Mawae says players can survive lockout

  • Kevin Mawae, president of the NFL Players Association, leaves after negotiations with the NFL involving a federal mediator in Washington, Wednesday, March 9, 2011 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Before he became fully embroiled in negotiations with NFL owners, Kevin Mawae, the president of the now-dissolved NFL players' union, was involved in brief discussions with the 49ers last August.

Mawae, an eight-time Pro Bowl center, was contacted by the Niners after Eric Heitmann suffered a broken leg in training camp. Then 39, Mawae was coming off a Pro Bowl season with the Titans and was looking for a chance to continue his 16-year career.

The Niners offered a one-year, $860,000 contract, the minimum for a player with his experience. Mawae, with a wife and two children entrenched in Tennessee, declined the offer and retired in September.

Mawae, of course, has since been quite busy in retirement, given his title with the NFLPA, which he's held since 2008.

The Press Democrat recently caught up with Mawae, via e-mail, and asked him about his talks with the Niners last summer and issues related to the NFL lockout.

Q: Who contacted you last summer from the 49ers? How close were you to signing with San Francisco?

KM: I spoke with Mike Singletary and had a great conversation with him. Eric Heitmann had just broken his leg. We discussed my role coming in to start, mentor the two young linemen San Francisco drafted, help with a young QB and be a team leader. My concern was time away from my family and whether or not it made sense. From a business standpoint, what would be expected of me and the compensation level didn't match. That conversation took place between my agent and (49ers GM Trent Baalke). In the end, the monetary value of what was offered versus what they would've gotten in return did not justify leaving my family for several months.

Q: Mediation didn't lead to a new collective bargaining agreement last month. Do you feel anything has changed? Why would mediation work now? (Negotiators for the NFL and its players met Thursday and Friday for a combined 13 hours of court-ordered mediation in Minneapolis. They are scheduled to meet again Tuesday morning).

KM: The mediation process that took place in March was intended for both sides to move closer together in the negotiations. Unfortunately, it was a process that seemed to be a one step forward, two steps backward approach by the owners. In the end we did what was in the best interest of the players of the NFL. The difference in the mediation taking place now is that it has federal court oversight with the judge requiring that both sides have a designated party who has decision-making authority. That was not the case in Washington, D.C.

Q: Most NFL players presumably have the financial means to weather a lengthy lockout. Are you concerned about the hardship fringe players could face if a lockout drags on and how that could, in time, weaken solidarity?

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