'Deadline' passes; players told to gird for lockout

NFL players might be socking away their paychecks soon to get ready for a lockout that could cost them their entire salary in 2011.

The pro football players’ union has advised its members to save their last three game checks this year in case next season is canceled. In a letter to the players that was viewed by The Associated Press, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the union’s “internal deadline” for agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement has passed.

“It is important that you protect yourself and your family,” he wrote in the letter dated Wednesday.

NFLPA spokesman George Atallah declined to elaborate on what effect the passing of the self-imposed deadline would have on negotiations, saying the letter was an “internal communication.”

But copies were strewn across a table Saturday in the New England Patriots’ locker room in Foxborough, Mass., where they were visible to players, reporters and team officials. After a reporter asked players about the letter, a Patriots spokesman flipped the copies face-down.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello called the news of a deadline “disappointing and inexplicable, especially for fans.”

The prospect of a lost season in 2011 intensified when owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2008, saying they could not make a profit if required to give almost 60 cents of every $1 in revenue to the players.

The one-page letter on NFLPA stationery said the union expects the lockout to begin March 4 – one day after the CBA expires – and that players should work with their advisers to prepare for an impending lack of income.


New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard was placed on injured reserve, ending the season for one of the team’s defensive leaders a day after he broke his right shin in practice.

A stabilizing rod was placed through Leonhard’s tibia during surgery Friday night at Morristown Memorial Hospital, located a few miles from the team’s training facility in Florham Park, N.J. The Jets announced that Leonhard had no damage to his fibula, ankle or knee and is expected to make a full recovery.

Leonhard, who calls defensive signals in the secondary and returns punts, was hurt when he collided with wide receiver Patrick Turner.