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Posted on: July 8, 2011 11:38 am
Edited on: July 8, 2011 12:01 pm
 

Lockout ruling to speed up talks or a Doty hammer

Posted by Will Brinson

When we recently asked seven important lockout questions, one of them dealt with the rulings that were "hanging out there" from U.S. District Judge Doty and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The latter, as we know by now, has been handed down, making the lockout legal, and it's quite possible that Doty's ruling could come soon as well.

But that probably hinges on whether the owners attempt to use the circuit court's ruling as a true source of leverage in the talks that are ongoing Friday and could (should?) continue through the weekend.

See, the owners have a choice, what with the lockout ruling coming down in their favor in the middle of negotiations: They can sit on it or they can use it when they walk into the room with the players.
NFL Labor

If the former happens, it's a good thing; the negotiations will get a kick in the rear vis-a-vis the players' concern that the lockout could extend into perpetuity. And nothing will have actually changed, because everyone expected this ruling in the owners' favor.

Though -- it's worth noting -- the fact that the Eighth Circuit was wise enough to leave open the NFL's legal risk should they lose a full season is tremendous, because it doesn't give anyone incentive to miss a large chunk of football.

If the latter happens, we should fear for the future of football, and we should also expect to see Doty drop a hammer in the form of the television contract rulings. If the owners attempt to maximize the negotiating power a legal lockout gives them, the only way for the players to truly swing the momentum pendulum back to the middle is Doty giving them a big ruling on the television contracts.

Hopefully, it won't come to that, and both sides will see how important it is to get a deal done as soon as possible.

But if they don't play nice in the face of the latest legal ruling, there's a very good shot at Doty dropping a hammer that could truly create labor chaos.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 5, 2011 6:55 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 7:06 pm
 

NFLPA lawyers renegotiating to a 'flat fee'?

Posted by Will Brinson

Much of the CBA chatter over the holiday weekend focused on the fact that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn were potentially submarining positive momentum in the current CBA negotiations.

It's precisely why Mike Freeman advised DeMaurice Smith needed to "send your lawyers packing," and it's particularly interesting given that Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated is hearing that the NFLPA lawyers are renegotiating their fee contract with the players.

"I'm hearing the NFLPA has renegotiated its contracts with outside counsel," Trotter tweeted on Tuesday. "Hearing the term 'flat fee' is included in the deal." The presumption here, as Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, is that the lawyers were being paid on a contingency fee. (There are generally three types of lawyer fees: either hourly/billable, contingency which is based on the outcome, or a flat fee, which is paid regardless of what happens.)

What makes this interesting is that if Quinn and Kessler were contracted on contingency for their work in the Brady v. NFL matter, they were probably eyeing an absolutely monumental payday if the players won the case.

The quick math, based on a range of 25-to-33 percent, tells us that had they won the deal, the floor for their attorney fees could have been something along the lines of $3 billion.

Most importantly, though, is what a potential renegotiation means for the future of football: If the NFLPA is reworking the manner in which the attorneys are paid, it sure does seem as if the players are envisioning a scenario in which their lawsuit won't be necessary for too much longer.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 10:31 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 10:43 pm
 

Break from CBA talks needs to become a gut check

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA are taking the holiday weekend off from negotiating a new CBA. Some folks might see this as a problem, because it means a break from negotiations and continued progress.

However, there's reason to think that this weekend could be a gamechanger, provided that both sides remember exactly what "negotiating" means.

As CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman reported over the past few days, the owners are presenting scenarios that don't fit in line with what they'd previously offered, and the NFLPA lawyers are refusing to budge on the issue of retired-player benefits. That, folks, is not negotiating, unless the word suddenly became a synonym for "being stubborn."

This weekend shouldn't be a time to sit around and gripe about who said what in which room, and whether this or that proposal was insulting. This is a weekend to realize that America is sitting around enjoying the summer, not really complaining about the lack of football, and patiently waiting for the two sides to strike a deal.

Latest on Labor

This weekend needs to be the two sides talking apart from one another and understanding that now is a time for a negotiation gut check.

The NFL needs to understand that it HAS to give in on certain areas, and the NFLPA needs to understand that it HAS to find some leeway on others.

That might sound silly and obvious, but it's -- plainly -- exactly what comprises negotiating.

We've constantly heard leaders from both sides preach about dialogue and the need for bargaining during this process. And we've constantly been told that there's ample reason for optimism despite the fact that there's not any football on the horizon.

But there's no concrete proof of any actual negotiating; there's no guarantee that either one of the sides can willingly find some room for concessions that will forward the progress of the best sport in the country.

And that's why a break is critical -- everyone involved in the negotiations of a new CBA for the NFL needs to take this time off to realize just how close we are to the beginning of the football season, to assess the goals of these negotiations, to figure out what the respective breaking points of each side on each issue are, and to find a way to hammer out a deal when negotiations resume on Tuesday.

