NFL Players Association president Eric Winston is not really concerned for himself that a strike in 2021 might be harmful to the future of the league.
In an interview with WCPO in Cincinnati, the Bengals offensive tackle stunningly said, "Honestly, I don't care and I don't think the guys in this locker room care whether (the NFL) is going to be around in 20 years because none of us are going to be playing. So if these guys (the owners) want to own for a long time, then they can own for a long time. But another work stoppage might kill the golden goose."
Winston made his comments while agreeing with DeMaurice Smith, the union's executive director, that a work stopping is likely after the current collective bargaining agreement expires in 2021.
"The likelihood of either a strike or a lockout is almost a virtual certainty," Smith said last week.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is more optimistic.
"I think projections of whether there's going to be a work stoppage are really not the point," Goodell said at a fan forum hosted by the Detroit Lions. "The point should be let's sit down and figure out our differences and get it solved and do what's right for our fans and the game and try to make this an even more popular game collectively. And that's what I hope will happen."
Winston, who at age 33 is on the back end of his 12-year career, is helping to prepare the players for a potential lockout but appeared more concerned about the immediate future than several years down the road.
"I'm certainly not worried about it," he said. "I'm not going to be around that long. I don't care if even if there are rookies in here -- they're not going to be playing that long.
"So if this thing dies out in 20 years, it dies out in 20 years. That's not really my concern, and I don't think it's any of these players' concern in here either."
But Winston is helping prepare the players, particularly rookies, for what might be in store down the road.
"We try to educate those guys as soon as we get them," Winston said. "DeMaurice Smith and myself, we'll have meetings with them this year. We introduce those topics and continue to educate. ... It's not something that we can spring on them in 2020 and say, 'You guys got to get ready for this.'"
Smith, asked by ESPN's Outside the Lines about Winston's remarks, said, "The owners locked us out the last time. They took the decision to make sure that people didn't have a place to work. They cut off the insurance to our families. They wanted to force an 18-game schedule. What are you supposed to do? Fight back, right?"
The current CBA was finalized in 2011 after the 132-day lockout.
"We believe that we have a labor agreement that is working well for the players, is working well for the NFL and I think as a result is working well for our fans," Goodell said. "We think we should continue that. Now, does that mean we think it's perfect? No. Does that mean the players think it's perfect? No. But this should be a basis for us to work together and get it solved."
Winston also said he thinks he understands why the fans usually side with the owners when there's a labor dispute. In 2011, no games were lost except the preseason Hall of Fame game before the lockout ended.
"My personal theory is (fans) think they have a stake in the team," he said. "I was as blindsided by it probably as anybody (in 2011).
"They don't look at the issues the way we look at issues -- wages, hours, working conditions, and health and safety. You could talk about the same thing in a coal miners' union meeting as we do in our meetings.
"I think fans look at the team and say that that's their team -- they have an ownership in that. That's why you always hear fans say 'Oh, the salary cap,' and they think they're kinda the general managers. Obviously fantasy football and things like that play into it."