Former Ravens players and current NFLPA reps: “When an agreement is finally reached, it will be forgotten and we can focus on football”

March 09, 2011 | Ryan Chell

The Ravens have always been able to grab guys in the draft and free agency to best suit their needs for that upcoming season.

For years, guys like Ozzie Newsome, Eric DeCosta, and Phil Savage have reached out to relative unknowns and made them into super stars on the football field.

But what you may not realize is that the Ravens have also been adept at having smart players on their team, and many of them are out representing the players union in the latest labor talks as player reps defending their fellow constituents’ rights-even if their time in a Ravens uniform has long since passed.

The Ravens’ player reps are Chris Carr, Matt Birk, and Derrick Mason, and joining those three are corner back Domonique Foxworth on the Executive Committee of the NFL Players Association.

Several former Ravens also litter the other 30 teams as fellow player reps. Joining Birk are former Ravens offensive tackle Tony Pashos(now a Cleveland Brown) and former center Casey Rabach-now a center for the Washington Redskins.

The three of them joined “The Afternoon Drive” last week to update Ravens fans on how the talks are progressing and what they’ve learned from the mediation and chats going on with the owners in the hopes of preventing a work stoppage due to labor unrest.

After grinding it out on the football field the last six months, these NFL player reps find themselves fighting in a new arena trying to best represent their fellow players in labor talks with the league’s owners.

It is their desperate hope that they not only can play football next year and not get locked out by the 32 NFL owners, but to also make sure that they get a fair shake of the NFL revenue for player salaries and post-career benefits.

Some fans out there following all this may see billionaire owners and millionaire players arguing over a big pot of money, but Pashos said that it’s not like that at all.

“There are only ten millionaires in a locker room,” Pashos said. “But there are 53 guys on a roster. There are guys who have been cut by different teams, so that’s not accurate.”

“But, it’s not a good fight,” Pashos continued, “as it represents greed to the fans. It’s coming off wrong to a lot of good people.”

The two sides have had two-plus years to get their issues straight with each other, and with the owners backing out of the collective bargaining agreement as they had the clause to do so, both sides have been hard at work over the last two weeks in attempting to draw up or renew it so that would benefit both sides.

There was definitely a lot of question marks and doubt thrown out there last week when it came to what was going to come down.

“The deadline was thrown out there,” Birk said, the Ravens center. “We knew the lockout was coming. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”

All in all though, every player rep WNST talked to-former or current Raven-felt like there wasn’t a ton of pressure on them to get a deal done.

At least right now. Now, it’s about getting the money situation straightened out now when actual regular season games aren’t at stake.

“With a lockout in March, I’m not sure if that’s a big deal because nothing happens in March,” Birk said.

Rabach-who was drafted in the third round by the Ravens in the 2001 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin and played in Baltimore until 2005 when he joined Washington via free agency-agreed that right now the focus should be on using this time to get the discussion going on how best to fix the problems between the owners and the players.

“There’s not a ton of pressure right now,” Rabach said. “We were really happy with the deal we had last time. We didn’t pull out of the deal. But I do not want to send the players back to 1992 with a bad one.”

Last week’s deadline to bargain for a new CBA was expected to come without a new deal in place, but not before two delays-one for 24 hours and another for a week-were enacted.

“That could be a good thing,” former Ravens right tackle Tony Pashos said, who spent 2003-2006 in a Baltimore uniform. “If they need it, let’s do it and get it over with. It’s a dark cloud hanging over the cities and the league.”

Rabach agreed that was the best thing that could have happened because it continued to keep the players and owners in the mediation room and kept the work “Lockout” out of the discussion for one more week.

“Anytime you can keep the negotiations going, it’s better for everyone,” Rabach said. “Hopefully we can get something done and play football.”

Now,  this Thursday is the target date for the players union to decide whether to decertify, effectively sending the debate between the money shared by owners and players into court on the grounds of violating anti-trust laws.

That would begin the long process of fighting and “gnashing of teeth” from players and owners and probably would go towards there not being football in 2011 and in the future.

The official end to the 2010 CBA is this Friday.

But the players and these particular reps representing them really are trying to keep a positive mindset in all of this turmoil. They are planning on being in training camp at the end of July, and working with their owners to put a good product on the field at the beginning of September.

“I plan to prepare for August,” Rabach said. “I’m back in the weight room and have been for the last three weeks. You just worry that everyone isn’t doing the same, and you make sure that everyone is staying fit and is on the same page.”

Pashos meanwhile hasn’t yet had an opportunity to meet with his new coaching staff, including his new head coach in Pat Shurmur, who was recently hired to replace Eric Mangini.

That might makes things difficult for the Browns to gel properly should off-season workouts be missed.

“From the Browns perspective, I want to pick up the phone, meet with the coaches, and learn the game plan. I hope the football doesn’t suffer.”

Birk agreed. He’s ready to put all this behind him and play football.

And this is coming from a Harvard guy!

“If I had my choice, this wouldn’t happen either,” Birk said. “But because this is the NFL, it dominates the news daily. I get sick of hearing it too. But when an agreement is finally reached, it will be forgotten and we can focus on football.”

But the timeframe in that might be the biggest question.

“We’re gonna play this game,” Pashos said. “It’s a guess now trying to figure out when.”

WNST thanks the three NFL player reps for joining WNST last week! WNST-We Never Stop Talking Baltimore Sports!