Former Trojans on edge

Published 8:35 am Friday, March 11, 2011

For the first time in more than two decades, fans face the possibility of no professional football this fall as NFL owners and players struggle to agree to terms on a new collective-bargaining agreement.

With the NFL owners’ labor committee in mediation talks on Thursday, and the collective bargaining agreement set to expire today, several scenarios threaten the 2011 season.

And while countless fans would be disappointed with that outcome, the players would equally be as disappointed, if not more so – including several former Troy Trojans.

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Back in 2008, Leodis McKelvin was the second Trojan ever to be selected in the NFL Draft’s first round, as the Buffalo Bills selected him with the No. 11 overall pick.

The cornerback had arguably the best year of this career this past season, playing in all 16 games, recording 62 tackles, 53 of which were solo, forcing one fumble and picking off two interceptions.

“It’s one of those things that is kind of frustrating and a little bit weird,” McKelvin said about the potential lockout.

“We have two sides fighting over how much money they are going to get from a game. It’s one of those things where we really don’t know what is going on. At the same time everyone else finds out that a decision has been made is the same time most of the players will find out.”

Fellow teammate and former Trojan Levi Brown just completed his first season in the NFL and like McKelvin, the quarterback said he knows very little about what is going on with any of the negotiations.

“What I know is not very much,” Brown said.

“My quarterback coach (George Cortez) called me and basically said, if this lockout thing happens … I am not allowed to have any contact with my coaches. I can’t call or text them and they can’t call or text me. Everyone is just in wait and see mode right now.”

The coach’s ‘housekeeping’ calls, as Brown referred to them, also included ways to stay in shape and things to work on to get better at his position at the professional level.

As far as the difficulty of not knowing whether Brown will have a job to go to in the near future or not, the quarterback said it’s hard to say.

“It all depends on how long this thing lasts, it may not have any impact at all.

“If they don’t reach an agreement, the longer this thing goes into the offseason workouts, the harder it is going to be to come back and get prepared for the season with a short a mount of time. Hopefully, everything gets worked out sooner or later, but your never know. We could be like the NHL was and miss a whole season.”

Where a lockout could really hurt is not with the star athletes but with the majority of the players in the league.

According to Business Week Magazine, an average NFL player salary was $1.9 million.

This where a player like Brown factors in.

In the 2010 season, Brown’s salary was $320,000. However, he lost more than 40 percent of that to federal taxes, state taxes, taxes in every state the Bills played in and agent wages.

The possible future of the league gets even hazier from there for players.

For former Troy linebacker Bear Woods, the NFL lockout is a bittersweet situation.

Woods, who was signed by the Atlanta Falcons a few days after last April’s NFL Draft as a undrafted free agent, just recently signed another contract with the team after being cut in the beginning of September.

Now, even though he finally has a team to practice and play for, it may be quite a while before that dream becomes a reality. “I know about as much as everyone else knows,” Woods said. “The main thing is money. But to be honest, it is a little disconcerting knowing that I have signed this contract and now may not be able to play. (A lockout) is a pretty big possibility, but I feel pretty confident an agreement is going to be reached sometime soon – hopefully.”

Woods was released by the Falcons in week three of the 2010 season.

Since then, he has been keeping his body in shape with different workout regiments.

That persistence to stay in shape ultimately helped Woods resign a contract with Atlanta earlier this year.

“There are so many reasons why (the players and the owners) are doing this,” he said.

“We really don’t know what’s going to happen or how things will work out. What we do know is that if nothing is reached, we are going to be out of a job.”

Woods said he has not talked with anyone from the team since he signed his contract back on February 11 about what to expect.

“They are calling it ‘the unknown future’ right now,” he said. “It’s really been silent so far.

“When something happens, I expect to hear from them immediately. The one thing I do know about the NFL is, they always stay ready for anything. They have a plan for both sides for whatever happens.”