Posted on: February 16, 2011 10:46 am

Jerry Richardson gets support from owners

Posted by Andy Benoit

After Michael Silver’s column in Yahoo! Sports about Jerry Richardson’s condescending negotiating tones with Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, the football world may be starting to view the Panthers owner as the chief villain of the ongoing labor negotiations. Richardson’s colleagues don’t share that sentiment (not publicly, anyway). Darin Gantt and Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer passed along the various statements of support for RJ. Richardson (US Presswire)ichardson.

Robert Kraft said, "Since the Panthers joined the NFL, Jerry Richardson has been one of the league's most influential owners, frequently bridging any gaps among the ownership groups on various issues. His unique background as a former NFL player and successful businessman helps form a perfect personality to co-chair the owner's negotiating committee. Anyone who has ever heard Jerry speak at the owners' meetings knows that he has reverent regard for the players in this league.

"He has the full support of the other owners in the NFL who remain hopeful that we will reach an agreement with the players' union by March4."

John Mara, co-owner of the Giants, said, "There is no more respected owner in the league than Jerry Richardson. In his role as the co-chair of the owners' negotiating committee, he brings integrity, the desire to always do the right thing and he has the full respect of all the owners."

Kraft and Mara were both mentioned in Silver’s column as two people who were particularly embarrassed by Richardson’s negotiating style with the players.

Jerry Jones also lent his support, saying, "Jerry's greatest strength is communication. The more that is at stake, the more direct and clear he is with his words. When he speaks with people he cares about deeply - players, business partners, his fellow owners - he is always particularly straightforward and to the point. That is how he shows his respect for the situation and the individuals involved. He is one of the most effective leaders I have ever known because he is one of the best communicators I have ever been associated with."

The NFL has said it has no plans to remove Richardson from the CBA negotiations.

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Posted on: February 15, 2011 3:57 pm

Was Richardson exchange with players even worse?

Posted by Will Brinson

On Sunday, a report leaked out that Panthers owner Jerry Richardson had some, um, interesting words for NFL stars Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during a meeting of NFL and NFLPA personnel in Dallas.

Turns out, he might have said some more stuff, too -- according to Yahoo! Sports' Mike Silver, Richardson had a little advice for Sean Morey when the retired player tried to cite some statistics about player safety.

"You guys made so much [expletive] money – if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own [expletive] team," Richardson reportedly told Morey.

Another player present for the sessions described them as a nightmare to begin with before taking a potshot at the performance of Richardson's Panthers in 2010.

"It was bad from the start," said one player who attended the session. "[Richardson] opened the meeting by describing how he was almost annoyed how we would ask for that meeting on their busiest weekend of the year. And I’m thinking, 'Your team finished 2-14. You shouldn’t be that busy. Why are you worrying about how busy you are during Super Bowl weekend?'"

Boam, roasted, etc. But what does the guy who originally got dogged, Drew Brees, think about Richardson's comments? (Those comments, by the way, were classified as "" by the Panthers PR staff.)

Well, he appeared on Mad Dog Radio on Sirius XM recently, and downplayed the significance of Richardson's comments.

"Well, I mean, this is all I can say is, yeah, I was in that meeting and obviously anytime there’s negotiations I think there’s some back and forth to those," Brees said on Mad Dog Radio, via Pro Football Talk. "And I wouldn’t say that things were disrespectful but what I would say is that there’s are a lot of issues to get through and we’re obviously not going to agree on everything and so it's a process and there are a lot of things to consider here. So hopefully we can continue to make progress here from now until that March fourth date. I think we're all hopeful that a deal will get done but if it doesn’t then we will deal with that."

The NFL has Richardson's back too -- Greg Aiello told the Herald Online's Darin Gantt that "absolutely nothing has changed" with respect to Richardson playing the role of lead negotiator for the league.

That sentiment was echoed by his colleagues.

"There is no more respected owner in the league than Jerry Richardson," New York Giants president and CEO John Mara said Tuesday. "In his role as the co-chair of the owners' negotiating committee, he brings integrity, the desire to always do the right thing and he has the full respect of all the owners."

