Players display distrust of owners

Two Vikings spoke out against the NFL's last offer to fans, and the distrust between the two sides doesn't appear to be getting any better.

With the NFL Players Association decertified, the players have turned to legal counsel for their April 6 court date in the lawsuit against NFL owners.

But without DeMaurice Smith speaking for the players, a couple of Vikings spoke up on Friday.

Linebacker Ben Leber, who is one of the team's player representatives and also scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, appeared on PFT Live Friday and talked about a letter that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent to players and agents representing the league's view of the offer it presented to the NFLPA last Friday before the union rejected it and decertified.

Leber said he skimmed the letter but was putting his trust in the players' legal counsel to judge the details of the offer.

"I read the meat of the e-mail. I don't know what to take from it," Leber told Pro Football Talk. "I think there's some sort of PR angle he's going for with this whole thing. My thing is, it can't be so good to be true. It's too good to be true is what I'm trying to say. There's a lot of good things about it. I'm sure a lot of players are looking at it saying, ‘Why didn't we take this deal? This is everything that we've asked for.' My whole thing is there's got to be more details that they're not releasing. We certainly trust leadership in the union. We certainly trust our executive counsel. And for those guys to look at the deal, our legal counsel to look at the deal and look at the fine print, if they didn't think it was a good deal then it probably wasn't."

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe seems to have examined the offer further and, in Kluwe fashion, didn't hold back on his thoughts. During the season, Kluwe took issue with the league's stance on trying to protect players by issuing fines for particularly vicious hits on defenseless receivers by drawing an illustration on the white board in the Vikings locker room that depicted a punter getting laid out and no response from the league.

In December, Kluwe took to Twitter to question the playing surface at TCF Bank Stadium for the Vikings' final home game, contending after a player walkthrough that the field was frozen and a danger to the players. The stadium home of the University of Minnesota was a last-ditch effort by the Vikings and NFL to have the team's final home in the Twin Cities after the collapse of the Metrodome roof rendered it unusable for the final two home games.

On Friday, Kluwe again used his Twitter account to draw a three-frame cartoon that depicted his thoughts on the league's final offer and Goodell's letter to the players.

Character 1 (presumably Goodell or an NFL owner with a pile of gold at his feet and a cowboy hat on his head): "We're losing $1 billion."

Character 2 (representing a player with a helmet): "Can you prove that to us?"

Character 1: "No. But if you give us $500 million we'll let you play."

Character 2: "We suspect you might not be telling the truth."

Character 1 (with an evil face): "UNLEASH THE LOCKOUT!!"

Kluwe concluded that illustration with a message: "Dear NFL – If you're losing money, just show us. We're not unreasonable men. A compromise can be reached, but not without trust."

Kluwe also mocked up his own fictitious "Letter from the Commissioner" on Friday:

"Dear Employee #1363,

I am sending you this impersonal form letter because I care about you as a player (snicker). As such, I urge you to accept our last offer, one that would cut $30 million from the veteran salary cap, reduce your percentage of revenue from 50% to 32% over 8 years, reduce the number of practices (since we don't make any money off those anyways) in the offseason, and provide you with health insurance which will void if you ever work another job. You're getting a great deal here. Really. Trust me.

(unrestrained laughter) Sincerely, Rog"

Leber, who is one of 10 players representing the lawsuit against the NFL, told Pro Football Talk the NFL's offer last Friday was probably too little, too late. While players are meeting in Florida this week, Leber is at home waiting for the arrival of his first child. He figured the players' legal representation was advising some of the players on the league's last offer and taking a deeper look at it.

"I'm sure we'll get back to the negotiating table," Leber said.

In the meantime, however, other players are speaking out against the league's offer and agents are saying that all the league needs to do is approach the legal counsel for the players instead of issuing public statements about its desire to negotiate.

One week after the decertification of the union and the locking out of players by the owners, the rhetoric continues without any apparent progress.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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