Posted on: March 2, 2011 6:36 pm

Owners meet, disband, don't say much

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Though the NFL owners meeting that took place in Chantilly, Va., today has broken up, the 10 owners that make up the labor committee have begun another meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell.

We’re closing in on 24 hours before the CBA expires, and it doesn’t appear that anything will stop the lockout train that’s a comin’ down the tracks.

As the 22 remaining owners rushed to their vehicles to get out of town, a few briefly spoke with reporters, including those from the New York Post and NFL.com.

Said Colts owner (and Twitter enthusiast) Jim Irsay: “We're not announcing a lockout or anything like that as of tonight."

He also was asked if he expected a lockout to begin Thursday night: "I don't know. These things change. Don't want to make a prediction."

And this from Jets owner Woody Johnson: "I'm still optimistic and we've still got a few hours to go."

It sounds like the two sides will meet again Thursday, and the federal mediator could call the NFL owners and the NFLPA together tonight for another bargaining session.

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

Posted on: March 2, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 2:46 pm

Wednesday mediation goes 'better than expected'?

Posted by Will Brinson

Wednesday's mediation session between the NFL and the NFLPA -- which featured some bigger names than previous meetings -- has ended. And, reportedly, it wasn't THAT horrible apparently.

That's from a source of Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, who said that the talks went "better than expected."

Of course, that's a relative term, considering that less than 24 hours ago, the NFLPA was celebrating a tremendous victory in the TV rights case thanks to an overturned verdict from Judge David Doty.

Mediation is set to resume on Thursday (presumably the final day, because of the CBA's expiration at 11:59 PM EST on Thursday night) and the league has adjourned to Chantilly, Virginia for an owners meeting.

But as Clark Judge reports, the owners might not stay very long. (Read: not all of the owners, who were in mediation Wednesday, are planning to hang around for Thursday's action.)

That may not matter anyway though, because it's entirely possible, as our own Mike Freeman wrote earlier Wednesday, that a lockout and/or decertification is coming down the proverbial tracks, and there's nothing that can be done to stop it.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 2, 2011 11:27 am
Edited on: March 2, 2011 11:34 am

Source: Decertification likely coming Thursday

Posted by Mike Freeman

Barring some sort of last-second miracle the NFL union will likely decertify sometime Thursday, according to a source familiar with the union's thinking.

Again, things could change but this news is the most concrete example of how fruitless the mediation talks have become. It's possible even if there is some sort of temporary extension of mediation the union will still likely decertify on Thursday.

So the lockout is coming. Decertification is coming. Unless the Easter Bunny works some magic with his chocolate candies and help from his unicorns and elves homies.

Decertification has certain risks but overall is a smart strategy for the union. It blocks owners from locking out players and moves the dispute from the realm of negotiations to the court system where players have had success. Owners could face lawsuits and treble damages if players are subsequently successful in court.

So that's where we are. For now. Hopefully things will change but this legal fight is just beginning.

This entry was cross-posted from Mike Freeman's FreeStyle blog. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 2, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: March 2, 2011 2:39 pm

NFL/NFLPA exec committees in mediation Wednesday

Posted by Will Brinson

Wednesday's mediation session between the NFL and NFLPA has a different tone, just based on attendance -- the entire 10-man owner executive committee, including lead negotiators Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Pat Bowlen of the Broncos, is in Washington.

Art Rooney of the Steelers, John Mara of the Giants, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, Dean Spanos of the Chargers, Mike Brown from the Bengals, Robert Kraft from the Patriots and Mark Murphy, Packers CEO, are the additional members of the executive committee.

Also in Washington are players like Kevin Mawae, Drew Brees and Tony Richardson. All of that's to say that there's a significantly greater number of movers and shakers in D.C. for the next-to-last day of mediation.

Per usual, though, that doesn't necessarily mean much for those seeking optimistic news out of the mediated talks.

Per Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, Jeff Pash, the VP of Labor for the NFL, told the media it was possible for the two sides to "stop the clock" on the expiring CBA and elect to extend the deadline for negotiations.

Pash also reiterated the league's statement that Tuesday's decision from Judge Doty doesn't affect their plans for spending at all (even though that's fairly difficult to believe, if only because $4 billion is a lot of money and taking it in or out of a budget typically makes a difference for anyone.)

But the end source for optimism for anyone rooting for no lockout is an extension of the CBA past the 11:59 deadline on Thursday night. And even that seems like too much to hope for right now.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl a> on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: March 1, 2011 10:03 pm

Man, the NFL really comes off poorly here

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Let’s explore a little more into the decision made by U.S. District Judge David Doty and why he ruled the NFL had violated the CBA by entering into a deal with the networks that would pay the owners $4 billion next season even in the event of a lockout.

As the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand points out, the networks seemingly didn’t want to go along with the NFL’s idea to create a war chest that would be, for lack of a better term, lockout insurance in case there was a work stoppage.

Even though the networks didn’t want anything to do with it, that didn’t matter.

As Ourand writes, FOX didn’t want to pay during a work stoppage, but the NFL said the provision was a deal-breaker.* NBC believed it was getting “hosed,” so the NFL gave the network one additional game for the 2010-2013 seasons. The NFL also told ESPN a digital deal and the lockout provision were tied together.

