Sam Williams struck first in the NFL, and then it all changed

Jun 14 2011 - 5:39pm

Former Michigan State defensive end Sam Williams says all this NFL labor strife started because of him.

That's because Williams, who played at Michigan State in 1956-58, was a defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons in 1968 when he organized what he called the first player strike in the NFL.

Williams had just finished a six-year run with the Lions when he joined the Falcons in 1966. He also played the '67 season with Atlanta before retiring.

"I was down there in Atlanta and we couldn't get anything done with the owners or the people running the NFL," Williams said last week in Novi, Mich., where he was inducted into the Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame along with former Spartans Dorne Dibble and George Guerre. "So I took the Atlanta Falcons on strike.

"That was the first strike in the National Football League. We were on strike for a week, almost 10 days, before we finally did settle and come back in."

The labor strife apparently changed the way the Falcons' brass viewed Williams initially. In the first practice after the players returned, Williams had trouble finding his equipment and then got a surprise the first time he rushed the passer.

"I got over the ball," he said. "They seen who I was. They immediately blew the whistle and practice was over. They wouldn't even let me have any contact. They didn't want me to get hurt; they didn't want me suing them.

"That's how this whole thing got started, ladies and gentlemen. A lot of this today -- I did take that stand by having a bunch of people who stood behind me."

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