Posted on: May 26, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 5:44 pm

2011 NFL Lockout Issues

Posted by Will Brinson

Because you need reminding, there's a lockout going on. Just kidding -- we did think it'd be helpful to break down all the lockout-related issues for you.

Revenue Sharing: Surprise, surprise, but money is the biggest issue between the NFL and the NFLPA. Imagine you and your business partner have a really large pie that’s worth $9 billion. Would you have trouble figuring out who got how much pie? Probably.

Size of the ‘Pie’: The owners have proposed taking $2 billion off the top of revenue -- as opposed to their current $1 billion -- thus shrinking the pie. The smaller the pie, the more contentious the debate to divide it, unless the players are satisfied with a chunk being taken out before anyone starts slicing it.

Financial Information from Owners: The players want to know what the owners are spending all their money on, since they say that the NFL’s profits are declining. The owners don’t want to offer them. This isn’t a dealbreaker ... if the owners are willing to take less pie.

Rookie Wage Scale: Remember when JaMarcus Russell got $60 million in guaranteed contract money? Well, no one on the owners' side wants that to happen again. Repeat: NO ONE. The problem is, the players don’t want to hamstring themselves too much in terms of earning potential and don’t want this to affect veterans either.

18-Game Schedule: Well, it’s an “issue” in that the NFL wants it. But the NFLPA says it won’t even consider the addition of games without boosts to player safety, and maybe not even then. The NFL appears willing to concede 18 games for the immediate future. Players do NOT like the idea unless it means increased paychecks.

Salary Cap: The NFL proposed an 18-percent rollback of the cap during pre-lockout negotiations. You won’t believe this, but the players didn’t really like that idea. Naturally, this is a pretty big point of contention, because the less teams are allowed to spend on players, the less the players can actually get paid.

Player Safety: A sticking point for DeMaurice Smith, player safety is naturally pretty important. The NFLPA doesn’t want players’ careers shortened any more than they already are, and while the NFL does often talk about keeping players safe, there’s a certain hypocrisy with trying to tack on two more games at the same time.

State of the Union: This is actually the lynchpin for both sides in terms of their legal argument. If the courts believe the NFLPA has truly dissolved as a union, they have to lift the lockout. If they don’t, they will not be very likely to lift the lockout. 

Semantics: You will hear NFL/owner-folk use the phrases “negotiate” and “collectively bargain” a lot as we continue down this path. You will not hear NFLPA people saying stuff like that. This goes back to whether or not the union actually exists (it does not, technically). The players will take special care not to say anything that could make them appear to really be a union that is collectively bargining. 

Longevity: This isn’t mentioned as much, but it might be the most important point, because no one wants a “band-aid deal” that gets the NFL, the NFLPA and the fans back into this position in another five years. A fair deal that spans a decade would be stupendous.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 4:34 pm
Edited on: May 25, 2011 9:10 pm

NFL Coaches Association brief: 'End the lockout'

Posted by Will Brinson

On Wednesday, the NFL Coaches Association became the newest party of interest to file an Amicus Brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

And, despite the stance of the people who cut their checks, the NFLCA cited numerous issues -- as well as CBSSports.com's own Mike Freeman! -- that the lockout would cause for coaches before urging the court to "end the lockout."

"The burdens of little job security and frequent moves mean that a prolonged lockout would inflict significant economic harm and career risks on the coaches," the NFL Coaches Association attorneys wrote in the brief.

Additionally, the NFLCA cited an aspect of the coaching business (or, at least, the business of negotiating coaches' contracts) that hadn't really been made public up to this point.

Namely, that teams were planning ahead when it came to how they wanted to pay their respective coaching staffs.

"Anticipating a lockout, the NFL teams for the past several years have been demanding a provision in the coaches employment contracts (which are negotiated individually with each coach) that authorizes the employing team to withhold part of a coach's salary in the event that league operations were suspended," the Coaches Association attorneys wrote.

There's nothing ethically wrong with negotiating such clauses into contracts. And the resulting money saved isn't part of the players' pie, like the "war chest" fund that was created as a result of television contract negotiations.
Owners Meetings/Labor News

But it still kind of leaves a bad taste to think that the NFL had been planning ahead for this summer and doing so at the expense of the men who put the finished product on the field.

"The Coaches Association offices with the Players Association in Washington," the NFL said, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network. "So this comes as no surprise."

Those men, however, went unnamed in the NFLCA's suit. No individual coach, as was the case with Brady v. NFL, was a named plaintiff in the suit.

But there is a reference to numerous coaches who are being particularly damaged by the lockout as a result of their inability to work with their new teams.

"The lockout, if left in force, will prevent the coaches from meaningfully preparing and readying themselves for the season," the brief reads. "While all the coaches will be exposed to greater risk of failure, the eight teams with new coaching staffs are at particular risk."

In a citation for that portion of the brief, the NFLCA also points out that "there are also three additional coaches who have only spent one season with their teams (Mike Shanahan, Chan Gailey, and Pete Carroll)" who will be significantly affected by the lockout.

