Posted on: February 25, 2011 12:48 pm

De Smith honors media blackout in agent meeting

Posted by Mike Freeman

INDIANAPOLIS -- Union head DeMaurice Smith briefed agents on Friday about the ongoing labor talks. An agent in the room told CBSSports.com that Smith said some progress was made but Smith declined to speak with agents specifically about the mediation talks with the league.

The agent stated Smith declined many questions from agents about the mediation discussions. In fact, the agent said, Smith started the meeting with the specific ground rules he wouldn't talk about the mediation. (First rule of Fight Club: you don't talk about Fight Club.)

It's actually smart of Smith not to discuss the mediation talks. The minute he does with agents, it would get out to the media.

Smith instead spent much of the meeting with agents discussing contingencies if there is indeed a lockout. Agents were told to instruct players to save money and get private health insurance two measures most players have long since done (or tried to do).

Bottom line: a lockout is coming barring a last second miracle. The union knows it. The league knows it. Nothing happened in this meeting changes that belief.

This 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: February 24, 2011 11:04 pm

So, the NFL did have lockout insurance after all?

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When the NFLPA asked Special Master Stephen Burbank to stop the NFL owners' ability to collect money from the TV networks even if regular-season games are lost in 2011 because of a lockout, he declined to do so.

With the ability for the NFL to continue to earn the $4 billion the networks would pay them, the union termed the deal as “lockout insurance,” though the owners denied that was the case.

But as the Sports Business Journal writes, the first document of that case has been unsealed. And though the brief is partially redacted, it does include testimony from commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Network president and CEO Steve Bornstein who admit “that the lockout insurance was a critical element in renewing the broadcast deals.”

SBJ writer Daniel Kaplan explains:

The brief also includes a picture of a slide the league showed owners at a March '09 meeting describing efforts to renew the TV deals. The slide said, “Current structure of broadcast contracts prevent NFL from collecting payments if work stoppage in 2011.” That would seem to undercut the league’s argument that work stoppage provisions are common in all media contracts.

The union, citing Bornstein’s special master trial testimony, wrote in the brief, “In truth, the NFL knew that its new lockout provisions were ‘materially different’ than those in prior contracts,” The unions’ core contention is that the league undersold the contracts in order to secure the lockout insurance. Under terms of the CBA, the league has a duty to maximize revenue.

The reason Burbank ruled against the union: his opinion was that it made sense for the league because “having funds for a lockout was a necessary tradeoff for less media dollars.”

But yeah, it seems pretty clear now. The NFL owners made sure they had lockout insurance, and even if they continue to deny it, their case in this matter is much flimsier than before.

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Posted on: February 24, 2011 12:17 pm

CBA mediation adjourned, 'some progress was made'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA vowed to meet in Washington, D.C. and mediate their differences for seven days. They've done just that and have now adjourned from the final day of negotiations with plans to resume the talks on Tuesday.

"Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance," Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen said in a statement. "I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions."

Cohen added that "some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties."

Which is to say, all the problems involving the labor talks and impending lockout weren't solved.

But we knew that would happen -- and it confirms the report from CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman earlier Thursday that a lockout is still looming in full force.

Cohen's asked the two parties to "assess their current position on those outstanding issues" over the weekend in order to properly revisit them when the mediation resumes next week.

That probably won't be too difficult, as both sides are completely aware of where they stand with respect to the biggest issues.

Realizing where they stand isn't the hard part -- it's finding a middle ground. And while both parties are obviously at least attempting to find a method for that, there's not too much hope that can be gleaned from the first run at mediation.

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Posted on: February 23, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 2:45 pm

Hot Routes 2.23.11: Woodson to safety for Nnamdi?

Posted by Will Brinson

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • The NFL has agreed to unseal some documents in the media fees case after the NFLPA requested it. They didn't unseal all of the documents requested by the NFLPA, however. That's cool, though, because, you know, negotiations are about compromise. AHEM.
  • The Packers are raising ticket prices by $2-$4 per game next year, though it's not supposed to mess with their sellout streak. They are the defending world champs after all.
  • The Steelers might consider using their transition tag on Ike Taylor, who would probably fetch a pretty penny on the open market. And who's departure would be not good for a Steelers' secondary that struggled a lot last year.
  • Not NFL-related, but I wish that someone would make more sandwiches for football players. I love sports-related sandwiches. This Carmelo Anthony one just makes no sense, unless it's symbolizing the level of annoyance with 'Melo by the time he was finally traded.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 11:59 am

NFL calls for Thursday meeting of GMs, coaches

Posted by Will Brinson

A Thursday meeting of agents and the NFLPA was recently cancelled because of mediation talks in Washington, D.C., but that didn't stop the NFL from calling a meeting of general managers and coaches for Thursday in Indianapolis.

