Bob Bleier feels no pressure as replacement quarterback of the New England Patriots.
'I am not here to earn a job. What I do on the field won't make or break me,' the cousin of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rocky Bleier said. 'My starting job isn't in danger and there isn't anyone breathing down my back. I'm here to have fun and help make this team win.'
Bleier was the only quarterback in camp for the first week after the NFL's union players went on strike.
'I'm getting all the work and, when you get all that work, you build confidence,' said Bleier, who played at Richmond last fall. 'I am really going into this game feeling I can do well. I'm feeling this offense can move the ball either passing or on the ground.'
Before the Patriots' practice Saturday, a new team picture was taken -- of the 59 newly signed players. None of the six union players who broke ranks with their striking teammates chose to be in the picture.
While Bleier wasn't feeling pressure, striking players in Cleveland realized how their fans felt.
Several Browns players attended a hockey game Thursday night and, according to quarterback Bernie Kosar, 'The fans really let us have it. We got booed a lot and it bothered us. To say that these people aren't involved in this strike is wrong.'
The hockey game was just three days after the Browns were supposed to host the Denver Broncos for a rematch of last season's AFC championship game.
'Gene (Upshaw, executive director of the players' union) has told us that fan sentiment isn't as big a deal that some people say it is, but I feel the fans do play a big role in the whole nature of professional football,' Kosar said.
Kosar does not agree with Upshaw's comments about racism impeding the negotiations.
'I don't think it's a racial issue and I don't think we should start pointing fingers at each other because it doesn't exist,' he said.
Upshaw says that he does not want to lead the players in a direction they don't want to go.
'We have 1,520 players out on strike; over 95 percent of the players are still on strike,' he noted. Before the strength of the union is eroded by too many strikers returning, Upshaw said, 'I would consider going back without an agreement if that's what the players wanted.'
Upshaw said he would not order players to return.
'The will of the players will determine what we do, not what Gene Upshaw wants,' he said. 'My job is to fight for the position that they've taken. If they decide at some point in time (to vote to return without a contract), it's up to them.'