Much like the NHL is doing currently, the NFL waged a lockout last summer against its players association. While the NFL didn't miss anything beyond offseason training activities, it cut off access to all 32 teams' facilities to every member of the NFLPA.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark was one of those players. As the Steelers' representative to the NFLPA, he served as an off-field leader for his teammates while the league and the players association could hammer out a new collective bargain agreement.
Last week he talked about the dynamics of being locked out.
What is it liked being locked out and not having access to the team's facilities or staff?
"It’s definitely a hindrance to some guys’ improvement. It’s a hindrance to guys who are coming in new and getting acclimated to the system and the organization. When you’re locked out, it’s letting you know that they don’t want you around. The doors are closed to you. It does make you feel separated from what you do. It also kind of let’s you know you’re a separate side to them. We’re not working towards the same goal. Obviously if you’re going to lock the doors on me, you’re saying I’m not a part of your organization. So it’s tough to deal with it, but you need to keep that in mind in the negotiating process."
Is it tough from a physical aspect not having all the workout facilities and training staff available?
"I don’t train here anyway so for me it was different. I actually trained with two (NHL players). I was just talking to them about the lockout and how the NHL works. They were saying they were just finished skating and they were training. They were just trying to stay in shape and do what they had to do for when the season comes around."
Was there a different perspective with younger players versus older players in the NFL-NFLPA dispute last summer?
"Not so much the knowledge but the stability in life. When you’re a young guy and you haven’t made a certain amount of money, living year to year as far as your pay goes when you’re early into a career, its tough. It’s tough to stay firm, stay strong and not to give into the demands of the league. You tell those guys to do their best to stick together but also to have the greater good of all the people in mind."
During the NFL lockout, you and Charlie Batch made a point to show up to the Steelers' facilities when a federal judge temporarily lifted the lockout. Is it important to win the public relations battle?
"It is. It is. The league is obviously going to try to win the battle so as players, we have to do our best to show that we want to be here playing. That our goal is to put a product on the field for the fans."
Any advice in general you would offer to NHLPA members?
"Got to stay strong and believe in what you believe in."
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