Jack Del Rio and Gary Kubiak are specifically mentioned as coaches who "reportedly received an ultimatum from their team's owner that their teams must make the playoffs to keep their jobs."

In short, the NFLCA believes that close to half of the coaches in the NFL are being put at a systematic disadvantage by the the court's decision to continue the lockout.

"The NFLCA therefore urges the Court to grant the petitioners equitable relief and end the NFL lockout," the NFLCA's lawyers wrote in their conclusion. "Granting equitable relief will also permit the NFL’s coaches to avoid the irreparable harm that comes with delaying the start of preseason preparations and will give the coaches a fair chance to preserve their employment and advance their careers."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 1:03 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 7:00 am

Harrison: Rule-makers at NFL 'are idiots'

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell took to the podium at the NFL owners' meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday to address the lockout. He also talked about the new rule changes in place to improve player safety.

Unfortunately, no one asked him specifically about James Harrison hopping on Twitter Tuesday night and calling the NFL's rule-makers "idiots."

"I'm absolutely sure now after this last rule change that the people making the rules at the NFL are idiots," Harrison tweeted.

Harrison was referring to the new "club accountability" rule the NFL announced Tuesday. Under that rule, teams with a certain number of players (currently undetermined) who violate player safety rules will be fined a certain amount of money (also currently undetermined).

Harrison wasn't the only Steeler who took umbrage to the NFL's recent decision.

"Thoughts on "the Steelers rule"??? lol im sorry that im not sorry we hit 2 hard," LaMarr Woodley tweeted Wednesday morning.

Referring to the NFL's implementation of club accountability as the "Steeler rule" probably won't win Woodley any fans on Park Avenue, but it's probably pretty accurate.
Safety Rules

After all, Art Rooney acknowledged that the Steelers would have been one of the "three or four teams" who received a fine in 2010 had the rule been in place.

And you can expect Steelers fans to get upset, and Steelers players to accuse the league of targeting their franchise. The reality is, though, that you'll be hard-pressed to find a team that more flagrantly violated the helmet-to-helmet and defenseless receiver rules than Pittsburgh in 2010.

Many people will call that "just playing real football" or some other cliche. But it won't matter if the league doesn't agree.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 6:26 am

Goodell: Lockout 'clearly had an impact' on fans

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL wrapped its spring owners meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, and afterward, as is customary, Roger Goodell took the stage to talk about rule changes, the state of football and this lockout thing.

Though Goodell sidestepped a couple of issues -- the window needed for free agency, most notably -- he was refreshingly candid about the damage done by the lockout

"I think it's clearly had an impact on our fans," Goodell said. "You can see that in the various metrics that we have -- whether it's ratings or for traffic on NFL.com. We see that.

"And that is a reflection on the uncertainty and frustration of our fans. And we all understand that. There are also financial consequences because of that, but clearly -- if we're not successful, that's clearly to come."

Asked as a follow-up if the lockout had affected season-ticket sales, Goodell didn't hesitate to point out that the respective clubs were all suffering when it came to locking down ticket sales.

"It clearly has an impact [on season ticket sales]," Goodell said. "Fans want certainty. I don't think you can ever underestimate -- fans are still going through challenges, just in the general economy. And those challenges continue to impact on their decisions. And rightfully so.
Owners Meetings/Labor News

And that's something they have to balance when they want to put down money for a season ticket or a club seat or whatever else. And so we have to keep that in mind. The ownership has been reminded of that during the past couple of days, and they don't need reminding, because they're on the front line."

Most interesting was Goodell's response to a request for "specific data" about the impact of the lockout. He seemed absolutely amenable to providing the requested information, if only because it clearly showed the problems that the lockout is causing around the league, from the standpoint of keeping fans interested and generating revenue.

"It's a noticeable change," Goodell said. "I think you guys are aware of it -- our ratings were down in the draft for example. Roughly four million people -- that's a noticeable decrease ... about a 10 percent decrease as I recall."

While no fans want to hear about the revenue that the league, its teams and the players are currently losing, it is a significant point of interest, because money that gets thrown out the window during a labor impasse directly correlates to the difficulty in finding an agreement down the road.

"The longer it goes the more damage is done to the game and the more revenue's down and that means less money that can be divided between the parties," Goodell said.

Owners were presented the full range of plans for opening weekend, from the first game on Thursday night at Lambeau Field to commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks on the first full Sunday of games. Those dates are not in jeopardy yet, but the longer the impasse, the more in danger they would become, particularly with the league's marketing partners, sponsors and advertisers who must commit dollars to those events well in advance.

"We're not at an Armageddon date," Eric Grubman, executive vice president of business operations for the NFL, told the Associated Press. "We're not staring that in the face this week."

But like any event looming on the horizon, the theoretically non-existent drop-dead date isn't actually that far off. But, apparently, it won't impact the way Goodell and the NFL head into the next season.

