Posted on: February 18, 2011 1:41 pm

NFL, NFLPA agree ... on something

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

We’ve got progress on the labor negotiations front! Repeat, we’ve got progress on the labor negotiations front!

Except (sigh) it’s probably not exactly the kind of progress for which we’re looking.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello tweeted the following after the two sides met today in Washington for the start of seven scheduled consecutive days of bargaining.

JOINT NFL-NFLPA STATEMENT: George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, has requested, and both sides have agreed, that the NFL Players Association and the NFL refrain from making any public comments about any aspect of the mediation process. The process began today under the direction of Mr. Cohen.

In response, my colleague Will Brinson, released his own statement: "We request that the NFL and NFLPA quit issuing statements and tweeting until they get their shizzle fixed."

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 17, 2011 6:47 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 6:49 pm

Report: NFL, NFLPA to meet for 7 straight days

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

It’s been a hopeful day for the optimistic fans who are praying the NFL and the NFLPA avoid a lockout by coming to an agreement on a new CBA.

First, the two sides have agreed to mediation, so an impartial third party can help the owners and the union solve their problems.

Second, Pro Football Talk, citing a league source, is reporting the two sides have agreed to seven-straight days of CBA negotiations beginning Friday.

While it still appears likely that the March 3 deadline will come and go without a new deal in place – especially if the owners decide to walk out of schedule negotiations, like they did last time – this certainly is a positive step.

Perhaps, after a full week of bargaining, they’ll come to an agreement simply because they’ll be so tired of looking at each other. I'm sure the fans wouldn't mind that at all.

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Category: NFL
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 17, 2011 3:30 pm

NFLPA reportedly alerted of health care setup

Posted by Will Brinson

Healthcare's been a dominating theme for NFL players leading up to a potential lockout. It doesn't get mentioned too much as a concern for fans, but clearly, players are worried about their healthcare being continued.

And it will be, via COBRA. The players were informed, according to Judy Battista of the New York Times, on the general state of healthcare and just how expensive things will be.

According to Battista, the players were told monthly COBRA for two adults and one child will cost $1,521.71. They were also told they can avoid a lapse in healthcare coverage by filling out the appropriate paperwork and paying their first monthly installment before March 3.

The players can also "elect level of coverage and for whom" and the monthly price tag will vary, depending on dental coverage and how many people are being covered under one plan.

That's actually not an unreasonable amount -- COBRA gets really expensive because it's typically coming from a group-based health plan, as opposed an individual going out and seeking their own plan via an agent. But it's still a chunk of money coming from players' pockets at a time when they seem unlikely to be earning any money for the foreseeable future.

And someone like Antonio Cromartie might be looking at this new plan and thinking that he's going to have trouble affording coverage for all his dependents, especially if he's a free agent.

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Posted on: February 16, 2011 7:49 pm

NFLPA wants to deal with NFL's sponsors

D. Brees could take advantage of an interesting NFLPA idea. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Maybe some of the NFL’s biggest – and most marketable – players won’t have to get part-time jobs if they’re locked out after all.

Fanhouse’s Dan Graziano pens an interesting piece about how the NFL Players Association is talking to corporate sponsors about individual contingency deals in which a player could sell his own rights to a national company.

Assuming the CBA expires March 3, Graziano writes, the current agreement between sponsors like Gatorade, Verizon and Pepsi to use players in national advertising campaigns would expire as well.

"If the NFL locks out the players, the sponsors get locked out of player rights," Keith Gordon, the president of NFL Players Inc., told Fanhouse. "We've been communicating with sponsors since the summer, and our primary objective is to shield them from being put in the middle between the NFL and the players. At this point, our primary objective is to avoid disruption to their business."

Apparently, the NFLPA approached the NFL about a year ago to talk about extending those corporate sponsors agreements despite the expiring CBA, but the NFL wasn’t interested.

So, the NFLPA, according to Graziano, “has proposed contingency agreements that would allow those sponsors to continue to use players in their ads the way they already do. ‘If they take advantage of a contingency agreement, their rights would be protected without interruption,’ Gordon said.

More from Fanhouse, simply because Graziano can explain this better than I can:

"We've had to do a fair amount of educating the sponsors with regard to the mechanics of how it all works as far as player rights and their having access to it," Gordon said. "Not all of them know the mechanics there, so they were surprised to find out that even though, for example, they may have an agreement that runs through 2014, their player rights actually expire in 2011. Some of the sponsors felt like, 'We already paid for that,' and we told them they had to take that up with the league."

The expiration of the current agreement would deprive companies that have sponsorship deals with the NFL from using more than five players in the aggregate in any national ad campaign. For example, if Verizon uses Drew Brees and Mark Sanchez in a national ad but then uses other NFL players in smaller, local newspaper ads, the total number of players used by Verizon can't exceed five without the NFLPA's approval. The contingency agreements, the union says, would allow those companies to continue to use the players as they currently do. The only difference is that those deals would be negotiated directly between the sponsors and the players.

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Category: NFL
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 10:25 pm

Report: NFL, NFLPA to meet on CBA next week

Posted by Will Brinson

The close of the first NFL-less Sunday featured a Tim Tebow lookalike and a brief appearance by Clay Matthews, but overall, it was pretty depressing. News on the CBA front wasn't great and there's a growing possibility that players could boycott the Combine.

So here's a nice piece of news: the NFL and NFLPA are reportedly going to get back to the table in the coming week (though, sadly, it doesn't look like a deal can get done by Valentine's Day).

That's according to ESPN, who reports that "dialogue has continued" between the two sides even though they walked away from the bargaining table after what amounts to an ill-timed miscommunication. (The NFLPA reportedly mislabeled something as a "proposal" even though it wasn't an "official proposal" and the NFL walked away; there's blame to hand out for that on both sides, but don't bring something called a "proposal" to a negotiating session if it's not, you know, a "proposal.")

That continued dialogue has led to what is a reported meeting some time in the coming week -- a source from the players' side first provided that information and "a management source" didn't refute it.

But meetings aside, there's still a growing sense of negativity towards the talks; it appears that the leaking of information from DeMaurice Smith to the entirety of the NFL's on-field workforce (and subsequently, the media), didn't go over well. But neither did the NFL's decision to throw out a full-on low ball with their rookie wage scale offer.

So there's reason to be terrified about the 2011 season, for sure. But if the two sides can go ahead and get back to the table to talk as soon as this week, that's at least better than an ongoing public feud leading up to the lockout.

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