Vincent: Preparing for life after football important
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- With an ever-increasing demand on an NFL player's spare time, Troy Vincent wonders when enough is enough.
Between offseason conditioning programs and mandatory and voluntary minicamp sessions, the Buffalo Bills' star cornerback and newly elected NFL Players Association president worries when players have time to develop away from the field.
"I do understand that right now I'm a professional football player," Vincent said following a minicamp practice Thursday. "But at the same time, I want to be able to walk away from this game and talk about what this game has done for me both personally and professionally."
Vincent doesn't believe every player is getting that opportunity, which could be detrimental to the game, its players and, ultimately, the NFL image.
"I think about the integrity of the game," said Vincent. "The better our product, the smarter our player, the better our game is. ... And the offseason workout program is in conflict with developing the man side."
Vincent, entering his 13th NFL season, said many players lack time for developmental programs, education or retirement planning.
And he noted that ex-players make dozens of calls to the union office looking for jobs.
"Why? Because they weren't able to prepare themselves when they were playing," he said.
Vincent's concerns come as the line blurs between when the NFL year begins and ends.
Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are limited to 14 weeks of offseason workouts. Those workouts are further regulated for length and how many are mandatory. And yet, those rules have been stretched and broken.
Last month, the New York Giants were penalized for violating the rules when new coach Tom Coughlin took away players' three-day weekends and questioned players who missed voluntary workouts. Although Coughlin said the violations were not intentional, the team was stripped of two days from its offseason program.
"When it's voluntary, say voluntary," Vincent said. "Don't put so much pressure to tell a guy that, 'If you don't show up, I'm going to cut you.' That happens all the time."
It was the second a time a team had to forfeit offseason workout days. The St. Louis Rams lost a week last season because they scheduled a workout on a scheduled day off.
Vincent is not against offseason programs. He considers them particularly important in his case. Acquired as a free agent last March, Vincent has used minicamp sessions to jell with his new teammates and learn the team's plays.
Bills general manager Tom Donahoe believes his team strikes a balance between team and player needs. But he acknowledges the nature of the football offseason has changed.
With a larger turnover of players, more time is required to integrate newcomers so teams don't fall behind, Donahoe said.
"I understand where Troy's coming from," Donahoe said. "But sometimes it's a tough balance to strike."
Vincent said much of the responsibility rests on players' decisions. He said he'll use his term as union president to inform players of their rights and opportunities.
Vincent delivered that message to the April draft class. He told the players half will be out of football within two seasons, and then asked how they will respond to that.
"Do you pout, are you angry at the world, do you get cut and go back and take it out on your mom or your dad, your spouse, your children?" Vincent said, recalling his speech. "These are things we need to develop. ... That's developing that man side."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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