Charity trumps lockout for Cards, players

Larry Fitzgerald was catching passes from Kurt Warner on the Arizona Cardinals' practice field roughly 14 hours after NFL owners locked out players.

Strange, but true -- and pretty cool all the way around.

WarnerWarnerWhile lockout rules prevented Cardinals officials from attending Warner's annual charity football game at team headquarters, the organization let Warner and several current NFL stars use their fields, as planned. Fitzgerald and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers were among those in attendance.

Two aspects from this event stood out upon watching video highlights from Fox Sports Arizona:

  • Warner and Fitzgerald lauded the Cardinals for allowing them on the grounds during a bitter standoff between players and coaches.

  • Warner said he thought NFL players knew they had a "great deal" under the previous labor agreement and that some things had "gotten out of control to some degree."

The Cardinals knew for months that Warner's annual "Kurt Warner Ultimate Football Experience" scheduled its event for March 12, and that a lockout could be under way.

It's a testament to Warner's broad appeal that he could easily transcend a heated labor dispute. The Cardinals get credit, too, for facilitating a worthy event under circumstances less than ideal. According to Warner, the Cardinals sent a letter petitioning the league to accommodate the event.

"I tip my hat to the Cardinals," Warner told Fox. "They've always been great in helping us with this event -- and again this year when they didn't have to and a lot of things probably said, 'We can't do it here.' "

Fitzgerald and fellow receiver Steve Breaston also participated.

"The Cardinals' organization has always done great things in terms of charity work," Fitzgerald said, briefly turning the lockout into a love-in, " and allowing this to happen even with our labor disagreement, it shows a lot of character from those guys."

I'll reproduce Warner's labor-related comments in full here:

"We had a great deal. We had one of the best deals, in my opinion, of any of the pro sports when you talking about all of the things involved. Players knew that. We understood that. It afforded us lots of luxuries and making a lot of money. But I think players are also realistic to understand, 'OK, things have gotten out of control to some degree and so we’re willing to even the scales on those things.' But there’s also things that we want, too. We want things that protect us long-term. We want the health-care issues. We want the issues of a 16-game season as opposed to putting us out there for a couple more games. This is just my opinion, I think players would take a little less money but they want the security of some of the other things that they’re asking for. I think that’s gonna be a big issue because they understand that players have a little more to lose than the owners. The owners will still be owners five years from now. Players, you miss a year and it costs you a lot when you’re talking about a short NFL career. So, players have a lot to lose. But I’m still very I’m optimistic that they’ll find a way to get this done and there will be football in 2011."

Warner sounded as though he was monitoring the situation from a distance. He clearly was not as emotionally invested as the current player reps regularly attacking the league. Bitterness was never really his style, anyway. The league and its players might have a deal by now if more of them adopted Warner's disarming tone.