It appears Patriots players will fall in line with most other teams around the NFL and vote to decertify their union, in an attempt to gain leverage in their negotiations with the league on a new collective bargaining agreement. The brinksmanship-type move is seen as a precursor to potentially last-minute efforts to avoid a league-wide lockout when the current CBA expires in March.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith came to Foxborough to talk with the Patriots today. Aside from the decertification vote, Smith's visit will include a long list of agenda items, we're told.
"Anytime you have the leadership here and in place and they're here to deliver a message to let the guys know what they're thinking and what we're all thinking of what we need to be planning for and what we need to do," said left tackle Matt Light, New England's player representative for the union.
"So it should be very informative. And that's their job, to inform guys of the upcoming battle and what to expect so I think a lot of these guys have been waiting for this for a while so it's good they're here. It will be a good meeting."
Among the concerns for players is the league's fining system for player indiscretions such as illegal hits.
"I think fairness is a concern," Light argued. "You've got to make sure these things are fair and that they're measurable and you can judge them and they're not just one person's opinion. You have to be able to measure these things against something else.
"I think that's the biggest concern and … player safety is another huge concern, so it's a fine line and I'm sure they'll find a system that works the best," he said. "The problem I've always had with the whole system is that they take the money out before you actually have the chance to appeal or have the chance to go through an appeal process. So, that is something that we'll have to address. That's something that definitely needs to be tightened up."
"You can't take a guy's money before he's been found guilty or had a chance to appeal a decision that's been made. If a guy gets fined due to drug policy, that money is not removed until the final verdict has come down and they have had a chance to appeal and it should be the same process in what happens on the field. It's just not right now."
Banta-Cain prepared for 'battle'
Even though he took a two-year sabbatical from New England, linebacker Tully Banta-Cainwas part of the Patriots teams that won some big games against the Pittsburgh Steelers over the past decade.
"They've all been good. They're all competitive – regular season and playoff games," he said of the Patriots-Steelers rivalry. "It's always a heated, competitive battle. I'm sure this one will be, too.
"They're a great organization. They've won championships there. They've got a lot of pride about their team and what they represent. It's definitely a great challenge."
What's been the difference in those games where New England has come out on top?
"Anytime you play complementary football in all phases of the game, I mean, that's what Patriots football is all about. When we've had success, that's the reason why," he responded. "They're a physical team. It's been a staple of their team, being physical. We're a physical team, too. It'll be a great battle."
Pittsburgh had to weather an early-season storm while their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, was serving a four-game suspension. Now that he's back, has the STeeler offense changed at all from what they were doing to start the year?
"I wouldn't say they're doing anything too much different," Banta-Cain said. "Ben, obviously, he has his own set of problems that he creates, because he can get out of the pocket, if receivers are uncovered, he's got a big arm, so he can throw the ball when they uncover. He's definitely a great creator at the position. He's the biggest change in the things we've seen [of them on film].
"He's a strong quarterback. He's fighting to get the ball off, even when he's getting sacked, he's trying to complete a pass. He's a guy that you really have to get down and not let break loose and make a play. He's an athletic quarterback. You don't want to let him get out of the pocket. If he's in the pocket, you want to pressure him make sure he doesn't have an easy read or an easy throwing lane to get the ball off. That would be the biggest thing."
Thu 11/11 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Thursday's practice, including an update on safety Patrick Chung, please visit the PFW Blog.