‘I’m Under No Illusion That We’re Going to Make Magical Changes’

But new NFLPA president Eric Winston is ready to play hardball with the NFL. Just ask him about Roger Goodell and HGH testing

By
Robert Klemko
· More from Robert·
Eric Winston. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
Eric Winston was elected NFLPA president on Wednesday. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

Former Texans, Chiefs and Cardinals offensive lineman Eric Winston, the newly elected president of the NFLPA, sat down with The MMQB on Wednesday at the Orlando Waldorf, where the union met to elect new leadership, discuss and adopt various resolutions, and educate new player reps about the organization. Having been a strong voice in negotiations for the 2011 CBA, Winston, today a free agent, shared his thoughts on financial literacy, HGH testing and the future of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, whose term is up in 2015.

ROBERT KLEMKO: How has the NFLPA membership changed since you got involved five years ago?

ERIC WINSTON: It may have gotten younger. I think the league’s gotten a little younger, so you would think the membership is younger. I look at electing a Mark Herzlich to the executive committee. It’s cool because you need to have the young voice; the perspective of a guy who’s just getting off his rookie deal instead of guys who are eight, nine, ten, eleven years in the league. It’s important and we have to make a big push to yank some of these young guys into these rooms. We’ve got to do that in every locker room.

KLEMKO: What’s the most important thing you want to get across to the younger players?

WINSTON: That there’s an urgency of now. I think the status quo won’t do. That’s important to understand. I ran on the idea that the time to complain about the CBA and the negotiations are over. That’s not going to change. Now we have to look for ways to tweak it, to better it, to maximize it. But the reliving part has got to be over. It’s time to look at every aspect of what we have and find ways to get better. We have to continue efforts to advance financial literacy. We fought for an offseason period that would allow guys to go back to college, to take an internship. We’ve got to get to a point where everybody is taking advantage of those things.

“We’re not going to agree to a system where he’s judge, jury and executioner,” Winston says of Goodell and HGH testing. “I’m not going to budge on it.”

KLEMKO: What’s at the top of your agenda?

WINSTON: It’s two-fold—what we just talked about, and maximizing the CBA; finding ways to maximize spending by teams. I’m under no illusion that we’re going to make magical changes, but I’ve seen how it works. You can always add amendments, make horse trades here and there. You look at the benefits; how can we keep creating those? Within the players’ association, we need to take a hard look at our resolution process and how we go about it. I think it’s one of the most important things that we do and it’s something we don’t spend enough time on. It comes from guys talking at dinners, between meetings and coming up with solutions that help every player. The process for the election of player reps needs to get better. The P.A. comes to the team and it’s the last thing in the meeting. In my opinion, that needs to be the first thing. That’s got to be the focal point. It’s extremely important that all 32 teams have a strong voice.

KLEMKO: Are there resolutions that came out of these meetings that you’re particularly happy about?

WINSTON: I’m not going to get too much into this year, but over the last few years we have made some philosophical choices that go along with what America faces. Big government vs. small government. Sink or swim, or are we going to try to help everybody along. The union is going through that too. These are choices that might not have right and wrong answers to them—that will come down to the reps, and it’s our job to explain it all to them. Player performance pay is an example. That was pushed from 2013 to 2016. It helped the cap, and it’s going to provide a benefit for a lot of guys who aren’t going to be in the game in 2016. They’re all of a sudden going to get a big check and they can pay a few bills or whatever it might be. We created that benefit. It was the closest vote in union history. There was a philosophical divide there. That’s OK. There were more of them this year. That’s why the resolution process is important.

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Our Andrew Brandt explains the NFL’s funny money and how it all stems from the CBA.

KLEMKO: Former Panthers lineman Sean Gilbert wants to run for DeMaurice Smith’s job, with the idea that the current CBA is owner-friendly and he can forge a better one. Is his a minority view or not?

WINSTON: I imagine if you go ask a bunch of players today if they wanted to get out of a salary cap that’s tied to soaring league revenues, they would say no. We’re creeping into some pretty obscene numbers. We’re already there in my opinion. Plus, the guys that went through that fight understand how much more the CBA is than just the cap. The owners were asking for two more games, to take away our benefit plan and several other points. We fought that war on a lot of different points. In battle, the enemy has a vote too. You’re never going to get everything. We got some things we wanted, they got some long-term stability they were craving. It’s easy to say, “We’re going to scrap this deal and I’m going to get you more money!” Well, how? You think the owners are going to roll over for you and say, “You’re so much better than the last guy—here’s everything you want!” I’m not interested in playing two more games for those extra benefits, and I don’t see a lot of players going for it.

KLEMKO: Should Smith be re-elected?

WINSTON: My opinion is it should be De, but we’re going to have to sit down as an executive committee and handle it like we always have. The important thing to remember is that De was selected by players in a very stressful time, and he beat out two former players. That says something about him and the respect he has in locker rooms. The guys that don’t like him have never been in these meeting rooms, and for them, it’s easy to throw stones. As our executive director he has my full support, and until the committee says we need to go in a different direction, he will have my support. I can’t guarantee he’ll be around because it’s not my choice. Everyone has a vote.

KLEMKO: Does HGH testing need to happen now?

Inject This

The MMQB tackled the issue of HGH testing last July and found the right approach.

