Sheldon Brown is spending his weekend in Hawaii, but he won't be surfing or spending too much time in the sun. He is there as the Eagles' player representative, one of 32 players gathering for a Sunday vote to select the next executive director of the NFL's Players Association. Brown is new to the game, and in his first foray into arena of player politics, he would like to make an impact.
Surely, the opportunity is there, and Brown is excited to be part of the process to select the man who will replace the late Gene Upshaw and become only the fourth executive director in the NFLPA's 41-year history.
"I'm extremely excited and I'm going in with an open mind to learn as much as I can about how things work," said Brown on Friday during a stopover in Phoenix. "This is an extremely important time for the union and for the league. This is my first time really being involved and I am going to absorb as much as I can."
There are four candidates for the job, including former Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent (along with former NFL player Trace Armstrong and attorneys DeMaurice Smith and David Cornwell). And while Brown will have his ears open and his mind clear when all four men have one hour to present their cases in front of the player representatives, Brown goes in firmly behind his former teammate.
The vote is on Sunday, so by Monday morning the union will have a new boss.
"I'm in a believer in Troy and I think he can continue to take the player's union where it needs to go," said Brown. "I'm biased. I like familiarity. If I know what a guy brings to the table, and I know how a guy treated me and I have a personal relationship with him, it's going to be hard to turn me away from that person.
"I know what some people are trying to do with Troy, trying to smear him publicly, but I'm not buying it. I know the man. I know what he believes in. I know that he understands what is important to players from the past, the players now and the players of the future. Troy took me under his wing when I was a rookie from South Carolina, somebody coming in who maybe would replace him. It didn't matter. He was a mentor to me. I have never seen him try to harm anybody. He is phenomenal guy who is a great leader."
Brown is one of the leaders of the Eagles locker room, and now he has a chance to spend a weekend with the other 31 player reps around the league. The time spent in Hawaii will allow Brown to experience a broader scope of the business side of the league strictly from a player's perspective.
The fun in the sun can wait.
"I am learning about the Collective Bargaining Agreement more and more," said Brown, who replaces Brian Dawkins as a player rep for the Eagles. "There are so many factors going on in our country right now. The economy is struggling, and sports seems to be one of the few things holding it together. This is going to be a very interesting and educational experience. I feel like a rookie going into my first training camp. I am sure my eyes are going to be wide open and that I am going to talk to a lot of guys and learn what I can learn."
The agreement between the league's Management Council and the players expires following the draft in April, 2011. And while that worries some out there, Brown is confident that progress will be made soon.
"We need to get the right leader in there, and that is what this weekend is all about," said Brown.
To understand Brown's vision is to understand that he was drafted in the second round in 2002, and that he came into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. He marked down the players drafted ahead of him, and he watched as one after another of their careers faltered, stagnated or, in some cases, just went down the drain. Quintin Jammer ... Phillip Buchanon ... Mike Rumph. Lito Sheppard was a teammate until a couple of weeks ago, and he has had two sub-par seasons after a couple of Pro Bowl invitations.
Brown keeps on going, a stable piece of a terrific Eagles defense.
This weekend, his career goes in another direction. This weekend, Brown puts on his business suit and helps shape the future of the league.
"It's a role I'm going to be comfortable in," said Brown. "I enjoy giving players advice, helping them out. If it weren't for players like Troy and Bobby Taylor, who knows what my career would have become? There are a lot of players who were drafted in front of me who didn't make it. Why not? Maybe it was because they didn't have the right leadership around them.
"This is a great opportunity for the players and for the league. We have a lot riding on this weekend," said Brown. "I'm proud to be part of things."