Kevin Mawae still optimistic for '11 NFL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kevin Mawae believes there will be football in 2011. He just doesn't know when.

Speaking in front of nearly 100 Music City business and civic leaders Tuesday, the president of the decertified NFL Players Association and former Tennessee Titans center tried to stay optimistic when talking about the collective bargaining agreement.

"We sit here at a time of uncertainty and say, 'When will football be played?' " Mawae told members of the Exchange Club of Nashville in a rare public appearance since negotiations stalled. "My answer to you as fans is I don't know. My hope to you as the players' association president is that I believe that we will play in 2011 but under what system I do not know."

Mawae painted a picture of labor negotiations shut down by the actions of owners, who locked out players and refused to share vital information that could help solve the stalemate. He said initial player proposals on key issues such as a rookie contract structure, health benefits for retired players and discussions on the length of the season "went one way and never came back."

"We had to wait three or four months before we even got a one-page response from the ownership," Mawae said. "Now granted, you are saying, 'You are the NFL players' guy. You are giving me one side of the story.' And I wish that were true. I am telling you exactly how things played out because I sat in those meetings, those negotiations."

A judge briefly lifted the owners' lockout of players two weeks ago, but a federal appeals court issued a temporary stay, again barring players from team facilities and activities. Meanwhile, players on several teams, including the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins, are gathering for informal workouts, preparing for a season that may not come.

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear the case on June 3. Mawae believes the NFLPA has a strong argument.