NASSAU, The Bahamas – Madieu Williams has played on four teams during his nine NFL seasons, most recently the Washington Redskins. Chase Blackburn has spent all of his eight seasons with the New York Giants. And yet neither had ever served as a player representative until 2012. The same goes for quarterback Colt McCoy, who has put in three seasons with Cleveland.
However, Williams, Blackburn and McCoy are among the record 57 new members among the 96-man crew representing the 32 teams during the NFL Players Association’s annual meetings here this week. Not that they were exactly rookies when it came to the subject matter being presented. Each attended a special session for new reps in January in Long Beach, Cal.
“[Executive Director DeMaurice Smith] and the PA did a great job in Long Beach of preparing us for everything that was going to take place here,” Williams said. “That was critical. Since then, I read up more on the [NFLPA] constitution and trying to become familiar with how the business is being done. Here we delve deeper into the details.”
Williams said he didn’t become a rep until now because he was so focused on the playing field. Blackburn had hoped to be involved earlier during his career, but former center Shaun O’Hara was the Giants’ rep for many years and was succeeded by long snapper Zak DeOssie when Blackburn was out of the league for most of 2011. “I had wanted to do it for a while, but I had never been nominated before,” Blackburn said. “I was kind of in the background. It has been a great experience learning the history of the union. The knowledge I’ve gained here and in the [California] meetings helps give you a better understanding of the business side of everything. I want to obtain as much knowledge as I can and be able to share ideas with other guys. I’m not scared to push the envelope a little bit.”
The 26-year-old McCoy, who’s very young for a rep, was encouraged to step up by Executive Committee members Scott Fujita and Ben Watson, his teammates on the 2012 Browns. He’s happy that he did. “Those guys probably aren’t coming back and my mindset when I walk into a locker room has always been to be a leader, to be an example, to be a guy that my teammates feel comfortable talking to about anything,” said McCoy, who started as a freshman at Texas. “I didn’t come here as knowledgeable as I’d like to be about all the benefits we have as players because when you’re young you’re trying to earn a job. That’s what this trip is for. My role when I go back is to inform our guys of all that we’re offered: the 401-K, the pension plan, the education funding, all of the Lifecycle things. There’s a lot more than a game check you earn on Sundays. That’s why we pay our union dues. I’ve really been impressed with how are our union is run. It’s been pretty cool being around the older guys who know how this league works.”
Blackburn wished that he had had a better understanding of the drug testing program before now, particularly when it came to the therapeutic use exemption for such substances as Adderall, a topic which was discussed at length during Tuesday’s session. “As players, we want a fair game, we want the testing, but we have to figure out how it can be done fairly,” Blackburn said. “[The Giants] had two guys, [safety] Craig Dahl and [cornerback] Will Hill suspended for four games each last season. They just didn’t know they had to get a therapeutic use exemption under the new CBA. They had it prescribed when they were in college and had been taking it ever since.”
The NFL’s recently strengthened concussion protocol is a huge issue for McCoy. He hopes that he can help convince teammates to choose to consider their long-term health rather than focusing on the current game if they’re affected. “I don’t think we’re at the point yet as a league where a guy is going to say, ‘I’ve got a concussion, I’m coming out of the game,’ “ McCoy said. “I’m not sure what I’d do. But the more you can inform guys, the more educated and knowledgeable they can be about their futures. ”
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