Patriots center Dan Koppen was a guest on Sirius NFL Radio this morning, with hosts Howard David and Dan Leberfeld.
Naturally, a hot topic of discussion was the NFL Players Association’s decision to decertify, as well as the owners' decision to lock players out.
“I don’t think anybody is shocked by what happened yesterday,” Koppen said on the program. “You have a deadline and if a deal can’t get done, you have to take certain measures to protect yourself in the long run.”
Koppen took an optimistic view of the long-range picture.
“One thing I would be shocked about is if we’re not playing games in September,” he said. “That’s the main issue and the destination that we have to get to.”
Koppen was asked if he feels most of the “rank and file” players truly understand the issues involved in the labor battle.
“I think you have both ends of the spectrum, really,” he answered. “I think our union does a good job of telling us the truth, and I think the player reps do a good job. Whether each individual NFL player wants to understand it, that’s really on their own, if they want to go study it, read about it, talk to people about it. That’s one thing our player reps can’t control. I can’t speak for everybody else in the league that they understand it or not, but I can tell you that we’re united as a union. It’s not a union anymore, but we’re united in our goals and where we want to be.”
Koppen shared his opinion on some of the health and safety rules the NFL has proposed, such as offseason programs going from 14 weeks to nine weeks, with organized team activities reduced from 14 to 10.
“I think the offseason and the OTAs, as far as contact and wear and tear – limiting that – I don’t really feel that’s in any way hindering or making my body feel worse,” he said. “It’s one of those things where if you take five weeks away, that’s five weeks of less preparation time you have to get ready for the season, which is a long season and you have to be in shape and ready to go.
“As far as taking the pads away in the practice, I think that’s a good idea, a good start of talks, in how we can limit that. Playing 16 games and four preseason games, playoff games and what have you, you’re in a lot of car crashes. Any time you can take hitting away from the game a little bit, and focus on some other things, I think that will save the body a little bit. The OTAs are not contact and the offseason is just working out, and you should really be working out anyway. It’s a place to start.”
Summing up the situation at this point, Koppen turned to a Bill Belichick trademark.
"It's run its course. It is what it is," he told David and Leberfeld. "Now there really is nothing left to talk about, so now it's just going to be people blaming each other and trying to get the public on their side. That's the people we're feeling sorry for right now.
"We want to play football. The public wants us to play football. The owners want us to play football. So as a player, it's kind of hard for me to understand why we can't reach a deal somehow. Whether it was our side, or their side, it doesn't really matter, there is no deal."
If this turns out to be a long process, and players don’t return until August, Koppen was asked how much that might hurt the quality of the game.
“I think it probably would, early on, for sure,” he said. “You have the offseason and OTAs, which is when you bring your rookies along, your free agents and all that stuff. There is a learning process, and a learning curve, that needs to happen from March, April to early September when the games start. I’m sure there would be a definite hit in the execution early on because you haven’t played football, or been around football, for that long before you play games.”