ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Buffalo Bills players became at least the fifth NFL team to vote in favor of giving the NFL Players Association the right to decertify in the event of a lockout next year.
Bills union representative safety George Wilson said the vote was unanimous and held after players met with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith at the team's facility after practice Wednesday.
Wilson said the Bills became the seventh team to vote for decertification. Indianapolis, Dallas, New Orleans and Philadelphia also voted to decertify, while the other two were not immediately known.
Smith spent more than an hour with Bills players in outlining the union's position and updating players on labor talks. He is visiting with each team prior to their vote, and met with New York Giants players on Monday.
The vote to decertify is considered necessary if owners lock out the players next season. Antitrust laws exempt NFL owners from being sued by unions that are negotiating collective bargaining agreements, so decertification would in essence eliminate the union and allow players to sue the league in the event of a lockout — giving them potential leverage in their dispute with the owners.
The Bills have an active union base, and were one of numerous teams to show their solidarity during their season-opener. That's when most Bills players, holding their index fingers in the air, stepped on to the field prior to the opening kickoff in a show of support.
Earlier in the day, in an interview on Buffalo's WGR radio, Smith reiterated he is "100 percent" certain a lockout will take place in March.
Wilson agrees with Smith and noted the union boss informed Bills players the same thing.
"Beyond a shadow of a doubt. He believes that and I believe that," Wilson said. "We don't want to be locked out, but we have to prepare like we're going to be lock out. We have to prepare for the worst-case scenario."
As a result, Wilson is informing Bills players minimize their debt and save as much money as possible in the event of a lockout.
One major concern, Wilson said, is how players will have to purchase health insurance for themselves and their families.
"There's a lot of guys around this league whose wives are expecting kids over the next six to eight months and that's something you have to take into consideration," Wilson said. "This affects more than us. We have families that we have to take care of."