Tag:Roger Goodell
Posted on: March 2, 2011 10:13 am
Edited on: March 2, 2011 2:39 pm

NFL/NFLPA exec committees in mediation Wednesday

Posted by Will Brinson

Wednesday's mediation session between the NFL and NFLPA has a different tone, just based on attendance -- the entire 10-man owner executive committee, including lead negotiators Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Pat Bowlen of the Broncos, is in Washington.

Art Rooney of the Steelers, John Mara of the Giants, Jerry Jones of the Cowboys, Dean Spanos of the Chargers, Mike Brown from the Bengals, Robert Kraft from the Patriots and Mark Murphy, Packers CEO, are the additional members of the executive committee.

Also in Washington are players like Kevin Mawae, Drew Brees and Tony Richardson. All of that's to say that there's a significantly greater number of movers and shakers in D.C. for the next-to-last day of mediation.

Per usual, though, that doesn't necessarily mean much for those seeking optimistic news out of the mediated talks.

Per Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal, Jeff Pash, the VP of Labor for the NFL, told the media it was possible for the two sides to "stop the clock" on the expiring CBA and elect to extend the deadline for negotiations.

Pash also reiterated the league's statement that Tuesday's decision from Judge Doty doesn't affect their plans for spending at all (even though that's fairly difficult to believe, if only because $4 billion is a lot of money and taking it in or out of a budget typically makes a difference for anyone.)

But the end source for optimism for anyone rooting for no lockout is an extension of the CBA past the 11:59 deadline on Thursday night. And even that seems like too much to hope for right now.

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 2:44 pm

NFL, NFLPA resume mediations in Washington

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL and NFLPA resumed mediation in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday and this time around, there were a few more parties present.

Giants co-owner John Mara accompanied Roger Goodell's entourage into the session along with Falcons president Rich McKay (who's also the new head of the Competition Committee) and Redskins GM Bruce Allen.

Another difference: someone was willing to talk to the media! In this case, the NFL's lead negotiator and VP of labor, Jeff Pash.

"I don't think you could have a greater sense of urgency," said Jeff Pash, the league's lead labor negotiator. "We all know what the calendar is, and we all know what's at stake for everybody. And that's why we're here. We're going to be here as long as it takes and work as hard as we can work to get something done."

Whether something can get done remains to be seen -- there's not a tremendous sense of optimism surrounding the negotiations, particularly after the NFLPA's reported decision to decertify before the owners can lock the players out once the March 4 deadline for a new CBA occurs.

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Posted on: February 28, 2011 1:50 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 3:47 pm

Greensboro docs research handheld concussion test

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL announced a new concussion protocol procedure for teams on Friday in Indianapolis. But the answer to one of the league's most significant problems might actually be residing in Greensboro, North Carolina.

It's there, nearly 600 miles away from where the next batch of players is showing off their skills at the combine, that development to diagnose concussions with a handheld test is getting underway.

You can't actually diagnose a concussion, or traumatic brain injury, without knowing what happened inside the body. And this is important because it relates to the NFL's recent announcement of moving to a standardized examination. A positive step, but it's not going to allow medical staffs to make 100 percent accurate diagnostics.

That's where the Join School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, a collaborative effort between the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University, comes in.

"There are no diagnostic tools to accurately measure the neurological changes [following a concussion]," Shyam Aravamudhan, a JSNN professor, told CBSSports.com when we visited the facility earlier this year. "Molecular changes are where symptoms can be accurately diagnosed."

And the NFL's decision to use a universal baseline test will certainly aid in that area, but, again, not to the degree of certainty with which a molecular test would.

The process by which blood-based diagnosis occurs is fascinating. The brain contains a series of barriers that prevent entry by various molecular components to portions of the gray matter that help us function each day. Those barriers can be broken when an individual suffers a concussion, and as a result of the barriers breaking, markers are released into the blood stream. And when an individual is tested in the manner using the JSNN device, a positive test for markers indicates a case of traumatic brain injury.

A reasonable example of comparison is someone who gets busted for a DUI. Ever have a friend who almost never, ever acts drunk regardless of how much alcohol he's consumed? That person could get behind the wheel of a car after drinking 12 beers in the span of 4 hours and appear sober.

That has nothing to do with how much alcohol is in his bloodstream, it's merely a symptom of his body's different chemical makeup and how it processes alcohol. So everyone involved -- particularly the cop -- is surprised when he blows a .22 despite passing all the field-sobriety tests.

Want an on-the-field example? Remember the monster shot Austin Collie took against the Eagles when Asante Samuel launched him into inadvertent helmet-to-helmet contact with Kurt Coleman? Well, Collie didn't play for a few weeks because of the hit and finally returned to the field in Week 12, only to show "concussion symptoms" within the first few plays.

In other words he appeared completely fine to the critical eye, at least leading up to the game. An objective test of Collie's blood probably would have indicated these "concussion markers" from TBI were present and kept him off the field entirely.

