Posted on: January 2, 2011 10:48 am

Tuesday could be a big day for labor negotiations

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

An interesting story here by Fanhouse’s Dan Graziano as he explains why this Tuesday could be a big turning point in determining how long the NFL’s labor issue will continue.

As Graziano explains, a special master will review the NFLPA’s complaint that the $4.5 billion in guaranteed contracts from the TV networks to the owners – money the owners will receive whether or not there are games played next season – constitute lockout insurance.

Basically, the players say the owners would have no great desire to compromise with the NFLPA, because games or not, they’d get paid anyway. The NFLPA also would like to prove the owners took less upfront money from the networks as long as it was guaranteed.

If the special master agrees, the NFLPA is asking that the $4.5 billion be held in escrow until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is signed.

Or there’s this from the story:

It's also possible that, if the union can prove that the owners violated the current CBA by failing to seek and obtain the maximum possible value of the TV contracts, they could seek to have some or even all of that money awarded to the players as damages. The chances of employing that tactic depend on the strength of the union's evidence and how aggressive executive director DeMaurice Smith (whose background is as a Washington attorney) decides to be.

But if the owners think there's a chance that a decent chunk of their TV money could end up in the players' pockets as part of a damages award, that's the kind of thing that would really get them to the bargaining table in a hurry.

Who knew labor fights could be so much fun?

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Category: NFL
Posted on: September 16, 2010 9:09 pm

Players begin preparing to battle for lockout

DeMaurice Smith (right) said the move for some NFL teams to decertify themselves from the NFLPA is purely procedural (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

NFL players are taking steps toward protecting themselves as the Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire in March.

ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen reports, the Eagles, the Cowboys and the Saints have voted to allow the NFL Players Association to decertify itself.

Once all the NFL teams – and all teams likely will vote the same way at some point – vote to decertify the union, the union wouldn’t be able to represent the players when they begin negotiations for a new CBA.

The players did the same thing in 1993, and as Mortensen writes, it “enabled individual players to seek antitrust lawsuits against the NFL and eventually provided the leverage that led to a new era of free agency in 1993.”

But wouldn’t you think that after watching the players accomplish that result 17 years ago, the owners would have a gameplan to avoid having the same result occur? After all, most of these guys didn’t make all their money by being stupid about … well … making money in the business world.

According to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, the votes don’t mean much. It also should be noted that the union fully endorses this move.

"To be dead honest, it's purely procedural and I believe it's a non-story until March," Smith told ESPN.com last Saturday after the Saints voted. "It preserves the best options to protect players in the event there's no deal in place when the CBA expires next March. Instead of scrambling at the 11th hour to get all our players' signatures (for decertification), we'll have everything in order. Our hope is that it's not necessary."

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Posted on: September 10, 2010 12:17 pm
Edited on: September 10, 2010 12:28 pm

Three thoughts about NO-MIN

B. Favre and the Minnesota passing offense had a rough game (AP). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

My take on Thursday’s Saints 14-9 win against the Vikings.

1. I loved the “We are one” salute at the beginning of the game, signifying the players’ solidarity with each other as they enter the final season of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Some people didn’t like it – they thought it was too showy or too much of a flick-our-noses-at-the-owners kind of moment (and I’ve seen a joke or two on Twitter about how the owners should show solidarity by turning off the lights for a minute)  – but I thought the move was pretty damn cool.

"Even though five minutes from then we were going to go out and bash each others' heads in," QB Drew Brees told reporters after the game, "we're all one voice."

2. Jeez, how much did the Vikings miss WR Sidney Rice last night? More importantly, how much will they miss him until he can return from hip surgery? Percy Harvin was mostly invisible (one catch, 12 yards), and Bernard Berrian was, somehow, worse (one catch, three yards), and aside from TE Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota’s passing game was terribly unimpressive. Greg Camarillo made a nice catch, and even Greg Lewis recorded a reception. But originally, I thought Harvin and Berrian would be OK until Rice returned. I might have been totally wrong. And if Shiancoe is the only receiving threat – he was Thursday, at least – and the Saints figured out a way to shut him down in the second half, it’s not far-fetched to think other teams will do the same.
P. Thomas had a big second half for New Orleans (AP).
You also have to wonder about Brett Favre. Not just that he might be too old (finally), but that his decision to miss most of training camp cost his team dearly. As Camarillo said after the game, the offense had no chemistry. A couple extra weeks of practicing together might have helped solve that.

