Posted on: June 11, 2011 8:03 pm
Edited on: June 11, 2011 8:04 pm

Rookie takes job to make ends meet during lockout

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The stories are few and far between, but not everybody caught up in the lockout enjoys seven- and eight-figure paydays. In fact, for every claim that this is a fight between billionaires and millionaires, scores of team employees -- from the sales department to assistant coaches to even some of the players -- are living from paycheck to paycheck (or in some cases, trying to make their last paycheck last until there is actual football again).

Charles Clay is Exhibit A. The Dolphins selected Clay, a fullback out of Tulsa, in the sixth round of the 2011 draft. In a typical offseason, he would have been apart of rookie minicamp and team OTAs in May, and now he'd be preparing for training camp later next month. Oh, and Clay could have expected a six-figure signing bonus and a rookie contract that would pay him somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.5 million over three years.

Even though there appears to be progress on the CBA front between the owners and players, all Clay can do is wait. And since sitting on the couch doesn't pay the Bills, he's also had to get a job.

Details via the Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly:

"The fact he’s no longer a student-athlete at Tulsa, and had no source of income has put him in financial turmoil," Kelly writes. "Clay’s in-debt to his agents and trainers, and the bills are piling up. So to stay afloat he’s been receiving day labor type work with a company called LPD, which has him cutting gas at oil wells, doing odd jobs like cleaning the jacks to make ends meet."

During an appearance on WQAM radio Saturday, Clay told Kelly that, “It’s hard times right now. I’m working little small jobs and things to get money. Not getting an income right now is tough, especially when I’m trying to have a facility to workout in, and have to pay for things like [trainers]. …

"It’s tough, but at the same time you’ve got to get by somehow," he continued. "I’m pretty sure there are other guys doing the same thing. Nobody is getting any kind of income. You have to get money some kind of way.”

As we wrote this morning, at this point in the proceedings fans have little sympathy for either side. They just want football. Turns out, so do the players who have had to take on part-time jobs during the lockout.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: June 11, 2011 11:44 am
Edited on: June 11, 2011 12:11 pm

Reports hint new CBA could happen by late June

Posted by Ryan Wilson

For the first time since the lockout began 91 days ago, there appears to be genuine optimism that owners, coaches, players and fans will be able to get on with their football-loving lives, and it could happen in the next few weeks.

CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman was the first to report reasons for optimism. Way back on June 2, Freeman wrote that "There is a still a great deal of work to do ... but it appears the owners and players have made significant headway in reaching a new labor agreement, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions.

"One high ranking member of the former union estimated to me a new deal would be reached within two to three weeks, if not sooner. 'This is the most optimistic I’ve been in many months,' he said."

Barely a week later, that appears to be happening.

Friday night, NFL Network's Albert Breer reported that players and owners have made substantial progress in recent days towards a new collective bargaining agreement.

And Saturday morning, Sports Business Journal's Daniel Kaplan tweeted: "Told optimism is so high in NFL, players talks over labor deal that expectation is for a framework agreement in about two weeks."

But it gets better. The Houston Chronicle's Lance Zierlein recently blogged that "According to a couple of sources, NFL lockout could be over sooner than you think."

"After lengthy discussions with both sources, they both conveyed to me a great deal of hope that a deal would be done by July and possibly as early as late June," Zierlein wrote. "Why the sudden optimism? According to one of the sources, 'both sides are focusing on the percentage of total revenue coming in (would include the first $1 billion the owners are currently taking off the top) and if that deal gets done, the other issues will probably fall into place fairly quickly according to what I'm hearing.'"

Another source told Zierlein that "I am 100 times more hopeful than two weeks ago that a deal can get done relatively quickly."

Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm also hears things, all positive: "Sources have indicated to PFW that June 21, which is when the NFL owners are scheduled to meet in Chicago, might be a date to circle on the calendar. The reason for the escalated talks might indicate that the owners want to have a deal — or parameters of a deal — to vote on when they all assemble for the meeting."

That makes five different sources reporting a variation on the "things are looking really good" theme. Nothing's concrete but as we stated last night: it's a start, we'll take it.

And as momentum builds toward a resolution, this becomes less about taking sides and more about finding common ground and getting a deal done. It may have taken three months to arrive at this point, but as Breer noted Friday, it's not yet the 11th hour. If a new CBA is reached, even in principle, there could be time for free agency and training camps, and the 2011 NFL season would start as scheduled.