*It can be scary just how powerful the NFL perceives itself. And is perceived.

But the craziest portion is the NFL’s deal with DirecTV.

From Doty’s ruling: "NFL's DirecTV contract provides that DirecTV will pay a substantial fee if the 2011 season is not canceled (and will pay) up to nine percent more, at the NFL’s discretion, if the 2011 season is canceled. In the event of a canceled season, 42 percent of the fee is non-refundable and the remainder would be credited to the following season.

Forty-two percent is non-refundable? For real?

More from Doty: "Typical work- stoppage provisions (in TV deals) anticipate a strike by players, not a work stoppage created by the NFL itself."

Not only did the NFL lose this decision to keep the $4 billion (for now, anyway), but it’ll be interesting to see how badly it suffers from the NFL fans' perception of this new informations. At this point, it’s really, really hard not to believe the owners were planning for a lockout, and that they knew they would profit mightily off it. In fact, it appears that the owners would have been better off if the 2011 season was lost altogether.

It’s almost hard to believe.*

*And if it is too hard to believe, here’s the complete ruling.

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

Category: NFL
Posted on: March 1, 2011 6:58 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 8:25 pm

District judge rules NFL can't keep network money

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

In yet another twist to the labor dispute, the NFL owners took a back-hand from U.S. District Judge David Doty today when he overruled special master Stephen Burbank and said the league could not have access to the TV network money for next season.

Doty ruled that Burbank had made several mistakes in his ruling from last month in which he said the NFL hadn’t violated the CBA with its “lockout insurance” deal with the networks, which would still pay the league about $4 billion even if there are missed games in 2011.

Instead, Doty said the league had breached the CBA and ordered a hearing to determine the damages accrued by the NFLPA. Doty also could – and probably will – keep that $4 billion from the owners if a lockout occurs. All along, the NFLPA has asked that the amount be kept in escrow.

Wrote Doty in his ruling: "The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the SSA relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the SSA as to those contracts.”

Here’s the NFL’s statement, via Greg Aiello: "As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included. Today's ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement."

Doty has ruled on NFL labor disputes for the past two decades, and the owners desperately want him off the case, because they think he’s pro-union. Today’s ruling certainly won’t change that opinion, but if Doty’s ruling forces the owners to get serious about negotiating, knowing they won’t get that TV money and knowing they've lost a measurable amount of leverage, NFL fans will love him forever.

Look for the owners to appeal the decision, but make no mistake: this is a sizable victory for the union.

And the NFLPA's statement: "This ruling means there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on."

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed .
Posted on: March 1, 2011 5:37 pm

NFLPA 'cautiously optimistic' about today's talks

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

For those who are looking for a little bit of hope – hell, ANY kind of hope – Seahawks G Chester Pitts has got just the news for you.

As the labor negotiation talks between the NFL owners and the NFLPA began to wind down today in Washington, Pitts emerged from the room and talked to a small circle of media members.

He said the meetings will continue Wednesday (remember, the CBA expires late Thursday night), and from the “we’re taking anything we can get” department, he said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

"The fans should know that both parties are hammering away at it and really trying to get a deal done,” Pitts told reporters, including NFL.com’s Albert Breer.

Also this: "It’s two groups doing business. The tone, none of that matters."

While that’s a bit difficult to believe – especially, because the tone, throughout this entire labor process, has been pretty unfriendly, and because nothing has gotten done – it looks like the two sides are beginning to work toward … well, something.

That maybe is good news, and tonight, we can go to bed with a little more positivity.*

*It might be the last optimistic night for a while, so make the most of it.

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

Posted on: March 1, 2011 4:13 pm

Other football leagues an option for NFL players?

Posted by Mike Freeman

If there is a prolonged work stoppage in the NFL several agents said their NFL clients have expressed a desire to practice with either United Football League, Canadian Football League or Arena League teams. Some players, incredibly, are even thinking about playing in games in these leagues should a lengthy lockout or stoppage happen.

Such a move would seem to be incredibly stupid for a young NFL player. The risk of injury in these leagues would be high for comparatively little money.

But the concern some players apparently have is they'd get so far out of football shape that continuing the contact portion of the sport is worth the risk because they'd have an advantage over other NFL players once practices and games started.

Now, let's be clear. We're not going to see Tom Brady playing for the Toronto Argonauts.

But it's very possible some lower tier NFL players go this route.

This is how it would work.

The union decertifies. Owners then say: we're not in business. The battle moves to the courts for months. Basically, under that scenario, players are free agents. They can play wherever they want.

So several low-level players would then go to the CFL, UFL or AFL for playing experience as the lockout droned on. Then once the season starts they'd be more ready than those who weren't playing.

"As long as the player is not under contract with another league, he is allowed to practice with an AFL team," Evan Vladem, spokesman for the AFL, told CBSSports.com. "To practice, the player must be under AFL contract or sign a one-day waiver with the league. With that being said, a free agent could play on an (AFL) team; however, we are very confident that the NFL will play this season. We work well in conjunction with the NFL abd they have supported us and our players greatly."

This entry was cross-posted from Mike Freeman's FreeStyle Blog. 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