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Eric Winston says players should brace for 2021 NFL lockout

As president of the NFLPA, it’s Eric Winston’s job to keep the players’ best in interest in mind for the short and long term. The latter means saving up now for a possible work stoppage in 2021.

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NFL: Super Bowl 50-NFLPA Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL could be facing another major work stoppage.

Thankfully, it doesn't look like it will come until 2021, a good five years from now. That means we should get five more full NFL seasons without the fear of losing games due to a lookout.

That's easy for fans and the media to say. We're not the ones collecting a paycheck from the same league that will stop paying players if a lockout occurs.

And when you're a player making around $2 million per year, you stand to lose a lot from a lockout.

Getting through that period of no pay is something players are already preparing for. Among them is Bengals lineman Eric Winston, who told the Dayton Daily News that current players must prepare as if a work stoppage will occur in 2021.

It isn't just a matter of having money saved up to make it through a few (hopefully) months of no NFL. Winston, the president of the NFLPA, is stressing to players to have more security, so they don't cave into the NFL's demands when negotiating a new CBA.

"They are the ones that stopped the game in 2011, not us, so if they want to lock us out again, we need to be prepared, and we need to take every step before that and after that to defend ourselves," Winston said. "If 2011 repeats itself, everyone needs to be ready. We will be talking about that, and guys always need to be prepared."

Winston also cited the recent PED investigation by the NFL as the league overstepping its boundaries and how much control they should have.

"It just highlights what we’ve been saying a long time," Winston said of the forced PED interviews. "It’s a commissioner run amuck. He doesn’t do things based off precedent. He kind of does it at the whim of whatever he feels like he wants to do it on.

"Unfortunately, they’ve given credence to a report that’s been recanted and doesn’t deserve to have credence given to it, but our guys at the same time don’t want to have distractions during the season. We want to make sure they are focusing on football, so they are going to get this thing done."

Winston is trying to make current players realize that they have to begin making sacrifices now if they want to force changes in the NFL that need to be made.

"At some point, players and the league have to come together and come up with a policy that makes sense for both sides and that we can all live with and go with, and that covers a lot of these problems we’re having," Winston said. "A unilaterally enforced policy is never going to do that. It’s going to have big holes in it that we keep finding all the time, and guys aren’t going to believe in it because they had no part in it. Until we get to that point, we’ll keep having these problems."

At this rate, we probably should expect an ugly battle between the NFL and NFLPA in 2021 that, based on how Winston is talking, may actually lead to regular-season games being missed. But hopefully, for everyone involved (including us as fans) that’s not what it will take for the players to get the owners to give into their requests.