Richardson's role probably won't change, but it's fairly obvious that he's not exactly making the NFLPA and its members too happy with negotiations (to say the least). Perhaps that's part of a longer-tailed plan to improve the league's bargaining position, or perhaps it's simply putting the most stringent negotiator at the forefront of the labor talks.

Either way, Richardson doesn't appear to be stepping back from the negotiations and that could mean things get a little ugly before we even get a glimpse at the light at the end of the labor tunnel.

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Posted on: February 15, 2011 11:25 am

NFL: Report on scheduled CBA talks 'pure fiction'

Posted by Will Brinson

On Sunday, a report leaked out that the NFL and NFLPA had scheduled another set of bargaining sessions for this week after the disastrous first set of negotiations fell apart last week.

While the two sides could certainly still sit down this week, hearing NFL spokesman Greg Aiello's dismissal of the report doesn't lend much hope to that possibility.

Originally, Chris Mortensen of ESPN broke the story about the negotiations gearing back up this week. Mortensen followed up Tuesday by reporting that the NFL has "not re-confirmed" the negotiating sessions.

Aiello responded by tweeting, "Mort: This is complete fiction. Someone is making it up."

Considering that Aiello will typically "no comment" anything that seems to have much substance (i.e. he won't deny something that has a strong likelihood of actually happening), this shouldn't provide much hope that the two sides are getting together this week.

Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal added some fuel to that fire Tuesday as well, citing sources who say the two sides "planned to meet at least two days every week" but "scratched" those plans when the negotiations blew up last week.

So, yeah, the negative vibes everyone's been getting from the recent CBA discussions appear to be completely and 100 percent warranted. Unless Aiello's pulling a fast one and publicly declaring the complete opposite of what's true (he's a spin guy, not a liar), then it seems pretty unlikely we'll see some positive movement from the CBA talks any time soon.

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Posted on: February 13, 2011 7:43 pm

Combine boycott unlikely, but 'momentum growing'?

Posted by Will Brinson

The idea that the NFLPA could generate a boycott of the NFL Combine is pretty far out there. An entire group of incoming NFL "freshmen" would have to get on board with stonewalling their future employers at a time when they are all seeking to get paid for the first (or in the case of Marvin Austin, second) time in their professional careers.

But Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reports that on the heels of some increasing tension and low-ball offers from the NFL, "momentum for some type of protest is growing" within the ranks of the players.

That hypothetical protest, which would need the approval of all agents representing players at the Combine, didn't draw a response from the NFLPA.

"Our conversations with contract advisers [agents] are confidential," NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said.

And if it seems pretty unlikely that every single agent repping a player at the Combine could get on the same page, well, it is. However, consider that the NFL is (reportedly) offering the NFLPA a setup for a rookie wage scale that severely hampers the amount of money that NFL players will make.

Agents, of course, make their livings based on a percent of those NFL players' revenues -- if the salaries of all future NFL players are severely reduced, the salaries of all agents will also be severely reduced. So, there's absolutely some motivation present to incite the agents into convincing their clients not to attend the combine.

Still, it's unlikely to go down -- Cole spoke with numerous "top agents" who point out that it's just too difficult to pull off.

"You're talking about players who have been training for two months and now, all of a sudden, they’re all not going to work out? That's not happening," the agent said. "To me, it would be great if they would do it. If all the agents would agree, I would do it. But I just can't see all the agents and players going along with it. Not at this point."

And besides, if the NFLPA really wants to take a lethal shot at the league's PR, they should just wait until the NFL Draft.

While the folks who run the NFL Network would be incredibly incensed at having a ton of no-shows for the Combine, the reaction from ESPN executives if the top talent bailed on its three-day, high-profile event in late April would be even better. Not to mention a prime example of the serious problems the league could face from its top revenue sources (its broadcast partners) if a lockout continued into the season.

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Posted on: February 13, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: February 13, 2011 12:27 pm

Richardson insulted Manning, Brees in CBA talks?

