Bengals’ Winston: Players ‘need to be ready’ for 2021 work stoppage

Bengals guard Eric Winston (73) during the first OTA practice of the year, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
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Bengals guard Eric Winston (73) during the first OTA practice of the year, Tuesday, May 24, 2016. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Bengals offensive tackle and National Football League Players Association president Eric Winston says players should be prepared in case 2011 repeats itself.

Disenchanted by several issues with the league’s drug policy, Pittsburgh Steelers player rep Ramon Foster told ESPN.com on Monday that he is urging players to save money for a potential work stoppage after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires at the end of the 2020 season.

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According to the report, Foster said players caved too quickly to pass the current CBA following a four-month lockout in 2011, and this time, big changes need to be made. Winston agrees.

“They are the ones that stopped the game in 2011, not us, so if they want to lock us out again, we need to be prepared and we need to take every step before that and after that to defend ourselves,” Winston said. “If 2011 repeats itself, everyone needs to be ready. We will be talking about that, and guys always need to be prepared.”

Winston said he is glad Foster spoke out. Foster used news of Le’Veon Bell’s reduced suspension for missed drug tests to express concerns with the drug policy, which includes image hits that players in other sports leagues don’t face and an appeal process that is often handled by a sole arbitrator, resulting in varied rulings.

The league also has been under scrutiny lately after forcing four players to interview as part of an investigation into performance-enhancing drug use, stemming from a controversial Al Jazeera documentary that emerged last December.

“It just highlights what we’ve been saying a long time,” Winston said of the forced PED interviews. “It’s a commissioner run amok. He doesn’t do things based off precedent. He kind of does it at the whim of whatever he feels like he wants to do it on. Unfortunately, they’ve given credence to a report that’s been recanted and doesn’t deserve to have credence given to it, but our guys at the same time don’t want to have distractions during the season. We want to make sure they are focusing on football, so they are going to get this thing done.

“It’s another unfortunate tale of what’s been happening. At some point, players and the league have to come together and come up with a policy that makes sense for both sides and that we can all live with and go with, and that covers a lot of these problems we’re having. A unilaterally enforced policy is never going to do that. It’s going to have big holes in it that we keep finding all the time, and guys aren’t going to believe in it because they had no part in it. Until we get to that point, we’ll keep having these problems.”

Role call: Vontaze Burfict remained out of practice Wednesday, but did some work on the rehab field, along with Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, Darqueze Dennard, Mario Alford, Cedric Ogbuehi and undrafted rookie offensive lineman Alex Redmond.

Burfict hasn’t practiced in more than a week, but coach Marvin Lewis previously said he wanted to cut back his reps to get more work in for other players since Burfict will miss the first three games to suspension.

Jake Fisher, who was injured last Thursday at Detroit, did not work out at all Wednesday during the 30-minute portion of practice open to media. He was wearing a brace on his knee and ankle and watching offensive line drills from the sideline.

LaFell recovering: Brandon LaFell, who reportedly might need hand surgery, participated in a third straight practice after sitting out almost two weeks. The receiver resumed practice Sunday for the first time since Aug. 10, and Lewis seems to be planning to play him Sunday at Jacksonville.

“It’s a positive for him to get an opportunity to play,” Lewis said. “He hasn’t played yet this preseason in a game, so this will be good for him.”

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