WASHINGTON, D.C - On Monday evening, NFL stars gathered at Lucky Strike in downtown Washington D.C. to bowl for a good cause. It marked the first fundraiser for New England Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden, who grew up in Prince George's County and attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville.
Bodden's special guests included NFL stars Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Calais Campbell, Joshua Cribbs, Shawn Springs, Madieu Williams and George Wilson. Each celebrity bowled with a team of sponsors, with all proceeds benefiting the Leigh Bodden Foundation.
Participants could also bid on a wide array of sports memorabilia including a Bryce Harper autographed Sports Illustrated magazine, a tour of Yankee Stadium, John Riggins and Joe Theismann autographed helmets and several framed pieces of artwork.
"I just want to give this support back to the children of this community," Bodden said. "I was born and raised here, so I just want to give back. I want to inspire and be a good personal role model to these kids and really tell them that they can persevere over anything."
Playing at Northwestern and later at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Bodden's believes that his opportunities for exposure were somewhat limited. He relied on confidence and hard work to earn his way to the NFL, a process he hopes will inspire children in his local community.
"A lot of people told me that I couldn't make it to where I'm at today and I've been in the league for nine years. Kids are told no and a lot of kids believe that. I just want to give them hope and a belief that they can achieve success with a lot of hard work and confidence," he continued.
At the event, Bodden presented generous scholarships to local student athletes who plan to attend college in the fall. Several award recipients were graduates of Bodden's alma mater, Northwestern.
Of course, no event that draws nearly a dozen NFL players together would pass without some discussion about a potential conclusion to the ongoing lockout. George Wilson, a player representative for the Buffalo Bills, mentioned that he'll be attending a meeting in Washington on Wednesday to discuss the situation with other representatives.
"We'll get a true perspective of where we are, how close we are and how far apart we may be," said Wilson. "With us being almost four months into this lockout, it definitely feels good that we've made enough progress to be able to try to get something done so that the start of training camp won't be affected and ultimately, we can try to recover from the damage that has been done to the game of football."
Wilson discussed the status of the soon-to-be-ending NFL lockout with local media. That transcript is below.
Q: We've been hearing this will be done in the next couple of days.
A: Well, I won't get ahead of myself ... but each of the teams will be getting together in D.C. on Wednesday. Once we get together on Wednesday, we'll get the season information in front of us, talk about it and maybe get some perspective of where we are.
Q: So the Union is calling for this meeting on Wednesday?
A: Yes, we have this meeting set for Wednesday to see what the proposal may be, what it's really comprised of. I don't know if it's everything, but it's a few items, and once we get together on Wednesday, we'll get a true perspective of where we are.
Q: So then what?
A: We'll talk about it there at the office, and depending on how close we are and what we think of the proposal, it could possibly be put to a vote. I'm not real sure how fast it would be, but for us to be coming together, I think we really have enough progress to talk about it then and to meet together in person.
Q: How do you feel about the whole process at this point?
A: It's been a long road. It's something we've been preparing for for two years. With us being almost four months into this lockout, it definitely feels good that we've made enough progress to be able to try to get something done so that the start of training camp won't be affected and ultimately, we can try to recover from the damage that has been done to the game of football. Ultimately, with us not being in the offseason program and with us not being with our coaches having meetings and OTAs, we have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time. So I'm happy to be back around the guys, hopefully, and get back to the business of football and come to an agreement.
Q: And it seems like you all stayed together in this.
A: Yeah, I had no doubt in my mind that we'd stay together during this. Like I said, we had the opportunity to get information out to our guys and educate our guys on the issues, what to expect. We had financial funds in place to help our guys through the hardships, the offseason. So I think we took all the proper steps and measures to have those measures in place to not put our guys in a tough position, because normally you have guys speaking out against the NFLPA and the issues because of the financial despair. But with us having those programs in place and able to get the information out there in a timely manner, we were able to minimize that and help our guys stay together.
Q: Are you happy to have all this out of the way soon and hopefully get back to playing fooball?
A: Definitely. I think that's everybody's desire. From the fans', players' and coaches' perspective, it's definitely been something that's been a long time coming. Like I said, we expected this to go on for a long time, but ultimately if we can get back in training camp, get around the guys and get back to what we love to do, I think everybody will be happy.
Q: As a rep, do you have a handle of how free agency will be handled this year?
A: That's the tough part. That's one of the main issues. I'm interested in seeing what lies in that proposal. With free agency, the past couple of years, with us being in an uncapped year, it's been at six years. Hopefully it remains what it's been in the past, which is four years. If that's the case, there are going to be roughly 500 guys seeking employment once this agreement is in place. Ultimately, it's going to have to happen in a short amount of time, a lot less time than what's they're accustomed to having with their team. Another big issue is what the salary cap is going to be, which is going to give teams the flexibility to go out and sign multiple guys that they had from their roster last year, as well as guys who they have the ability to sign from other teams, unrestricted free agents this year. Based on the time and years of service required to be a restricted free agent is going to play a big part, as well as what the salary cap is.
Q: What about rookies?
A: I'm sure there's going to be a new rookie wage scale in place as well in this new agreement. That's something I know the owners have been fighting for. What the details of that may be are still yet to be seen. Ultimately, we as players want to see that if they are going to save money from their rookie pool, not having to pay those rookies as much, then that money has to be paid to proven veterans and also paid to the expansion of retired player benefits.
Q: What about length of season?
A: No doubt in my mind, the schedule will remain at 16 games. Eighteen games is not even an option that's on the table, because that puts in jeopardy the health and wellness of our players. Health and wellness is not a negotiable issue.
Q: That's something the owners want to do, right?
A: No, 18 games will not happen. I definitely do not believe 18 games will be in this next agreement.
Q: Nothing that you would agree to...
A: It's nothing that I would agree to and it's nothing that most of the reps that I've talked to would agree to either. Eighteen games would just be too taxing on our body, and two extra checks is not an equal exchange for the quality of life when our men are already fighting so hard to play a 20-game season, with the four preseason games we already play.