Posted on: June 29, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: June 30, 2011 9:36 am

Plax's NFLPA symposium talk impactful on rookies

Posted by Will Brinson

We mentioned earlier in the week that Plaxico Burress was going to speak at the NFLPA rookie symposium. Burress was there -- along with many other impressive guests like Roger Goodell -- to give life advice to the NFL's youngsters.

He did just that, and according to Broncos' rookie Von Miller, speaking to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, and the advice proved profound.

"I've been a big fan of Plaxico Burress' since I was a kid," Miller said. "It's a nightmare story, but I think all of us rookies can learn from that."

Burress' nightmare story is impactful: The wideout lost more than $12 million and two years of his life after being sentenced to prison for shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub.

Also present was former Lions DT Luther Ellis, who eventually filed for bankruptcy despite making $12 million over his career.

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And, of course, a slew of rookies -- 150 rooks made the trip, including eight of 10 first-rounders. (Only absent were Jake Locker, who's getting married, and Julio Jones, who didn't have an excuse, though he didn't need one.)

"Going into this event I thought I knew a lot, and then you go through these couple of days and you realize there's a lot you have to learn," said Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. "If I hadn't have had this event, I think I would have missed out on a great deal."

Fortunately, though the usually-sponsored-by-the-NFL event took place under the (optimistically!) dark cloud of the labor talks, it appears to have had an effect on the NFL's youngest group of players.

And that's always good news, regardless of whether the games are technically scheduled to begin on time right now.

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Posted on: June 29, 2011 9:27 pm
Edited on: June 29, 2011 11:54 pm

Report: Smith tells players optimism is 'way off'

Posted by Will Brinson

There's been more than ample reason to wax optimistically about the NFL's labor situation over the past few weeks, with Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith playing friendly for the NFLPA's Rookie Symposium the chief reason.

But Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported on Wednesday night that such optimism is misguided, and that Smith called a large group of players to throw cold water on any hopes they had for a CBA deal this week.

Glazer reports that "50 Pro Bowlers were given call-in information but the number who participated is unknown," although he does point out that player reps Ray Lewis of the Ravens and Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jaguars were on the line.

"How optimistic are you that a deal will get done soon?" Lewis asked, according to Glazer.

Smith then told Lewis, according to Glazer, that "there is reason for hope."

However, Smith reportedly told Jones-Drew and others that there are serious gaps to bridge, specifically the sharing of revenue with retired players and the number of years needed to become a free agent.

"At one point, we were asked if we could sell six years of free agency to our locker rooms and we all said there’s no way," one player on the call told Glazer. "We heard about that and the [issue of] retired players — and that is even before we start talking about splitting the revenue."
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Another player told Glazer that now he feels "a little more informed" than he'd felt from simply watching "the news for updates."

It's a bit disturbing to hear the disconnect from reports of what's being done publicly compared to what Glazer heard from these players.

But it's also important to remember that just because Smith told the players a deal isn't done doesn't mean a deal can't be done. In fact, the theory that something could be wrapped up by this weekend is nice, but probably too optimistic.

No one ever thought figuring out the revenue split, the rookie wage scale, the free agency issue and retired-player benefits would be easy. And it won't be.

But with enough time to get a deal done and still have a "normal season" -- more than two weeks, if you want to play the "soft deadline" game and target July 15 -- and with Goodell and Smith spending plenty of "quality time" together, it's perfectly acceptable to maintain the "cautiously optimistic" status quo for now.

Just remember the cautious part.

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Posted on: June 28, 2011 12:14 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2011 12:56 pm

Plaxico will speak to rookies at NFLPA Symposium

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFLPA's Rookie Symposium begins this week in Florida, and CBSSports.com has learned that Plaxico Burress will be one of the players speaking to the rookies about life in the NFL.

Obviously, Burress, who was released from prison June 6, has a unique perspective on life as an NFL player and the traps of fame that can ensnare young players in the league.

He's also an excellent example of what our own Mike Freeman referred to as a blown opportunity for rookies: By passing on the Symposium, for whatever reason, they're also passing on valuable advice that could prove life-changing down the road.

Burress went from the highest of highs -- catching a touchdown in the Super Bowl for the Giants -- to the lowest of lows -- shooting himself in the leg in a nightclub and spending more than a year in prison on a weapons charge -- pretty quickly.

So getting Burress to speak at the Symposium is a savvy move by the NFLPA and a dagger for any rookie who skips the event thinking valuable advice won't be passed out.

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:38 pm

Report: Players met with attorneys in Minnesota

Posted by Will Brinson

Peripheral labor developments, including a report that the NFL is already negotiating a new, as-yet-not-created television package, over the past weeks have been quite positive.

So it's a bit odd to hear that various NFL players "met Monday with their attorneys in Minneapolis."

Per the Associated Press a "person familiar with the situation says the players' side met on its own, without owners."

Any sense of a problem with this particular meeting is directly tied to the term "lawyers," which, for NFL fans, has mostly meant bad news throughout the course of the offseason.

But in this case, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which this is too terrifying, if only because meeting with attorneys before handling any negotiations is usually a pretty wise thing to do.

Additionally, it's hard to fathom that any sort of regression occurred over the weekend to force the players back into the huddle with their attorneys.

Although we won't know the real reason for the meetings until negotiations featuring Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith commence again this week. Hopefully, it's also shown as a positive development.

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 12:27 pm

Report: League shopping new eight-game TV package

Posted by Will Brinson

There have been many signs that point to positive momentum from the NFL and the players for new football over the past week or so.

But this may be the best part yet: The NFL is reportedly shopping a new eight-game, Thursday night package to the television networks.