WINSTON: Does it need to happen? Yes, we’re reaching a point in science that it can happen. But does it have to happen? No. We’ve figured a way to keep moving on. At the end of the day, we’ve pushed that HGH bar as far as it’s going to go, and now the commissioner has to sign what’s on his desk. It’s been on his desk for a while. These negotiations have been going on for 18 months. There’s not really anything left for us to do. We’re not going to agree to a system where he’s judge, jury and executioner. We have to have a way for guys to appeal it to another governing body. And unless these players tell me something different, I’m not going to budge on it. We’ve seen what happens when he makes all the decisions. The control he had was part of the CBA, but this is a new time and I’m not interested in letting that go. So if he’s interested in HGH testing, he can sign it. The way he wants to do it is not how this works. It’s not how it works in baseball, and they just suspended one of their best players for a whole season. So, clearly, the way they do it can be effective.

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26 comments
Dxwilson1
Dxwilson1

" It’s not how it works in baseball, and they just suspended one of their best players for a whole season."  Uh yeah, cause that was on the up and up.  Next time you decide to use a program as a benchmark try to reference one that isn't the second most corrupt only to professional cycling.   

Buck2185
Buck2185

only "intelligent" NFL players would vote to have someone that looks like this represent them...Good luck idiots, my money is on Goodell...

tmarlin1221
tmarlin1221

Instead owners should put the system in place and roger should just say if you players don't like the policy, go work at burger king and we will find other players who will adhere to it.  

Pat11
Pat11

HGH testing only makes the playing field even for all players, only reason players wouldnt want it is that the most of em are doing it. There is enough history collected from olympic athletes and such that there should be no surprises to anyone. To not want to take the test arround game days is a joke as its detectable only for a limited time. Man up and show the fans the player are clean, although we know better. WIsh Goodell wouldnt let season start until testing begins, at least dont let players refusing to give sample on the field until they do.

INVISABLE
INVISABLE

There's a reason the FBI states that organized unions are the largest crime syndicate in the U.S. now. 

Buck2185
Buck2185

Dude, stop your whining - are you sure you're not on the Patriots?? You need to shut up and do whatever Roger tells you to do......

Ciscos
Ciscos

The days of Roger Goodell being the JJ&E are slowly coming to an end.  No one to blame for that other than himself.

JMillerNC
JMillerNC

Eric, the fans want PEDs out of professional sports.  Stop being a wuss about it, have everybody get tested for HGH, and move on with it.  No more tired excuses.  No more posturing.  Man up already!

WillWillis1
WillWillis1

@Buck2185  ...because *clearly* there is a direct correlation between one's physical appearance and their mental ability.


/sarcasm (just because I don't think you'll get it otherwise)

Whatever
Whatever

@Buck2185  He's not whining, he's answering questions posed to him. And he's correct, you can't have one man be judge, jury and executioner on any issue, particularly something as new and unproven as HGH testing.

superquad168
superquad168

@Ciscos  No, blame the union for agreeing to it to get other things. They had an opportunity but thought other things were more important.

el80ne
el80ne

@JMillerNC Why are you blaming him and not Goodell? Like he said there's been an agreement on the table for Goodell and the owners to sign for the last 18 months. If they agree to allow for a 3rd party appeals process that can be judged by an independent arbitrator there was nothing stopping an agreement for being reached yesterday. It's really quite simple.

CharlesFreeman
CharlesFreeman

Thanks for being the sole representative and voice of "the fans," a position I'm assuming you were elected to.

alfonso.d
alfonso.d

He cant because he knows players are taking HGH. Probably he is as well.

Mike26
Mike26

@Whatever @Buck2185  He can, is, and will be for another 6 seasons until the CBA expires.  Winston and the NFLPA can whine all they want, but they're attempting a significant back-door change to materials terms of the agreement.  Not gonna happen.

Whatever
Whatever

@superquad168 @Ciscos  That's true, but why won't Goodell agree to a system where players can appeal his decision to another person/group which can review and support/overturn Goodell? Otherwise you have one man who can determine the ability of a player to work and get paid or sit at home and make nothing. There needs to be a check and balance installed in something that serious.

jb22
jb22

He didn't say it's been on Goodell's desk for 18 months it said it was negotiated for 18 months try reading it first.

Mike26
Mike26

@CharlesFreeman  Well Charles, he has lots of Likes and you have none - so there's that...

Mike26
Mike26

@Whatever @superquad168 @Ciscos  The CBA states elsewhere.  Changing a statutory portion of it without re-opening ALL points would make the whole thing invalid.

el80ne
el80ne

@alfonso.d Because those 'agreements' come in the form of what's known as the CBA which is collectively agreed as term limited. You speak as if it's binding till the end of time. It's not. It's renegotiated when the term expires.

alfonso.d
alfonso.d

Didnt they agree to the current system? Why should the nfl change because they dont like it but agreed to it?

el80ne
el80ne

@jb22 You're right, that's how it reads "It’s been on his desk for a while. These negotiations have been going on for 18 months." it's not specific spelling out that it's been ready for 18 months. But the reality is that 18 months is accurate. I remember when they were ready to roll with the HgH testing at the beginning of football season in '12, the press was writing how both sides were ready to move on it, and then they couldn't cinch it because of that hitch. It's been the same ever since even with congress threatening to get involved.

Still my points remains. Why blame the players for holding it up when there could have been testing for the last two seasons if the owners were willing to have a 3rd party appeals process like baseball.

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