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Archive for Friday, September 14, 2001

Player reps supported postponements

Overwhelming sentiment’ was to not play football games on Sunday

September 14, 2001

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Once the other players heard the hurt and passion in the voices of their New York brethren, they knew what decision must be made: no NFL games this weekend.

A conference call Wednesday night with all 31 team representatives led the NFL Players Association to strongly ask the league to call off Week 2 of the season.

"The hair stood up on the back of my neck again when I listened to Michael Strahan and Kevin Mawae, and they told some of their stories," Buffalo's Phil Hansen said. "And after they said their piece ... I'm just glad the NFL made the right decision. It was hard to do anything but not play this week."

Strahan is the representative from the Giants, and Mawae for the Jets.

Both teams practice and play within sight of the lower Manhattan skyline where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood before Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

"Those guys are right in the mix of it there," Hansen said. "And they told a few of their stories, and the way they felt and the way their teammates felt about security, about friends, about neighbors who hadn't returned home yet. It was very vivid."

So vivid that the player reps unwaveringly supported a postponement of the weekend's games, a move commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced on Thursday.

"The overwhelming sentiment from our guys last night was they did not think it was appropriate to play any games this Sunday," said Oakland's Trace Armstrong, the union president.

Indianapolis' Ken Dilger said he voted to play, not because he wanted to, but because he thought that was the sentiment of his teammates.

"Safety was one of the things brought up," Dilger said. "I felt pretty safe with our team because we were at home. But if we had to travel, especially to Washington or New York, I would have felt different.

"Talking with the Kevin Mawae, they were not going to get on that plane and play that game. I think the Jets, and probably the Giants, would have boycotted it and forfeited the game."

Mawae was among several prominent Jets players who said Thursday that they would not have played. Strahan did not go that far but said the New York representatives emphatically stated their position.

"We in New York, Kevin Mawae and myself, we said, 'Hey, listen, out at our practice fields we can still see the smoke. I can see smoke burning. I am missing two towers that I have looked at them for the last eight years,"' Strahan said.

Several other players agreed that if the New York teams were ready to make such a strong stand, the NFLPA should, too.

"It was a discussion on how do you see things," Carolina's John Kasay said. "With the circumstances, how do you see things playing out in your community? A number of the reps deferred to the reps in New York, because it's hard for us in Charlotte. While we've seen the images and the pictures, it's much different than those guys."

After much discussion, no official vote was taken. But it was clear to NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw and Armstrong where the players' sentiments stood.

"My players weren't 31-0," Upshaw said. "But we all support the decision, so now we're 31-0."

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