Bills union rep '100 percent' expects lockout

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The NFL Players Association and the Buffalo Bills don't agree with Ricky Williams' optimism.

WilsonWilsonWilliams, the Miami Dolphins' shop steward, said last week he was confident a new collective bargaining agreement would be reached in time to avoid a 2011 lockout.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith conducted a meeting with the Bills on Wednesday night, and they voted to give the union authority to decertify if collective bargaining negotiations were to reach an impasse.

Bills safety and union representative George Wilson said the vote was unanimous. The Bills were the seventh team Smith has met with for a decertification vote. All are said to have passed unanimously.

After the meeting, Wilson declared he was "100 percent convinced" there will be a lockout.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt," Wilson said. "With everything the NFL has done, they're positioning for a lockout."

Wilson pointed to television contracts that pay the league even if no games are played and the NFL's decision to bring in Bob Batterman, the sports labor negotiator behind the National Hockey League's season-long lockout in 2004-05.

"We don't want to be locked out, but we have to prepare like we're going to be locked out," Wilson said. "We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario."

Wilson's conviction echoed Smith's in a sometimes contentious interview with Buffalo sports radio station WGR on Wednesday morning.

"I've tried to let my guys know in the locker room that this is not a game," Wilson said. "This is dollars and cents, and when it's about money it's going to take a long time. I'm telling my guys to save, save, save. Minimize your debt. Prepare your families."

Smith declined to be interviewed Wednesday night at the Bills' facility but commented on the decertification process after the New Orleans Saints became the first team to give approval two weeks ago. Smith called it a simple housekeeping matter.

"To be dead honest, it's purely procedural and I believe it's a non-story until March," Smith told ESPN on Sept. 11. "It preserves the best options to protect players in the event there's no deal in place when the CBA expires next March. Instead of scrambling at the 11th hour to get all our players' signatures [for decertification], we'll have everything in order. Our hope is that it's not necessary."

If you want to get up to speed on some of the issues, here's an overview I wrote about the potentially ugly upcoming labor battle.

"Personally, I have a positive outlook," Williams said last week. "I think that we're going to come to an agreement. At least I hope that there's not going to be a lockout. I believe that we're being reasonable, and there are certain things that are important to us and we're going to fight for. But I think when it comes down to it, there's going to be an agreement reached."