Sure, this fight has been framed as a battle between billionaires and millionaires. That's not entirely true, but given the economic climate, fans have little sympathy for either side. (Also not helping: the occasional attempts at public relations obfuscation.) They just want football. And it finally looks like that will happen, perhaps a lot sooner than anyone ever expected. To quote Austin Powers: "Yay, capitalism!"

hat tip: Shutdown Corner

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Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:35 pm

Owners, players making progress towards new CBA

Posted by Ryan Wilson

According to the 2011 NFL schedule, the season is set to kick off 90 days from now. We're in the middle of a lockout, so any future plans are written in pencil.

But rumblings indicate that the lawyer-free discussions between owners and players are going so well that, for the first time since the lockout began in March, there's legitimate hope for a 2011 season.

NFL Network's Albert Breer, appearing on Friday's Total Access, explained that while there's still a long way to go, the two sides have made substantial progress in recent weeks. Here are the highlights of Breer's conversation with TA host Rich Eisen.
  • Eisen: If it's so good that both sides are talking … then why aren't they talking around the clock … until this thing is all hammered out? 

    Breer: Just like doing a CBA is complex, the negotiating to get there is also complex. There are a couple things at work here. One is, all the talking isn't happening face-to-face. In fact, I was told that the two sides communicated today so they are communicating outside of the face-to-face negotiations.  

    That's one thing that's important to remember. The other thing that's important to remember is how much work goes into this. It's going to be about a 300-page CBA when it's all said and done. A lot of research and study has to go into it from each side, especially after they come off these face-to-face talks. I was told by someone earlier today that about five hours of work goes into every hour they spend face-to-face. 

    So it's not that they're not working, it's just that the format of it is a little bit different in different stages. But they are working a lot of hours to get this thing done and I think that anybody who would view it any other way might be a little off there. 
  • Eisen: Normally we see the round-the-clock stuff when it's the 11th hour. … Should we take this to mean that both sides don't consider this the 11th hour? 

    Breer: It's not quite the 11th hour yet. … I think what they're working towards right now is that July 15 deadline … when the holdup in these negotiations could wind up costing them preseason games. I think they want to try to get something done by then. …

    I think both sides view themselves as having about a 30-day window of opportunity to get something done. Now, I'm told that they will meet again next week and continue to stack these meetings one after another all the way into mid-July. And that's great news because it means they're working toward that deadline. And I think the round-the-clock stuff might occur once we get closer to that mid-July deadline. 
  • Eisen: Do you get the sense, from the people that you've been speaking to on both sides, that the CBA must be completed 100 percent … before this lockout is lifted, or perhaps some deal in principle can be struck earlier on … and the lockout ends while the lawyers hash this thing out? 

    Breer: [Both sides] have a lot of work to do, and they'd have to be pretty far down the road, but the truth is it's always the league's option to lift the lockout. They could do it now if they wanted to. So I think if they feel like, in good faith, they've reached an agreement on the framework of a deal, it would make sense for them to get that administrative stuff out of the way. Have a … short period before free agency for teams to take care of their own house, then have free agency, then have that roll into training camp. If that's what's in the best interest of everybody, I'm sure that could happen. 
Still nothing definitive but it's something. And after nearly three months of idle threats, grandstanding and finger-pointing -- from both sides -- we gladly welcome any signs of progress.

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Posted on: June 9, 2011 11:36 am
Edited on: June 9, 2011 12:10 pm

Judge moves NFL's motion to dismiss up to Aug. 29

Posted by Ryan Wilson

The NFL filed a motion Monday to dismiss the original antitrust complaint from the players in Brady v. NFL. The scheduled date of the hearing? September 12.

Yep, that's one day after the first Sunday of what would be the 2011 NFL season. But as CBSSports.com's Will Brinson pointed out earlier this week, the greater purpose of the motion is that "it pushes back the deadline for the NFL to file an answer in response to the players' complaint."

According to the Associated Press, the September 12 date has been changed. The hearing has been moved up to August 29.

"U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued Wednesday an amended notice on the league's motion to dismiss the lawsuit," the AP reports. … "Owners and players met Wednesday for a second straight day in New York, talks toward a new agreement to end the impasse and put the NFL back in business for 2011."
NFL Labor

As Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio notes, the new date doesn't mean much since "it’s unlikely that there will be a quick decision, unless Judge Nelson decides to summarily deny the motion from the bench."

In related, happier news, CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman wrote this morning that the owners and players met again Wednesday night and while there's still a ways to go, the two sides are making an effort to work together. Perhaps even more encouraging: Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith are on their way to becoming BFFs. (Or, at the very least, they can now tolerate being in the same room. Hey, it's a start.)