3. The Saints ran the ball just three times in the first half, but the coaching staff switched gears in the second half and made a point of giving the ball to Pierre Thomas. He rushed 19 times for 71 yards, and he helped New Orleans eat up huge chunks of time in the fourth quarter to keep the Vikings at bay. The big run came with 1:59 to go when, on a second and six, Thomas broke a Ben Leber tackle (which would have stopped him behind the first-down marker) and made the first down to seal Minnesota’s fate.

Of course, much of the credit must go to New Orleans interior linemen. Guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks were outstanding against one of the best defensive lines in the NFL.

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Posted on: September 7, 2010 9:08 pm

Goodell assures NFL alumni it'll all be OK

George Martin has received assurances from Roger Goodell that the NFL alumni would continue to be taken care of if there is a lockout (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

With all the offseason talk about the looming expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and the possibility (probability) of a lockout – thank the heavens we can stop talking about that for a while, by the way – it begs this question: what happens to all the retired NFL players?

What happens to their benefits and their money and their medicine? Does that go poof as well when the CBA expires?

According to George Martin, executive director and president of the NFL Alumni Association, commissioner Roger Goodell assured him nothing would change in the event of a lockout.

Martin, writing a letter to the NFL alumni, said that Goodell assured him of the following: 1) no matter the status of the CBA, all NFL clubs would continue making their required contributions to the pension plans and would continue to pay all pension benefits; 2) all teams would continue to fund the disability plans and would continue to process new applications; 3) retired players would continue to receive post-career medical benefits as laid out in the CBA, even if the CBA has expired; 4) the clubs would continue to support the Player Care Foundation for those in need of assisted living and help with their medical problems.

That’s all well and good. But Martin said he isn’t done trying to get more benefits for those who used to play in the NFL.

“It is not enough simply to preserve the benefits we have today,” he wrote. “All of us know that there are many retired players who need additional help, and that many retired players have pension and other benefits below where they should be.  I intend to devote myself to pressing both sides in the negotiations to make the needs of retired players a high priority, and to ensure that those who built the game will share in its future prosperity.”

To read the full text of the letter, click here.

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Posted on: August 6, 2010 9:22 pm

How the NFL is fighting public opinion battle

Posted by Andy Benoit

The NFL’s strategy on the 18-game regular season debate is clear: pretend the fans are on the same side as the league. The NFL is trumpeting what it calls the “enhanced season” despite repeated cries from players saying 18 games will take too great a toll on their bodies.

Roger Goodell was recently a guest on the Dan Patrick Show (hosted by Mike Florio) and played up the fans angle by criticizing the preseason:

"The fans have made it incredibly clear that they don't like preseason games. So the idea of staying within the 20-game format and taking two preseason games and converting them to regular season games has a lot of appeal. But you have to do it in a comprehensive fashion that is going to ensure that the game stays safe for our players, and that we maintain the kind of quality or improve on the quality that we're doing."

Maintaining quality by adding quantity is always difficult – especially when it comes to professional sports. At some point, the folks at Gallup should take a poll and find out if NFL fans really do want a longer regular season. What the NFL isn’t acknowledging is that an 18-game schedule makes each regular season contest less meaningful.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: August 4, 2010 4:00 pm
Edited on: August 4, 2010 4:04 pm

Goodell sounds impressed with Roethlisberger

Commissioner Roger Goodell made a stop in Baltimore's training camp today, talking to reporters (including Rapid Reporter Jon Gallo ), and he said Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is “doing what he’s been asked to do and, frankly, more.” Roger Goodell speaks with CB D. Foxworth at Baltimore camp on Wednesday (AP).

It’s sounding more and more like Roethlisberger’s six-game suspension could be chopped to a four-game suspension.

“I think he understands the seriousness of this and the fact that he has to change the way he’s doing things,” Goodell said. “So, I’m encouraged by that.”

Goodell touched on a few other issues as well. Here are a few of his comments:

Reaction to Brett Favre:
“Well, Brett Favre is great for our game, and I think the passion he has for the game is extraordinary. I think we all would love to see him play, but we want him to do what’s best for him at the end of the day. And we haven’t heard from Brett, so we’re all reacting to media reports. So, I think I’d wait and hear what Brett has to say.”

