Panthers news: Is Okung’s NFLPA dispute becoming a distraction?

Dean Jones
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Russell Okung
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Russell Okung /

There has been plenty of Carolina Panthers news surrounding left tackle Russell Okung in recent weeks, but will his ongoing dispute affect his focus?

One of the biggest Carolina Panthers news stories of the offseason was the trade to acquire left tackle Russell Okung from the Los Angeles Chargers. The organization parted ways with perennial Pro Bowler Trai Turner in exchange in what has been deemed one of the worst moves by experts.

There is no doubt what Okung brings to the table. He is an experienced blindside presence who is going to aid the transition of Teddy Bridgewater considerably if he still has something left to give.

Okung will need to perform well in order to make his stay in Carolina more than just one season. He is heading into the final year of his deal and will count a little more than $13 million against the Panthers’ salary cap in 2020.

Therefore, it is vital is fully focused on making an impact on the field. At the present time, one situation is ensuring this is not the case and might not be for some time.

The offensive lineman doesn’t appear willing to accept the National Labor Relations Board’s decision to dismiss Okung’s unfair labor practice claim against the NFL Players Association. According to a statement obtained by ESPN, the player’s attorney Peter Ginsberg said they are planning to appeal the outcome.

This stems from an accusation Okung made relating to the recently signed Collective Bargaining Agreement, which the Pro Bowl accuses that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith forced the vote despite a number of significant objections from members of the executive committee of the union.

Ginsberg’s statement read:

"“We look forward to a neutral party scrutinizing the NFLPA leadership’s history of circumventing and ignoring the union’s constitutional mandates and failure to represent the best interests of the labor force, culminating in a flawed, disappointing Collective Bargaining Agreement and forcing out of a leadership position a person who has shown enormous courage in fighting for players’ rights and protections.”"

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The issue for the Carolina Panthers is not whether or not Okung rightfully feels aggrieved by what has transpired with the NFLPA. It’s how this long-running saga could affect his ability to prepare for the season ahead.

Given the social distancing measures relating to the coronavirus pandemic making things even more time consuming for legal disputes such as this. There is a real possibility this situation is still hanging over Okung by the time training camp rolls around.

While the player can easily say that his attention is firmly focused on matters on the field, demonstrating it is an entirely different matter. The Panthers are expecting a lot from Okung both in terms of performance and leadership in 2020. So he will have to be switched on from the word go.

The Panthers news surrounding their offseason has been met with mixed reviews so far. This will need to be quashed when competitive action gets underway. Whether Okung will have his mind on the job will go a long way to determining how this offense is going to tick.

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Hopefully, the situation will come to a formal conclusion before then and Okung can get by to focusing on what matters most for him and the Panthers.