Former Redskins Gary Clark and Dexter Manley, who were in the NFL during pro football’s last work stoppage in 1987, sympathize with current players and stress the need for them to remain united as the labor dispute drags on.
When the NFL’s players went on strike during the 1987 season, the Redskins players continued to train together during the four-week period that saw Week 3 games canceled and replacement players suited up for Weeks 4 through 6. The “scab players” as they were called, went 3-0 in those games. Then the regular Redskins returned and went on to complete the season and win the Super Bowl.
“It was a very intense time,” Clark said before he addressed area high school players at the Redskins-sponsored 4th & Life High School Football Forum Friday at Redskins Park. “Very intense. I remember (defensive lineman) Darryl Grant breaking a window out on the bus,” on the night the strike began.
“When I played maybe I was losing – my paycheck every two weeks -- I was losing $1,500, maybe $2,000,” Clark added later. “Now you’ve got guys that would be losing $200,000 a week. So much has changed with the money now.”
Clark and Manley said if the current Redskins can continue to work together this offseason, they won’t suffer any ill effects from the lockout.
“I think a lot of us stuck together [in 1987] because guys on other teams went home,” Clark said. “They didn’t stick together, but it was a Redskins community that stuck together. We helped ourselves.”
“We had strong leaders, and this team has some strong leaders as well,” he said. “They’ll do what they need to do.”
Current Redskins linebacker and team captain London Fletcher last month organized a two-day players mini-camp that drew 30 teammates, many of whom flew in from out of state to take part. A smaller group of Redskins have continued to work out together. Clark praised Fletcher’s leadership efforts.
“He’s like the [glue] of this organization,” the former wide receiver said. “He gives it 100 percent on the field and off the field. He’s a vocal leader and leads by example so it’s very good what he’s trying to do.”
Both former players are optimistic that the labor dispute will soon be resolved, and that little, if any, of the season will be missed. Both naturally expressed support for the players.
“I think the players make the game what it is today,” Manley said. “I know the owners have expenses, but if Jerry Jones didn’t own the Cowboys, who would know Jerry Jones? The players take the licks, the bumps, the bruises and they leave the game with blood on their knees and elbows and when the players get out, they sometimes get kicked to the side.”
Said Clark: “If they ask me for advice, I’ll give it to them because we’re still one big Redskins family. But it’s their rodeo and they’ve got their full confidence in the NFLPA and that they’re going to do the right thing for them, as they should. Blood, sweat and tears. We know what it’s all about.”