"Sources said the league currently has the rights to take enough games from CBS and Fox’s Sunday afternoon schedules to fill the new eight-game package and does not have to wait for those contracts to expire after the 2013 season," Daniel Kaplan and John Ourand wrote in today's Sports Business Journal.

So, as we know, at some point there will be 16 games played on Thursdays; it's more football in the national spotlight, and it's a vehicle to really crank up the presence of the NFL Network, which the league owns.

And under this scenario, eight games would air on the NFL Network and eight games would be shopped to an additional and/or current service provider. But who's that gonna be?

Well, Ourand and Kaplan report that Turner and Comcast "have emerged as the most serious bidders for such a package." Comcast would want to put the games on Versus -- therefore giving people a reason to find out what channel number it is and maybe later on watch hockey -- while Turner would obviously love to beef up the sports presence of TBS, TNT and truth.

"There’s going to be another package because when this [labor] deal finally happens, somebody is going to have to pay for it,” an unidentified network executive told SBJ. “Part of it is going to be paid by a new NFL package.” Additionally, Kaplan and Ourand note that ESPN is close to locking in a deal that will guarantee them possession of Monday Night Football for another decade-plus, at a the not-so-low cost of $1.8 billion per year.

This is particularly important because it sets the stage for a hefty price tag on the Thursday-night package. You can expect the league to demand well north of $500 million for the eight games that will be shown in primetime.

And while there's a great argument that Thursday night games don't draw as many viewers as Monday night games, those early week contests haven't been broadcast on nationally available cable yet.

A couple of compelling matchups on the right channel could immediately change the way the world looks at Thursday night NFL football, and net someone a pretty good revenue stream for the next few years.

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 12:20 pm

Sides split on rookie wage scale issue?

Posted by Will Brinson

The lockout isn't over, and there's absolutely no guarantee that there willl be a new CBA any time soon. But it sure does feel as if everyone's moving along on the same path toward football in 2011, doesn't it?

So, hey, some cold water: The deal ain't done yet. And one of the issues that just popped up early last week was how to handle implementing some sort of rookie wage scale.

Per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the owners and the players broached the issue for the first time last Thursday, and "it proved to be a difficult issue to navigate."

Apparently, while the players are fine with reducing the amount of money that goes to high draft picks, they want those same draft picks to get to free agency quicker, via a four- or five-year track, instead of six.

And, of course, there's the issue of how to take the money that was getting pumped into the highly paid rookies and redirect it to veterans. Neither of these issues will be easy for the two sides to find common ground, primarily because it's such new territory.

The good news, however, is this: Though the rookie wage scale was just recently talked about and though there are some differences for the two sides right now, it's a fairly small drop in the bigger bucket.

If the players and owners can each find a respective "happy place" for the revenue sharing issue, the wage scale will likely fall into place shortly before a new CBA is locked down.

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Posted on: June 26, 2011 5:25 pm

Rivers: Lockout will make NFL players better

Posted by Will Brinson

It's commonly believed that the lockout -- now more than 100 days old! -- will result in some pretty shoddy football whenever the 2011 season begins. In fact, our own Mike Freeman inked a column about this, pointing out that reduced playbooks and less conditioning will 

But the opinion that the quality of football will suffer isn't universal; in fact, Freeman cited Falcons' coach Mike Smith as saying nothing much would change in that very piece. But Chargers' quarterback Philip Rivers -- iyes, the same guy who's 'going stir crazy' amid the lockout -- has an entirely different, and somewhat surprising stance: he thinks the quality of the NFL's product will be "the best it's ever been."

"The level of play is going to be the best it’s ever been,” Rivers said, per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune. "Guys are going to be fresh -- mentally fresh, which is maybe more important than being physically fresh. For some guys it all runs together.

"Now, with it being how it's been, guys doing their different things, if it gets done like we hope, it’s going to be kind of like that lost toy you found."

I'd probably disagree with Rivers on his stance, but there's definitely something to his theory.

Football is about practice and repetition and whatnot, but it's also a job, and anyone who's ever held a job knows that never getting a break from work can cause mental stress and burn out even the most mentally tough of workers.

Of course, Rivers' theory is also contingent on the fact that NFL teams will get some training camp to prep for the season.

"Where the level of play could be hindered is if we don’t have a regular training camp," Rivers said. "If we get the regular four to six weeks, I think it's going to be as good as it's ever been."

If, as many people -- myself included -- believe, the lockout ends by the middle of July, it's entirely likely that we'll see teams get just enough practice time to test Rivers' notion.

And if he's correct, it's going to be pretty easy to forget this whole summer of discontent that's haunted the NFL.

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Posted on: June 24, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 2:44 pm

NFL could expand training camp rosters to 90

Posted by Will Brinson

Though plenty of general managers and coaches around the NFL threw their support behind the owners, it's pretty obvious that the men who run the day-to-day operations around the league aren't thrilled with how difficult it is to actually do that amid a lockout.

So here's some good news for coaches, GMs and would-be NFL rosterees: the league is reportedly considering an expansion of camp rosters from 80 to 90 players prior to the 2011 season.

"I don't know anyone in my position who wouldn't support it," one general manager told Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network. "We'd love to be able to bring 90 in (for training camp). And from the players' side, it's more opportunities for them."

The logic here is pretty simple: training, teaching and evaluation has gone down the tubes thanks to the lockout, and adding bodies will increase the ability of teams to see who they're interested in.

It would also benefit the players, as an extra 300-some players would gain an opportunity to make a regular-season NFL roster.

And the fans would win as well, because it would, hopefully, mean less injuries during training camp and preseason games.

Really, the only downside might be for owners, who would see an increase in payroll thanks to the beefed-up rosters. Considering the financial concession the players already appear to be making in order to crank up progress, though, that doesn't really feel like too much to ask, even for the stingiest of owners.

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Category: NFL
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com