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Saturday, March 19, 2011
Cowboys players speak out on labor issues

By Calvin Watkins

Over the next few days, more than 100 current and former NFL players will meet in Marco Island, Fla., where the NFLPA is meeting with its board of directors to talk about their plan against the owners in this lockout mess.

Cowboys player reps Bradie James and Jason Witten are attending the meetings and spoke about some of the labor issues.

James, an inside linebacker, seemed to take exception that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent an email to more than 1,000 players explaining the league's proposal.

In the letter, Goodell tells the players to "encourage your union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement."

It's interesting Goodell would reach out to the players because, based on the terms of the lockout, owners are not allowed to speak with players with the exception of the labor committee, which has Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as part of a three-man team at the table with the players.

Goodell is representing the owners in the labor talks.

When James was asked what he thought was the purpose of the letter, he told reporters it's "to divide us. It's that simple."

James said he would welcome a meeting with the owners before the April 6 court date that could end the lockout.

"We want to play," James said. "So, yes, anytime that they want to reach out. That's legal jargon; they should know. But I want to play. Right now. So, yes."

One of the biggest issues for the players is staying united. Some owners, and even those watching the labor issues from the outside, think some players will force the union to make a deal once September gets closer. (The NFL has plans to release the schedule in mid-April as scheduled.) Some NFL players live paycheck-to-paycheck, and during the 2010 season the union advised players to save their money in the event of a long work stoppage.

"That started a few years back, with 'One Team,' '' Witten said in terms of the players staying united. "That communication -- we've done a great job of trying to communicate and get everyone on the same page."

Added James: "Let's make no mistake, it will be pressure on both sides. We're not the only ones that have bills to pay. We play in a new stadium, we know what the electric bill is. There's pressure on both sides."

Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman was on TMZ talking about the labor situation and joked that Goodell is screwing the players in terms of fines. On a serious note, Newman told TMZ lots of people will be "without jobs if there is no NFL; it is what it is."

Asked about his comments to TMZ, Newman said in an email to ESPNDallas: "Hahaha, I was just being funny!"

Newman does take the labor issues seriously based on conversations he's had with reporters during the season.