On Thursday, as the number of coaching staffs distancing themselves from the amicus brief filed by the NFL Coaches Association last week with the 8th Circuit Court on their behalf continued to mount, Larry Kennan felt like a man under siege.
Even, Kennan conceded, "a little bit discouraged."
But by Friday morning, Kennan, executive director of the NFLCA, had regained his equilibrium and motivation.
"We're doing the right thing," Kennan insisted to The Sports Xchange by phone. "It was the right thing when we filed the brief and it's the right thing now. ... No matter what some people might feel."
The NFLCA's executive director since 1999, Kennan was adamant the association does not have a dog in the lockout fight, despite having its offices located in those of the now-decertified NFLPA, but only wants its members to be able to return to work.
The amicus brief, filed May 25, contends that league coaches may be dealt irreparable harm by the lockout. It notes that a prolonged lockout will "inflict significant economic harm and career risks" on league coaches and "increase the likelihood that they will suffer failure they can neither avoid nor overcome."
Prominent in the brief is that more than 60 coaches with two or fewer years of experience have lost their jobs in the past three years and that 40 percent to 45 percent of coaches change jobs every two-year period. What it does not do, Kennan reiterated, is take a side in the labor fight.
"There is nothing in the brief," Kennan said, "that favors one side or the other. It's like the brief we filed in 1987, when there was a players' strike. We weren't for the players or the owners then, either. And we're not in this lockout."
In the past several days, representatives from the staffs of 10 franchises – Chicago, Dallas, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, the New York Jets, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Washington – have tacitly disavowed the brief or the prior knowledge of its filing. Kennan said, however, that every coach was notified by e-mail that the brief, which does not mention a coach by name, would be filed.
Kennan diplomatically declined to address the notion that some staffs had perhaps been pressured by owners or other members of high-level management to publicly take issue with the brief. He did acknowledge that is was "strange" that none of the coaches who distanced themselves from the brief contacted him directly about it, at least before publicly airing their perceived grievances with the media.
Said Kennan: "What I will say is this: When I took this job, a lot of guys said to me, 'You have to speak for us, because we can't speak up for ourselves.' Make of that what you will. I take the charge very, very, seriously."
Beyond conceding that he may have communicated poorly with some of the coaches and staffs, Kennan has been largely silent on the sudden turbulence surrounding the brief. But he likely will make a statement next week regarding it and some of the public criticisms that have been indicated. Until then, Kennan will speak with coaches and legal advisors and continue to monitor events of the lockout, including the Friday hearing in the 8th Circuit Court.
"Obviously, we have a vested interest," Kennan said. "We're not pro-this or pro-that; we're pro-football, that's all. And we want to get back on the field and see our guys get back to doing what they do best."
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008
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