Jason La Confora of NFL.com reported yesterday that top union officials and player agents are discussing the possibility of withholding players from the Combine and draft activities.
The Associated Press confirms the report, citing two sources who say the union has suggested keeping potential 2011 draft picks away from the Combine and from other draft-related activities while there is no collective bargaining agreement.
It seems strange that the union is asking prospects who are not yet union members to do their bidding, and at this point the union is apparently trying to convince the player agents to keep their clients from attending the Combine and draft events.
Skipping the combine would be a huge deal for a lot of the incoming draft prospects and it would hurt them a lot more than it would hurt the league, so a boycott of the Combine may be a little far-fetched. As for the draft itself, players could easily boycott all draft events leading up to and including the TV marathon from Radio City Music Hall scheduled to start on April 28, but that seems like kind of a 'meh' move. So perhaps the ratings would drop a little. So what?
We'll see in due course whether there is any merit to talk. For now it's just part of the blustering and posturing that both sides are engaged in at present as both sides try to gain the upper hand in the PR battle. But both sides need to be careful that their PR strategy doesn't blow up in their own faces.
The draft and all the speculation that goes with it is a significant part of the NFL fan experience. 'Draft season' is an integral part of many a football fan's calendar. Denying fans the excitement, speculation and prognostication of the draft could turn out to be a big blow to the public's perception of the NFLPA.