NEW YORK (WFAN) — Former Giants wide receiver Phil McConkey has few regrets.
But the 1987 strike was a big one.
McConkey took aim at the NFL Players Association on Tuesday for fighting the league’s free-agency policy more than 25 years ago, putting health issues on the back burner.
McConkey said the Giants got together and listed their grievances — improved health benefits and severance pay among them. Free agency was at the bottom of the list, but was later announced as the union’s top priority by late NFLPA head Gene Upshaw.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Are we that different than (other teams)?'” McConkey told WFAN’s Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton. “I don’t think so. No, we weren’t. And what it was, was Gene Upshaw wanted to create favor with the top couple percent of guys in the league so he could stay in power, make all that money.”
Esiason was the Cincinnati Bengals’ player representative during the strike.
McConkey, 55, called the strike of ’87 “one of the great regrets of my life.”
“I see so many of my colleagues suffering terribly,” he said. “And I don’t blame — I really don’t blame the owners and the management. I don’t. It’s the players’ association, they’re the ones that should have taken care of the guys that went before them. And they didn’t, and they still don’t.”
McConkey said many players who went on strike lost a sizable chunk of their salary “and got nothing in return.”
He was also still steamed over comments made by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“There’s some guys out there that have made bad business decisions,” Brees said in 2009. “They took their pensions early because they never went out and got a job. They’ve had a couple divorces and they’re making payments to this place and that place. And that’s why they don’t have money. And they’re coming to us to basically say ‘Please make up for my bad judgment.’ In that case, that’s not our fault as players.”
“All (the strike) benefited were some of the guys of today,” McConkey said. “There are some guys today that have absolutely no clue and that run their mouths. And Drew Brees is one of them.”
“I know he’s canonized and people think he’s great,” he added of Brees. “If he got in front of a group of ex-players, I don’t know what would happen. … It’s just — it’s disgusting, but that’s some of the mentality that’s around.”
McConkey, best known for his performance in the Giants’ Super Bowl XXI win, gave his take on the thousands of former players suing the NFL for its handling of concussion-related information.
“I don’t understand why they’re not suing the players’ association also,” he said. “I think they’re more responsible than the NFL.”
An interview with McConkey would be incomplete without his take on an infamous television shot after Super Bowl XXI. He was briefly captured on camera with a gun in his hand, which was dropped by a policeman on the field.
After all these years, McConkey still maintains a sense of humor about the pistol-packing episode.
“I scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl, helped my team win and saved some lives — all in a day’s work,” McConkey told Esiason and Carton. “I should have taken the gun after winning the Super Bowl, started shooting it up in the air. You can imagine, that’s something nobody would have ever forgotten about. The problem is I’d (have gone to) jail.”
Strong words from a former player. Your thoughts on the interview? Let us know in the comments…