by Dan Graziano
George Martin’s NFL Alumni group has been getting a fair amount of attention in the wake of Martin’s appearance at the NFLPA’s annual convention. The main problem Martin encountered when he went to Marco Island last week was a group of former players outside of his group that has found itself united behind NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.
“De Smith, he’ll drive the bus off the cliff,” Hall of Famer Floyd Little told ProPlayerInsiders.com the day before Martin’s appearance at the NFLPA’s former players convention. “When you’ve got a guy like that who’s smart and savvy and really in tune with what’s going on, and he’s up there saying, ‘It’s not right,’ I’ll drive the bus off the cliff. We all will. Because we believe that we’re right.”
The group of former players the NFLPA hosted in Marco Island feels connected with Smith and the current players in their fight against the NFL-imposed lockout. By adding two former players (Jim McFarland and Cornelius Bennett) to the NFLPA’s executive council and including them in the negotiating sessions with the league, Smith allowed the former players to feel they had a stake and a voice in what’s going on. And for the second year in a row, the former players convention overlapped with the current players meeting.
“Just getting a chance to rub elbows, current players with former players, that never used to happen,” Little said. “I tell them all, enjoy this time you have as a professional football player, because it’s the greatest time in your life. But I also tell them to always be preparing for the end, because while it’s the greatest time in your life, it’s also a very, very short time.”
That’s one of the reasons Little believes the NFLPA’s current fight is important, and why he appreciates the way all of the players, right up to the top-tier quarterbacks whose names are on the Brady vs. NFL antitrust suit, have rallied behind Smith and the NFLPA.
“These guys are a lot smarter than the players of the past, and they understand what’s going on,” Little said. “It’s the communication that we never had. With things like Twitter, Facebook and all of that, you can always be in touch and talk to each other about what’s really going on. And I think that’s made a difference in the attitude of a lot of players. You can no longer hoodwink them or sell them a bill of goods. They see what’s happening. They know what’s happening.”
Little acknowledges that today’s players – especially the Bradys, Breeses and Mannings of the bunch – have a luxury he never had when he was, as he colorfully puts it, “cashing my check at the 7-11” during his playing days. But he’s impressed at the way the current players have held together in the face of the likelihood that the checks would stop coming.
“These guys are saying, ‘These things we’re sacrificing are for the good’,” Little said. “They believe they’re doing it to make a better league. It’s a whole different feeling when you can lay down and go to sleep knowing you’re doing the right thing.”
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