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


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."
Latest on Labor

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 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.

For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: June 23, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 6:57 pm
 

Smith, Goodell statements: 'We're working hard'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL meetings from Thursday wrapped up this afternoon and, somewhat surprisingly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith appeared together, shook hands, and talked to the press about what went down.

Well, not specifically what went down or anything, but both leaders issued similar-sounding statements about the various negotiations that have occured over the past few days.

"You obviously know we met over the last couple of days," Goodell said following the not-so-secret meetings. "We are under court order as far as what we can discuss so our comments will be brief. But obviously we’re all working hard. The players and owners were here over the last two days.

"De and I were here for the entire meetings also. And it’s complicated and it’s complex, but we're working hard and we understand the fans' frustration. But I think both of us feel strongly that we’re going to continue to work hard at it."

The key parts there, of course, are "working hard" and "fans' frustration," so it's no surprise that Smith echoed a similar sentiment.

"Someone asked me whether I was optimistic. I think we're both optimistic when we have the right people in the room. We know we're talking about the right issues and that we're working hard to get it done," Smith said. "It is extremely complicated, it requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but we're committed to getting something done and we’re going to keep working at it.

"Just to wrap up, we're working hard, we understand the fans' frustration, I know our players' frustration. We're going to keep working hard and try to make sure we get a deal done."

Oddly, fans' frustration is probably reasonably low right now, despite the lockout finally hitting it's 100th (!) day.

After all, while there may not be many other sports on television to distract from the lack of football, there's a sense among many people that the two sides are close to acheiving what seemed impossible just a few short weeks ago: striking a deal and getting the season rolling by the middle of July.

While that's obviously not the ideal scenario (that would involve no lockout and a "normal" league year, natch), it's still a far better outcome than what seemed possible a month ago.

That's progress, and progress always helps to ease frustration a little bit.

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

Posted on: February 15, 2011 1:39 pm
 

NFL offers third option to victims of 'SeatGate'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL is upping the ante for the 400 folks that missed the Super Bowl -- they're now offering to get $5,000 or more in the pockets of those who were shorted.

According to a displaced fan named Brad Powell the NFL has offered to pay back the full total of each fan's "actual substantiated expenses" or $5,000, whichever is greater.

Here's the actual legalese from the NFL, per Powell:
III) The greater of $5,000 or your actual substantiated expenses in defined categories for attending Super Bowl XLV
Powell says he "didn't see the [category] list" but it seems safe to say it will include airfare, room and board, hotel costs, etc.

Clearly if a fan bought a new Ferrari while on vacation with the purported purpose of driving it around Dallas, the NFL isn't going to pay them back. And that's why there have to be specifically designated categories -- otherwise, people would just get loose on the league when it comes to what they expense.

Offering this much in terms of reimbursement -- the NFL had offered either I) $2,400 and a ticket to next year's game or II) a future ticket to a Super Bowl plus hotel and airfare -- should mean that "the 400" are now satisfied, at least in terms of compensation. (Of course, that might not mean much for the rest of the fans suing the NFL, though you could argue that getting rid of the first 400 from the lawsuit gives it a lot less weight.)

The NFL obviously can't give them the experience of seeing the Steelers and Packers play, but give them credit for trying to make sure that fans don't come away too bitter from the experience.

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Posted on: February 11, 2011 5:00 pm
 

Super Bowl fan lawyer thinks NFL offer is too low

Posted by Will Brinson

If the NFL was willing to concede leverage to the NFLPA the way they've been folding under the pressure of intense public scrutiny during "Super Bowl TicketGate," we'd already have a CBA done. (And Roy Williams would probably own the Cowboys.)

But the lawyer for the fans who are suing the NFL, Michael Avenatti, isn't happy with their latest outreach -- offering the 2,000 fans who were displaced either a reimbursement of their face value or a future Super Bowl ticket.

"Remarkably, the NFL and Jerry Jones still refuse to do the right thing," Avenatti told Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk. "As they know, most fans paid five to nine times the face value of their ticket. And, in many cases, the NFL even made money on these purchases through the NFL Ticket Exchange. The bottom line is that the face value 'offers' do not adequately compensate most fans for what they paid for their ticket.

"Resolving this is not complicated,” Avenatti added. "The NFL and Jones should immediately refund every affected fan the entire price they paid for their ticket, plus all related expenses for traveling to the Super Bowl. At a minimum, the fans should also receive quality tickets to another Super Bowl of their choice.

"I invite the NFL and Jerry Jones to contact me as soon as possible so that we may quickly resolve this dispute on terms fair to the fans."

You gotta think that the NFL feels the end of this entire issue coming soon -- but if the fans' lawsuit gains momentum and there continues to be a public outcry for supplemental compensation, it's entirely possible that the league will cave on further demands.

And you can bet that Avenatti won't stop trying to generate that sort of outcry until his clients are satisfied. Or he's paid.

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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