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Posted on: June 7, 2011 7:21 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 10:37 pm

Players/owners meet again in secret

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

As CBSSports.com’s own Mike Freeman reports, the owners and the NFLPA have restarted their labor negotiating meetings in secret.

Though we all know the two sides did the same thing last week in Chicago, nobody seems to know the location this time around.

Which might actually be a positive sign. The deeper both sides are hunkered down in talks, perhaps the more progress is being made. (That’s what we like to think anyway.)

Not that today’s development is a big surprise. Commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that both sides would meet again. He just didn’t say when and where. But the fact that they’re happening -- even if nobody else in the world can find them -- makes us much more optimistic.

UPDATED 8:47 PM (ET): According to ESPN.com, the two sides met in a New York City hotel room. In attendance besides Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and a handful of owners and player reps was magistrate judge Arthur Boylan.

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Posted on: June 6, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: June 7, 2011 5:40 am

NFL files Motion to Dismiss, hearing set for 9/12

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday, the NFL filed a motion to dismiss the original antitrust complaint from the players in Brady v. NFL. More interestingly, this motion will now be heard on September 12, 2011.

Yes, that does happen to be one day after the first Sunday of the NFL's regular season, thanks for asking.

The motion to dismiss in and of itself was brief -- just two pages -- but the purpose that the motion serves is a greater one because it pushes back the deadline for the NFL to file an answer in response to the players' complaint.

Now that answer won't be due until after the motion is heard, which is after the season begins. This is beneficial for the NFL, the players and the fans because it allows the two sides to continue negotiating without being obstructed by a public legal document, especially one in which the NFL responds -- perhaps in a personal manner -- to serious antitrust allegations.
NFL Labor

And then there's the fact that if both sides have to actually end up going to court for this hearing, it will occur one day after 9/11, when the NFL and the players have decided to skip the first week of the season.

Whether or not memorials for fallen Americans should veer into the realm of public relations is beside the point; missing the first week of the season would be an abject PR disaster.

Hopefully, this would-be extension of time allows the two sides to avoid that nightmarish scenario.

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Posted on: June 6, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 7:15 pm

NFL season ticket sales now down from last year

Posted by Will Brinson

Late in May, we inked a story about the increase in NFL season-ticket sales relative to this time last year.

Well, the league has reversed course, according to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal. The NFL is now reporting that sales are behind the pace at the same time in 2010.

Yes, it seems like odd timing, considering the league's report that sales were up came just seven days ago. However, Kaplan notes that the timing of the report could make sense; the NFL's data during the previous report was thru May 7. Now the data is current through the end of May.

What makes this a bit bizarre is the fact that it took 24 days to generate the data thru May 7, and yet the current data took less than seven days to generate.

It's also entirely possible that the NFL felt the news about the ticket sales was off-base with their current state of financial affairs (after all, Roger Goodell openly lamented the state of the NFL's business) and wanted a more current assessment.

Kaplan notes as well that the league informed him "suite and club seat renewals [are] at a crawl."

The flummoxing state of affairs from the first report -- after all, there isn't any guaranteed football for next year -- was only really explainable by tickets going on sale earlier than previous years as well as earlier deadlines for getting tickets applications in.

This new report makes much more sense, even if the timing of the various pieces of released information is a bit odd.

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Posted on: June 5, 2011 11:11 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 11:12 pm

How does a ruling 'neither side will like' occur?

Posted by Will Brinson

Following the now-infamous June 3 hearing in front of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Kermit Bye indicated to the NFL and the NFLPA that the court wouldn't be insulted if the two sides reached a settlement before the court reached a ruling.

And Bye also said that if the two sides couldn't find common ground, the court wouldn't exactly be opposed to rendering a ruling that "neither side will like." That seems like a difficult proposition, but it's not entirely out of the question.

In fact, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (who's an actual licensed attorney) put together a pretty good explanation of it on Sunday.

Basically, the Court of Appeals can rule that 1) the lockout is still on and that the lockout can last for a full year, and 2) there is a six-month limit on the non-statutory antitrust exemption.
NFL Labor

And what that means is while the lockout could last throughout the entire 2011 season, the antitrust exemption would end on September 11. And what that means is that if the lockout did last for the entire year, the owners would potentially be liable -- in the Brady v. NFL antitrust suit -- for triple the entire 2011 NFL payroll.

Obviously, that's a LOT of cheddar; such liability creates a highly unfavorable scenario for the owners even as the idea of missing a year's worth of paychecks would create some substantial panic amongst all the NFL's players.

Which is precisely why, as our own Mike Freeman reported recently, that it actually makes a ton of sense for the two sides to get together and hammer out a deal before the 8th Circuit has to issue a ruling.

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