to the punch. Matt Light, New England’s player rep, confirmed it, as strongly as he could without seeing every ballot, yesterday in the locker room.

Smith will be in Foxborough Monday to address the Patriots players. Light wouldn’t say whether the team would vote then. But considering that the votes by the Jets and Ravens took place when Smith was visiting those teams, it’s a fair bet that the measure will be taken while the union chief is under the team’s roof.

Whenever the vote happens, its result is a formality. Light said he expects his teammates to vote unanimously for the measure, as the Ravens did yesterday.

“I think every guy in this locker room will vote for it,’’ Light said. “Matter of fact, I’m assured of it.

“Once you find out what it is — I mean, it sounds a little awkward — but once you find out the reasons behind it, it’s not an option. There’s nothing else you can do.’’

New Orleans, Dallas, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo, and the Giants have also already voted to decertify.

Decertification would open the door for the NFLPA to take the league to antitrust court, a tactic that was employed by the union during the 1987 strike, and one that led to the advent of unfettered free agency, a salary cap, and a salary floor.

More than anything, it gives the union a leverage point if the owners decide to lock out the players, which is a near certainty absent a collective bargaining agreement being struck in the next five months. That’s why this move is considered, in union circles, to be procedural, arming Smith with an important weapon.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, the team’s alternate player rep, declined to say that the vote would sail through. But when asked if he felt like his teammates had an understanding of the concept, he responded, “They’ll get one Monday.’’

Brady sees Monday as an important day for the players in Foxborough, and also the union chief.

“I think it’s important for [Smith] to come and see all the guys who voted him in,’’ Brady said. “He’s made a point to come around and pass along where the negotiations are at, as our season goes, and we get closer to the day where there’s a potential lockout. I think everybody needs to really understand where we’re at.’’

One area Smith is sure to emphasize, outside of the decertification vote, is that players put away money so they’ll be able to withstand the loss of paychecks a lockout could bring.

The union’s recommendation has been that its members put away 25 percent of their 2010 salaries, and it’s been a constant talking point over the last few months. In fact, a program has been established for players that, through direct deposit, funnels percentages of each check into a separate savings account so they won’t even have to think about it.

“It wasn’t anything we forced on any guys,’’ Light said. “We didn’t feel like that was the way to go, but we did go to certain lengths to make sure that there is another option out there. If they want it to be easy, they check it out and put whatever dollar figure aside to help them out, and create a vehicle with which guys can easily put it aside.’’

But for now, decertification is at the forefront.

Although Light seems certain that the vote will go through without so much as a dissenting vote, he would like his teammates to understand why they’re doing it.

“You wouldn’t be able to fight them as a union at any level,’’ Light said. “As you decertify, the laws governing that open up certain aspects with the ground that they’re standing on. So it’s steps along the way. It’s not going to solve anything in itself, decertifying, but it’ll help us in the long term.’’

It’s a step, and with little progress in the negotiations, there are plenty more to come.

The way Light sees it, the better guys understand, the more solid the union’s position will be. So he’s hoping Smith finds some eager listeners Monday.

“It’s hugely important, especially for the young guys,’’ Light said. “There’s never been a time like this, we’ve never been in a situation quite like this before. So it’s really important that every guy has all the information they can possibly get, and there’s a lot of it.

“I don’t think there was one key aspect, other than saving for the future and making sure you have cash on hand. If you had a financial birdie sitting on your shoulder, he’d be telling you to put away every cent that you can, not finding that special rim package for your vehicle or doing this, that, and the other. This would be the time to lay low for a while.’’

Albert R. Breer can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @albertbreer.

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