Traumatic brain injury sounds much worse than "concussion." But it's important to note that according to the JSNN's staff between 75 and 90 percent of the 1.9 million annual diagnosed cases of TBI (per the Center for Disease Control's research, .PDF) are "mild."

"Mild" doesn't mean "safe" by any stretch of the imagination, and it's in this category where most sports concussions fall. But the most terrifying thing about these "mild" injuries is that as the frequency with which they occur increases, so does the long-term damage.

"Military and sports personnel are high-risk individuals," Kristine Lundgren, associate professor at UNCG's School of Health and Human Performance said. "With a second incident of TBI, the severity is even worse."

There are countless cases, according to the JSNN, of soldiers being incorrectly diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder when they've actually suffered a number of concussions. The symptoms -- from depression to delirium -- are similar but the treatment and, most importantly, prevention, are completely different.

"Why would you let the fact that the individual is conscious overrule what you find?" said Dr. Vince Henrich, director of biotechnology, genomics and health resources at UNCG. "There's a confusion about consciousness -- [when someone's awake] it's too easy to conclude that everything's okay."

And individual brains are, unsurprisingly, quite different from person to person, making a diagnosis even more difficult.

"You have to know the player, you have to know what they were like before," Lundgren said. "It's a really tough thing to do."

What we do know is concussions are this generation's -- for NFL players and beyond -- "signature injury." That's why funding for this type of research is so critical. The JSNN staff estimated that the work needed for an in-the-field concussion test that can determine TBI based on molecular levels could be completed in "about four years." In-the-field being something military and sports professionals could bring to their respective worlds.

But they also said, "depending on funding," it could be completed much faster. Dean Jim Ryan classified the UNC Greensboro's work on TBI as "one of the most immediately understood goals."

That's not an endorsement for any sort of investment, but it's obvious that current standards for measuring TBI in the NFL don't precisely meet the needs of an increasingly dangerous sport.

And yes there are also obvious issues aside from money. Players might have serious issues using bodily fluids for tests like this if the NFL controlled it.

But when you see someone like Dave Duerson -- an NFL legend dedicated to helping improve medical assistance for former players -- scrawl words about using his brain for science on his suicide note , it's hard not to think there's more that can be done immediately to improve the quality of life for not just current players but the kids who will eventually make their way onto NFL fields.

"TBI is more dangerous to a young brain," Lundgren said. "The brain is still developing and therefore at more risk."

Because concussions aren't exactly selective everyone on the football field's at risk until science figures out a way to really get a handle on what's going on inside our heads.

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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 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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Posted on: February 17, 2011 3:43 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 7:18 pm

NFL, NFLPA agree to mediation Friday (UPDATED)

Posted by Will Brinson

A new possibility for solving the current labor dispute cropped up Thursday: mediation.

According to a release from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to meet Friday in Washington, D.C. in a session mediated by FMCS director George H. Cohen.

"I have had separate, informal discussions with the key representatives of the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association during the course of their negotiations for a successor collective bargaining agreement," Cohen said in a written statement. "At the invitation of the FMCS, and with the agreement of both parties, the ongoing negotiations will now be conducted under my auspices in Washington, D.C., commencing Friday, February 18.

"Due to the extreme sensitivity of these negotiations and consistent with the FMCS's long-standing practice, the Agency will refrain from any public comment concerning the future schedule and/or the status of those negotiations until further notice."

Going to mediation doesn't mean the two sides will get a deal done by the March 3 lockout deadline, but it's a positive step -- mediation will allow the two sides to establish actual baselines for their negotiations and reasonable expectations moving forward, all while -- hopefully -- keeping emotions out of play.

It's important to remember, though, that mediation isn't like being in a court of law. There's no binding decision from a mediator that will actually solve the CBA. Instead, the mediator works to bring the two sides involved into some harmony with respect to their differences.

"The NFLPA has always focused on a fair collective bargaining agreement through negotiations. We hope that this renewed effort, through mediation, will help the players and owners reach a successful deal," the NFLPA said in a statement Thursday.

UPDATED (7:09 p.m.): Here's some reaction from the NFLPA and the NFL on this story, as collected by the Associated Press.

"Any time that both sides of negotiations can get together, whether through conventional means of bargaining or mediation, to come to an agreement that can benefit all parties, it is a good thing," NFLPA president Kevin Mawae said.

Wrote Vikings T Bryant McKinne on his Twitter page, "NFL and NFLPA agreeing to meet with a federal mediator is a real positive step. Let's see if he can get them to make actual progress."

And while Colts owner Jim Irsay still isn't convinced the impasse can be broken by March 3, he realizes today's news is a (somewhat) positive development.

"I don't have a strong anticipation something will get done before (March 3), but I think it's possible," he said.

Perhaps it's an even bigger possibility tonight after reading the report that the union and the owners will begin seven consecutive days of barganing beginning Friday.

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