Posted by Will Brinson

Last week, negotiations between the NFL owners and the NFLPA fell apart. The primary reason for that was -- we believe -- a tremendous gap in the wants and needs of the two sides.

There's also, apparently, a little vitriol between the groups. That's not shocking. But Jay Feely's mention -- on the Michael Kay Show via Pro Football Talk -- of the way Panthers owner Jerry Richardson reportedly spoke to NFL icons Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during a Dallas negotiating session is terrifying for anyone who thinks a peaceful ending to labor talks is coming soon.

"Jerry Richardson, the lead negotiator for the owners, he's going to criticize Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and their intelligence in our meeting Saturday?" Feely said. "And sit there and say dismissively of Manning 'Do I need to help you read a revenue chart, son? Do I need to help break that down for you because I don't know if you understand how to read that?'"

If that sort of thing was said, verbatim, to Manning at a meeting, it's an absolutely terrifying prospect, because it means that there's far less forced pleasantry occurring between the two sides than anyone could have possibly thought.

And Manning may be a Southern-looking fella with a bit of a drawl, but goodness gracious do you have to be the most crotchety old man on the planet to think he's not intelligent. And Drew Brees, well, what on Earth would make anyone think he can't fathom a revenue chart?

Then again, when Richardson addressed the media following Carolina's disastrous 2010 season, he behaved much in the same way. He embarrassed several reporters with smart-alecky comments and at one point he drew a revenue "chart" on a piece of paper and holding it up to the assembled media. (Note that it was really just a terribly-drawn, one-dimensional pie chart.)

Feely also pointed out that there was no "kinda" walking out by the owners during the bargaining session last week.

"It's not true that they 'kinda' walked out," Feely said. "They did walk out."

"Logical minds can sit there and come up with a deal, but once you bring up emotion, then you get in the way of logic," Feely said.

The silver lining to come out of all of this is that there's no football being played right now -- it's a sad first Sunday without it in quite some time -- and that means these issues are at the forefront of public discussion, instead of being buried behind box scores.

That's still less fun than watching football, but it at least means there's a focus on trying to move the labor discussion, however unpleasant it may be, forward.

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Posted on: February 12, 2011 11:04 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Posted by Andy Benoit

The rookie wage scale is one of the hot issues in the current Collective Bargaining negotiations. All commonsensical observers agree that it’s ridiculous for unproven rookies to warrant gargantuan contracts (the JaMarcus Russell era confirmed this once and for all). The question is what to do about it.

As Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal points out, a concern the NFLPA has about the league’s proposed rookie wage scale is that if the scale applies to fourth and fifth-year players, middle-of-career veterans could get forced out of the league on the basis of being too expensive (why hire a vet when you can get a rookie for cheap).

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has a brilliant idea (so brilliant that it warrants its own post):

We propose two-year contracts for all draft picks.  After two years, the players become exclusive-rights free agents, which is essentially what they are upon being drafted.

Then, after completing the initial two-year contract, the player can threaten to withhold services as leverage for getting the best possible deal, which is precisely the leverage that unsigned draft picks possess.  Or he can sign a one-year tender that would be based on playing time and possibly other factors, such as Pro Bowls and other achievements and awards.  Or the two sides can come together and agree to a long-term deal based not only on potential but also on two years of performance.

If a player not picked in the top 10 plays at a high level, like Titans running back Chris Johnson did during his first two years in the NFL, he can cash in like he would have done if he’d been a top pick.  If a player picked in the top 10 becomes a bust, like Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the team can give him a one-year tender offer based on the factors that will reflect his substandard performance, or the team can let him walk away.

After the third year, the player would be subject to the rules of restricted free agency, like every current third-year player whose contract has expired.  After four years, the player would be an unrestricted free agent, assuming that the next labor deal maintains a four-year path to unrestricted free agency.

This idea would appease the teams while also yielding the same key rights to players: a crack at unrestricted free agency after four years.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 10, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 5:01 pm

What caused the NFL and NFLPA to walk out?