Presumably, the NFL wants to sit down with high-ranking members of its various teams and discuss precisely what's going on with the league as the deadline for a new CBA nears.

And, according to what NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told Albert Breer of the NFL Network, there's "nothing special" about this little powwow.

"It happens every year," Aiello said. "It's a normal part of the Combine, which always has meetings galore. It's not the first time. It's not a special meeting. An update on labor negotiations would be appropriate."

Per Adam Schefter of ESPN, the NFL will also detail to those in attendance what sort of activities will be allowed during a locked-out offseason, and what kind of contact will be allowed between agents and teams during that time as well.

And these are things that teams need to know, regardless of whether the NFL and NFLPA are making progress in their seven-day mediation or not. The question as to why the NFLPA cancelled its Thursday meeting can best be answered by a series of tweets from spokesman George Atallah Tuesday, when he mentioned that the "tiny minority of agents who click "FWD" on an email to the media faster than [Chris Johnson] can run the 40 is not helpful." In other words, the NFLPA didn't want to meet with a slew of agents on Thursday and have some news of the meeting -- which would likely include details of the mediation process -- leak to the media.

It's much less likely that a hand-picked group of coaches and GMs would let spill to the various members of the press the happenings of that meeting (they have much less to gain by doing so), and the NFL's got a clear-cut opportunity to sit down with folks that need to know the information in the form of the Combine. So, nothing to see here. Yet.

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Posted on: February 22, 2011 11:25 am

Labor negotiations see some changes on Day 5

Posted by Andy Benoit

Another day, another mediated labor negotiating session for the NFL. It’s now Day 5 in these sessions. Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal says he’s told ownership will be represented for the first time in these past five days. Thus far, only the NFLPA and NFL execs have been at the tables.

The ownership side does not mean the owners themselves. Albert Breer of NFL Network pointed out that Redskins front office exec Bruce Allen, for example, was seen walking through the door. Kaplan says no owners will be in the room.

What this all means is difficult to say. Some interpret the ownership side entering the discussion as “progress”. But others could say, Wait, we’re on Day Five and the owners themselves still aren’t in the room!? It’s possible the big issues – such as that $1 billion they’re quibbling over – still haven’t been broached.

Thus far the two sides have been good about keeping their discussions under wraps (though NFLPA PR rep George Atallah did do a live Ustream Q and A yesterday). That makes for better negotiating for the players and owners, but cloudier reporting for the media and fans.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 20, 2011 8:14 pm

Labor negotiations, Day III

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

The third day of labor negotiations between the NFL owners and the NFLPA came and went today, and still, nobody talked afterward.

But as NFL.com’s Albert Breer, who’s been braving cold weather and boredom while covering the behind-doors negotiations, points out, the two sides met for a combined 20 hours these past three days with the two sides planning to continue talks Monday as well.

Today, the two sides met for eight hours, the longest since they started on their seven-day stretch of bargaining.

Still, as per the request made by special mediator George Cohen, neither side is commenting.

"You know we're not going to give you any information," NFL outside lawyer Bob Batterman said, via the Associated Press. "I can't say anything, other than the fact that we are meeting."

Said Jets FB Tony Richardson: "Conversation is good.”

So, can we surmise anything from this? Other than the consensus that the fact the owners and the union are STILL meeting is a great sign, there’s no telling what’s going on inside the meetings.

But if you want to be cautiously optimistic, I doubt anybody will stop you.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 18, 2011 8:01 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2011 8:02 pm

NFL, NFLPA full of 'no comments' after mediation

Posted by Will Brinson

The first full day of mediation between the NFL and the NFLPA has ended, and true to their earlier claim, there wasn't any talking about what went on with behind close doors.

Via Albert Breer of the NFL Network -- who, bless him, loitered his tail off in the nation's capitol waiting for the two sides to end Friday's session -- neither side had much to say following the session on Friday. To wit:

Pete Kendall of the NFLPA: "We're not gonna get into it."

Charlie Batch, NFLPA rep: "Can't say anything."

Richard Berthlesen of the NFLPA: "Can't comment on it."

DeMaurice Smith also "declined comment on his way out" while Roger Goodell and the NFL officials "slipped out the back door."

So, yeah, mum's the word after the first day of mediation, and that's probably a good thing. Eventually, some info will probably slip out vis-a-vis anonymous sources (though with both sides ordered not to say anything, there's a lot less likely to be a chance of "leaked" info), but it's probably safe to say that Friday wasn't precisely full of heavy negotiating.

Everyone involved in the mediation knows there's a long way to go before anything gets remotely solved, but the simple fact that no one's enraged by any early face-to-face action and/or proposals through one day of this process is at least a positive sign.

That won't solve the CBA crisis right away, but it's at least reason for some cautious optimism.

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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