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Emotions run high all over as NFL labor woes deepen

Anger and disappointment were the predominant emotions throughout the football world and beyond after the NFL Players Association decertified Friday, hours before the expiration of its collective bargaining agreement with the league.

In response, the NFL imposed a lockout of players at midnight ET Friday. The league confirmed the lockout in a statement Saturday morning. Ten players, including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, filed antitrust lawsuits Friday in an attempt to prevent such a move.

"It's a sad day for football," said free-agent offensive lineman Damien Woody, who played the last three seasons with the New York Jets.

"I'm sad that it had to come to his. As players, we didn't want this, but we felt like it was the only option we had. We didn't opt out of the CBA two years go. The owners did. Now, it has become a situation that we have to leave it to the lawyers and courts to hopefully bring this to a resolution that is best for everybody."

Hall of Famer Mike Ditka saw the stalemate as selfish, fearing retired players will be hurt the most when the NFL shuts down.

"What this is about is the people in the game, the owners and the players," said the former Bears tight end and, later, Chicago's coach. "That's all they care about."

As for talks breaking off, Ditka added: "I think it's wrong. I don't see any reason for that to happen. ... I am surprised and I'm disappointed. I think fans are losers more than anybody."

Tennessee Titans defensive end Jason Babin, who will be a free agent after his Pro Bowl season, warned not to expect players to break ranks and abandon each other. That happened in the last work stoppage 24 years ago, when dozens of players crossed picket lines and the strike failed.

"It's a lot different than it was in 1987. There's not going to be guys bagging groceries," Babin said. "I mean, we clued in people to save money this year, saving every other check. I think the majority of guys took that seriously and understood how important that was.

"On top of that, we've been preparing for this for years, putting money away in different programs we have. It's not going to be as big a shock to the system as it was in 1987."

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco was treating more than 100 fans to dinner at a Miami seafood restaurant when the decertification news broke. The veteran said he doesn't side with the players or the owners, just the fans who want to enjoy the game.

"I don't have time to be arguing. With the owners and us as millionaires, there shouldn't even be an argument," Ochocinco told WSVN-TV. "It disgusts me, it's really an unfortunate situation. But it is what it is. I am on the fans' side. I want football, but to be focused on an argument over revenue is silly. We got people out here struggling, and there's no reason a deal shouldn't have gotten done."

Groups representing American workers and U.S. businesses also weighed in, taking their expected positions.

"Working people stand shoulder to shoulder with the players and their right to protect themselves and their families through antitrust laws that prohibit illegal and greedy corporate behavior," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said.

Meanwhile, U.S. Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Randel K. Johnson, whose organization represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses, said that "gaming the labor laws and the antitrust laws offers a potentially disastrous model for labor-management relations in this country and raises serious questions of labor policy."

Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller wondered why a $9 billion business couldn't reach an agreement on splitting such hefty revenues.

Q&A: What's next for players, NFL?

"I think I speak for every fan by saying that I am disappointed that it came to this," Rockefeller said. "I hope both parties can find a way to come back to the bargaining table and resolve their differences. As I've said before -- and still believe -- transparency and good faith negotiations should be able to solve this stalemate and avoid imposing collateral damage on innocent Americans whose economic livelihoods depend on professional football."

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, co-chairman of the NFL's labor committee, urged everyone to remain positive and patient.

"This is a time for our fans not to be discouraged," Richardson said. "No anger and friction between the players and the teams. It has been actually a real learning experience for all of us. In due course, we'll have an agreement."

Buffalo Bills safety and -- until Friday -- player representative George Wilson made a similar appeal for calm.

"Fans, players, everybody needs to take a deep breath and take it one day at a time. The season doesn't start until September," he said. "If we get to July, August and September and start losing games, then I can understand people getting emotional. But it's March. Take a deep breath."

Yet if there was any doubt that business as usual would be disrupted, it was quickly wiped away in an e-mail the Titans sent local reporters late Friday afternoon.

It alerted them that they will not have access to the media workroom or the rest of the building for reporting -- or even the parking lots outside of team headquarters -- with the collective bargaining agreement expiring. The Titans also warned against doing TV live shots on their property.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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