Posted by Will Brinson

Great question -- and no one can know the answer until either Roger Goodell/Greg Aiello or DeMaurice Smith/George Atallah let the world know, which they probably won't, because it would be disastrous for negotiations.

However, there are several reports out there that indicate various proposals were made to the NFL by the NFLPA, and those caused a breakdown in talks.

First up, the NFPA, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, offered to split of "all revenue" 50/50 with the league. (Important to note here is that there's a difference in what's recognized as "all revenue" and "total revenue" -- it's like "gross" versus "net" and net/total is achieved, right now, by the owners taking a $1 billion credit off the top.)

Reportedly, the union told the owners they'd stop asking to look inside the owners' financial books if the owners agreed to simply split "all revenue," which would mean no more $1 billion credit off the top, and certainly no $2 billion credit that the owners are seeking under a new CBA.

Needless to say, this could be perceived as a very good reason why negotiations broke down.

But there were also, according to Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, significant discrepancies in other areas. Namely, the rookie wage scale and length of rookie contracts.

Brandt reports that the proposal on the rookie from the NFLPA limited rookie contracts to four years for players drafted in rounds 1-3, three years for rounds 4-7 and had a cap on incentives and savings to veterans. He also notes this was formally rejected by the NFL this week, as the league wants a wage scale, no negotiations, five-year contracts for players taken in the first round and four-year contracts for those taken in every other round.

Making matters worse, per Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, is the union's interpretation of the rookie wage scale proposed by ownership -- according to Mullen, a memo from DeMaurice Smith called the proposal a "veteran wage scale" because it affects "60 percent" of NFL players in the league with its length.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post obtained a copy of that memo -- in it, Smith tells players that "what is new [in the NFL's proposal] mostly makes the proposal worse not only for rookies but for veteran players with three to five years in the league -- the core of our membership."

The memo also refers to the wage scale as "rigid" and indicates it would "destroy the benefits of free agency for most veteran players." Maske notes that Smith's memo lays out the NFL's proposal for precise financial compensation, setting the rookie minimum salary at: $285,000 in 2011, $375,000 in 2012, $460,000 in 2013 and $545,000 in 2013.

To clarify the stark difference in what each side wants, here's a financial example: with the NFLPA proposal, the ninth-overall pick would receive $18 million over four years. Under the NFL proposal, the ninth-overall pick would receive $8.6 million over five years.

Labor negotiations are ridiculously complicated, but you don't have to be a math major to figure out just how far apart the two sides are right now. And the fact that the rookie wage scale won't be fully addressed until the division of the full "pie" (read: all and/or total revenue) is solved is further proof that there's plenty of labor discussion and hand-wringing over the NFL's situation ahead.

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Posted on: February 10, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: February 10, 2011 9:43 am

Report: Thursday CBA meeting cancelled

Posted by Will Brinson

During the Super Bowl, the NFL and NFLPA scheduled some "intensive" meetings for this week. Now, Thursday's meeting -- the second of the week -- has reportedly been cancelled.

That's according to ESPN's Adam Schefter who reports that things went so poorly on Wednesday that the two sides decided not to meet again Thursday.

"We are not confirming, denying or commenting on CBA meetings at this point," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in response to the report. "We are focusing on getting an agreement."

As if that weren't damaging enough to the potential for actually seeing football in 2011, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that next week's ownership meeting has been cancelled as well.

The assumption of his source -- and it seems like a good one -- is that Roger Goodell has no need to meet with the owners as there won't have been any new developments in the CBA discussions thanks to the cancellation of the meetings.

"The commissioner canceled the meeting because he did not see a need for it right now," an NFL rep confirmed to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal.

But why was Thursday's CBA session cancelled? Well, that's not exactly clear.

Theoretically, it could have been cancelled for good reasons -- too much progress? -- but when two sides walk away from the negotiating table, it's typically not good news.

And it seems more likely that the sides are far apart, and that whatever sense of urgency to negotiate that the week in Dallas brought on has since been discarded as they stare into the future and try to bridge a very long gap.

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