On his level of optimism regarding the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks and where things stand right now:
“We have to get to work. We have to get something resolved, and it’s going to take an intensive amount of work. And I know the clubs are committed to working day and night to get that done, and I believe the NFLPA is also [working hard], and we’ve got to get that done.”  

On his thoughts of the rookie salary cap and the record contracts that were signed this year:
“I’ve been on the record with this for several years: I think the system is broken, and we’ve got to fix it. It’s one of the issues we have to address in the Collective Bargaining [Agreement].”

UPDATE (4:02 p.m.): The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes that Roethlisberger could meet with Goodell on Thursday at Steelers training camp.

--Josh Katzowitz

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Posted on: July 29, 2010 12:35 pm

Five questions (or more) with Mike Brown

Bengals owner Mike Brown is an elusive interview. For the most part, he does one Bengals on-the-record session per year. It occurs at the Bengals media preseason luncheon, and it’s there that reporters gather to ask all the questions they’ve saved up for the year. This season, we had plenty of fodder to discuss: Terrell Owens (this was before Owens actually signed), the potential for a lockout, and a possible Marvin Lewis contract extension.

The following is part of the exchange that reporters, including CBSSports.com, had with Brown.

1. Reporters: What are you most excited about coming into the season?

Mike Brown: I thought last year we had a successful season. We just didn’t end on the note we wanted to end on. And that rankles. We’ve proved we have a good team. If we’re healthy, we’re a team that can play with anyone. We have ambitions to have that one golden year. This year, more than most in recent times, I think we have a better shot at it.

2. Reporters (after talking with Brown about why he likes Owens so much): Are you one of those guys who always sees the good in people? You saw good in other people that maybe other people didn’t.

MB: I don’t profess to do anything but judge people the way I see them. I’m not going to defend that. I have the right to do it, and I choose to do it. Do I see good in people? I think most people have good in them. I don’t think there are many that don’t. Our job is to get that out of them.

3. Reporters: How are things progressing with Marvin? Do you guys hope to have an extension by the end of the season?

MB: The deal with Marvin is an internal matter. We’ve had discussions. He knows I hold him in the highest regard. I’m not going to get in a public conversation about that. He’s done an excellent job here. When we have something to say about it, I’ll be pleased to do it. That isn’t now.

4. CBSSports.com: With the CBA coming to an end, where do you see that going? The probability of a lockout, do you see that happening?

MB: Things will be unsettled for the league once (the CBA expires). I just think we have to be patient. Both sides want the same thing. They want an agreement. I think there will be an agreement. But those are hands other than mine. I have to be just like you – sit and watch and wait.

Reporters: In what ways has the potential for a work stoppage affected the way you do business?

MB: We’re aware there’s a threat. We have tailored certain things to meet that possibility. In my heart of hearts, I just think we’re going to be out there playing. I will believe it when I see if we aren’t.

5. Reporters: Is there any need for a first-round draft pick to have an agent? A lawyer, yes. An accountant, maybe.

MB: In my position, I don’t know why we pay two or three percent – whatever it is – to somebody who tells players it’s ok to sign. That never made a lot of sense to me. I’ve been in this business when there were no agents. I’ve been in this business where there have been different systems. The people who are skeptical may doubt it, but I can tell you my honest belief is, no matter if there are agents or not, we paid out as much as we could afford to the players.

--Josh Katzowitz

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Posted on: July 22, 2010 6:04 pm

A step closer to an NFL HGH test?

Following the path set by the Canadian Football League (OK, maybe not), Major League Baseball today implemented random blood testing for its minor leagues that will test for human growth hormone .

"The implementation of blood testing in the minor leagues represents a significant step in the detection of the illegal use of human growth hormone," commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "HGH testing provides an example for all of our drug policies in the future."

The deal only applies to minor leaguers, because they’re not members of the players association and they don’t have a collective bargaining agreement.

First, the CFL. Now minor league baseball. One would think major league baseball will follow suit. How long will the NFL hold out?  You’d have to think this issue almost certainly will be raised during labor negotiations for the next NFL CBA.

--Josh Katzowitz

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Category: NFL
Tags: CBA, HGH
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com