NFL agents assume bigger role as lockout looms

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Colts linebacker Gary Brackett promises to be ready for the start of next season _ whenever it is.

He also wants to be smart in these uncertain times.

Indianapolis’ 30-year-old defensive captain, like his NFL brethren, is preparing for a potential lockout when the collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of Thursday. The best way to do that, it seems, is heeding the advice the players’ union has been offering for more than a year _ take care of your medical insurance and finances.

Brackett isn’t the only player trying to figure out solutions, which is why agents are now playing a new role for their clients.

“We’re advising players on COBRA insurance to anything that involves finances to the football side of it,” said Ben Dogra, who represents Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and St. Louis’ Sam Bradford. “It’s literally everything.”

None of the answers are simple.

Most agents are now talking frequently about COBRA coverage, which one agent estimates will cost players $800 to $900 per month to cover their families. Some are advising clients to take out additional medical policies or disability insurance.

Agent Brian Mackler, who represents Jets linebacker David Harris, said most of his clients now have policies with Lloyds of London, and he’s reminding those who are 26 years old or younger that the new federal health care law allows them to sign up on their parents’ medical plans, too.

No matter who you talk to, the message is the same.

“The thing is you’ve got to get it taken care of now because you can’t let the insurance run out,” said longtime agent Tony Agnone, who represents Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. “We sent an e-mail to every one of our players to make sure they get insurance. That’s the most important thing to us.”

Medical coverage is only one concern for the players.

If a new CBA isn’t signed before Thursday and players are locked out immediately, as some suspect, they will not be allowed to train at team facilities. Depending on the length of the lockout, offseason programs and mini-camps could be canceled and training camps could be condensed, putting even more pressure on guys like Brackett to report in shape whenever a new deal is reached.

Brackett isn’t taking any chances.

“They’ve made it clear that football will be played at some point this season and we have to be ready to go when we do play,” he said.

It’s not the first time pro athletes have faced this dilemma, and the current football players may look to other sports for some of the solutions.

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