"We're approaching 2011," Goodell added, "as we would any other season."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 25, 2011 9:54 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 10:44 am

Newton joining Panthers teammates in workouts

Posted by Will Brinson

Cam Newton's cool new photos are awesome enough to warrant a spot as my Twitter avatar right now. However, the Panthers top pick isn't letting that go to his head and, fortunately, is planning on joining his teammates in voluntary workouts.

The informal sessions are expected to begin next week in Charlotte, and Newton will be there along with his teammates. Interestingly though -- per Joe Pearson of the Charlotte Observer -- it appears his two agents, Tony Paige and Bus Cook, are a little at odds as to whether or not the No. 1 overall should be working out sans contract.

"When you're a rookie, especially as a quarterback, it's good to work on timing. But (it's) mainly getting around your teammates," Paige said. "I think Cam is excited about getting to know his teammates. Typically by now, he would know everybody."

Cook took a much different tone.

"I know it's non-contact and all that, but hypothetically if they get hurt - especially if it's season-ending or career-ending ... it could have a big impact," Cook said.

Yes it could. Like, for instance, having everyone in the South who cares about pro football just giving up and going back to rooting for the Redskins or Falcons.

It would also make Newton the single-biggest bust in the history of the NFL Draft, which is saying something.

But despite all of those concerns, the actual probability of Newton suffering a career-ending injury is pretty low. And certainly low enough to warrant Newton getting in some work with his teammates and eliminating any perception that he might be a diva who's more concerned with endorsements, etc., than he is with making an immediate impact as a football player.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: May 24, 2011 6:26 pm

NFL working on 'team fine' system for hits

Posted by Will Brinson

Three new NFL rule changes relating to player safety were approved Tuesday at the owners' meetings in Indianapolis. Also, the NFL is close to rolling out a "team fine" system for fining franchises if they have multiple players who are fined throughout the season.

League vice president Adolpho Birch referred to the system as a "notion of club accountability,"  but said that details of the plan are not final.

"As a club's total (number of fines) increases to a certain threshold, we will enforce some ... payback to encourage clubs to stay below that threshold," Birch said. "We're looking at a system similar to one we instituted a couple years ago with off-field conduct.

"We're still working on specifics. Let's just say it would be significant and reasonable," he said.

Birch did not identify which teams likely would have been fined had the system been in place during the 2010 season, but did say that "three our four teams would have been subject to penalties."

Art Rooney, speaking at the owners meetings, said that the Steelers would have been one of the teams that would have qualified for such a fine, according to Dan Parr of Pro Football Weekly.
Safety Rules

NFL VP Ray Anderson, also speaking in Indy, said that suspensions will again be considered for the coming season. In 2010, the NFL threatened players with the possibility of suspensions based on hits that were considered flagrant violations, but no player was suspended.

Fines and suspensions will presumably be easier to come by in 2011, as well.  The 32 owners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve rules that increase player safety, including a measure aimed at preventing a player from launching himself into a defenseless opponent.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 6:30 am

League approves three rule changes at meetings

Posted by Will Brinson

All the NFL news today isn't necessarily bad. The league addressed, as expected at the owners meetings in Indianapolis, several rule changes. Three rules aimed at protecting defenseless players were approved 32-0.
NFL Labor

The biggest change appears to be the definition of a defenseless player. Now included in that definition, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, are players who are "not clearly a runner yet" (wide receivers), kickers and punters during a return and quarterbacks following a change of possession.

There was a change made to the "launching" rule too. A player will be considered to have launched himself if he leaves his feet prior to contact in order to spring forward into another player and using "any part" of the helmet.

Finally, there's a change with respect to the "blow to the head" rule on quarterbacks. It's now a judgment call when a defender grazes the quarterback's head, as opposed to an automatic penalty with any touching.

Rich McKay, head of the NFL Competition Committee, is expected to speak at more length about the new rules later in the day. And yes, it is refreshing to deal with real football news even if the lockout is still looming large enough to make any rule changes irrelevant.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:58 am

NFL cancels Rookie Symposium amid lockout

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL lockout hasn't been fun but at least it had not caused the cancellation of anything on the league's calendar -- until now. The NFL has cancelled it's rookie symposium in Canton, Ohio, a league source told CBSSports.com.

The symposium, which was originally scheduled to begin June 26, will likely be "officially" cancelled on Tuesday. Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reported several months that the symposium was in danger as a result of the lockout.

The symposium is designed to bring all the NFL rookies together to try and teach them about life in the NFL, how to better manage their finances, and give tips on general transition to life as a professional athlete.

Our source says NFLPA officials and current active players spoke to rookies at the NFL PLAYERS’ Rookie Premiere about business aspects of the game. We're told that a portion of the meeting touched on some of the issues normally discussed at the Rookie Symposium.
NFL Labor

The timing of the decision in pretty indicative of where we stand on the lockout. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments from both the NFL and the players regarding the injunction of the lockout on June 3. It is not believed the Court of Appeals will rule on that hearing until at least July.

The cancellation of the symposium makes it pretty clear that the expected timing of the court's decision is accurate.

It also means expecting any sort of settlement and/or conclusion of the labor situation before July might just be a fool's errand.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com