Jets become eighth team to decertify

Updated: September 24, 2010, 9:42 AM ET
By Jane McManus | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- On Thursday, the Jets became the eighth NFL team to vote unanimously to authorize the NFL Players Association to decertify the union if a lockout became inevitable.

"It's all about the big picture," offensive lineman Damien Woody said. "Players around the league, we're going to stick together and do what's best, make the game better for the players that are going to come after us."

The process of decertification is a tool the union can use if the owners attempt to lock out the players. The union is concerned that owners will lock out players after the 2010 season. A union would be barred from suing the league, but if it can quickly decertify it would be able to prevail upon the courts.

As much as players wanted the chance to vote, they also got the opportunity to come together and discuss some of the issues around the potential lockout, and to make a statement about how they might react in March.

"It's about player leadership,"said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith as he left the facility.

Tony Richardson, the Jets player representative, said that Smith's visit was a good opportunity to talk about a lot of issues facing the team.

"Since he's been in office, I think he's done a great job of making sure men are educated and getting out in front of the guys," Richardson said.

Smith arrived from the airport just in time for the 4 p.m. meeting with players but took a few moments to meet with union representatives from the old Giants Stadium who were not hired to work in the New Meadowlands Stadium, and have been out work ever since.

Bill Grandfield, the president of Local 100, said Smith had been meeting with stadium workers all over the country because they will be just as affected by a lockout as team employees.

"Every labor union in the country has come out and indicated that this game is bigger than the hash marks," Smith said.

He said that owners often talk about jobs as new stadiums are being built, and that those same jobs will be in jeopardy if there is a lockout.

The union and players are also trying to win fan support to a cause that is often reduced to a fight between millionaires and billionaires. Jets linebacker Calvin Pace said the fans should get deeper into the issues because of what is at stake.

"It's going to be tough on them," Pace said. "Can you imagine a Sunday without football?"

Other teams have already voted to decertify, including New Orleans, Dallas, Indianapolis, Philadelphia, Washington, Buffalo and the Giants.

On Wednesday, the Bills voted unanimously. Friday, Smith will head to Baltimore and then to New England next Monday.

"The players, the whole league, everyone has to be together," Pace said. "It can't be a situation where guys give in, because in that situation we all lose, and I think guys are together so far."

The Jets showed they were united by their unanimous vote.

"The season is the biggest distraction going on," Woody said. "People out there aren't really concerned about the lockout, but the players, we know it's coming. We're just trying to take appropriate measures right now so that we have the best chance to be successful if and when this thing does happen."

Jane McManus is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow her on Twitter.

Jane McManus has covered New York sports since 1998 and began covering football just before Brett Favre's stint with the Jets. Her work has appeared in Newsday, USA Today, The Journal News and The New York Times. Follow Jane on Twitter.

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