Posted on: February 13, 2011 11:22 am
Edited on: February 13, 2011 12:27 pm

Richardson insulted Manning, Brees in CBA talks?

Posted by Will Brinson

Last week, negotiations between the NFL owners and the NFLPA fell apart. The primary reason for that was -- we believe -- a tremendous gap in the wants and needs of the two sides.

There's also, apparently, a little vitriol between the groups. That's not shocking. But Jay Feely's mention -- on the Michael Kay Show via Pro Football Talk -- of the way Panthers owner Jerry Richardson reportedly spoke to NFL icons Peyton Manning and Drew Brees during a Dallas negotiating session is terrifying for anyone who thinks a peaceful ending to labor talks is coming soon.

"Jerry Richardson, the lead negotiator for the owners, he's going to criticize Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and their intelligence in our meeting Saturday?" Feely said. "And sit there and say dismissively of Manning 'Do I need to help you read a revenue chart, son? Do I need to help break that down for you because I don't know if you understand how to read that?'"

If that sort of thing was said, verbatim, to Manning at a meeting, it's an absolutely terrifying prospect, because it means that there's far less forced pleasantry occurring between the two sides than anyone could have possibly thought.

And Manning may be a Southern-looking fella with a bit of a drawl, but goodness gracious do you have to be the most crotchety old man on the planet to think he's not intelligent. And Drew Brees, well, what on Earth would make anyone think he can't fathom a revenue chart?

Then again, when Richardson addressed the media following Carolina's disastrous 2010 season, he behaved much in the same way. He embarrassed several reporters with smart-alecky comments and at one point he drew a revenue "chart" on a piece of paper and holding it up to the assembled media. (Note that it was really just a terribly-drawn, one-dimensional pie chart.)

Feely also pointed out that there was no "kinda" walking out by the owners during the bargaining session last week.

"It's not true that they 'kinda' walked out," Feely said. "They did walk out."

"Logical minds can sit there and come up with a deal, but once you bring up emotion, then you get in the way of logic," Feely said.

The silver lining to come out of all of this is that there's no football being played right now -- it's a sad first Sunday without it in quite some time -- and that means these issues are at the forefront of public discussion, instead of being buried behind box scores.

That's still less fun than watching football, but it at least means there's a focus on trying to move the labor discussion, however unpleasant it may be, forward.

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Posted on: February 12, 2011 11:04 pm

The rookie wage scale issue

Posted by Andy Benoit

The rookie wage scale is one of the hot issues in the current Collective Bargaining negotiations. All commonsensical observers agree that it’s ridiculous for unproven rookies to warrant gargantuan contracts (the JaMarcus Russell era confirmed this once and for all). The question is what to do about it.

As Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal points out, a concern the NFLPA has about the league’s proposed rookie wage scale is that if the scale applies to fourth and fifth-year players, middle-of-career veterans could get forced out of the league on the basis of being too expensive (why hire a vet when you can get a rookie for cheap).

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has a brilliant idea (so brilliant that it warrants its own post):

We propose two-year contracts for all draft picks.  After two years, the players become exclusive-rights free agents, which is essentially what they are upon being drafted.

Then, after completing the initial two-year contract, the player can threaten to withhold services as leverage for getting the best possible deal, which is precisely the leverage that unsigned draft picks possess.  Or he can sign a one-year tender that would be based on playing time and possibly other factors, such as Pro Bowls and other achievements and awards.  Or the two sides can come together and agree to a long-term deal based not only on potential but also on two years of performance.

If a player not picked in the top 10 plays at a high level, like Titans running back Chris Johnson did during his first two years in the NFL, he can cash in like he would have done if he’d been a top pick.  If a player picked in the top 10 becomes a bust, like Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the team can give him a one-year tender offer based on the factors that will reflect his substandard performance, or the team can let him walk away.

After the third year, the player would be subject to the rules of restricted free agency, like every current third-year player whose contract has expired.  After four years, the player would be an unrestricted free agent, assuming that the next labor deal maintains a four-year path to unrestricted free agency.

This idea would appease the teams while also yielding the same key rights to players: a crack at unrestricted free agency after four years.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 10, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2011 5:01 pm

What caused the NFL and NFLPA to walk out?

Posted by Will Brinson

Great question -- and no one can know the answer until either Roger Goodell/Greg Aiello or DeMaurice Smith/George Atallah let the world know, which they probably won't, because it would be disastrous for negotiations.

However, there are several reports out there that indicate various proposals were made to the NFL by the NFLPA, and those caused a breakdown in talks.

First up, the NFPA, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, offered to split of "all revenue" 50/50 with the league. (Important to note here is that there's a difference in what's recognized as "all revenue" and "total revenue" -- it's like "gross" versus "net" and net/total is achieved, right now, by the owners taking a $1 billion credit off the top.)

Reportedly, the union told the owners they'd stop asking to look inside the owners' financial books if the owners agreed to simply split "all revenue," which would mean no more $1 billion credit off the top, and certainly no $2 billion credit that the owners are seeking under a new CBA.

Needless to say, this could be perceived as a very good reason why negotiations broke down.

But there were also, according to Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post, significant discrepancies in other areas. Namely, the rookie wage scale and length of rookie contracts.

Brandt reports that the proposal on the rookie from the NFLPA limited rookie contracts to four years for players drafted in rounds 1-3, three years for rounds 4-7 and had a cap on incentives and savings to veterans. He also notes this was formally rejected by the NFL this week, as the league wants a wage scale, no negotiations, five-year contracts for players taken in the first round and four-year contracts for those taken in every other round.

Making matters worse, per Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal, is the union's interpretation of the rookie wage scale proposed by ownership -- according to Mullen, a memo from DeMaurice Smith called the proposal a "veteran wage scale" because it affects "60 percent" of NFL players in the league with its length.

Mark Maske of the Washington Post obtained a copy of that memo -- in it, Smith tells players that "what is new [in the NFL's proposal] mostly makes the proposal worse not only for rookies but for veteran players with three to five years in the league -- the core of our membership."

The memo also refers to the wage scale as "rigid" and indicates it would "destroy the benefits of free agency for most veteran players." Maske notes that Smith's memo lays out the NFL's proposal for precise financial compensation, setting the rookie minimum salary at: $285,000 in 2011, $375,000 in 2012, $460,000 in 2013 and $545,000 in 2013.

To clarify the stark difference in what each side wants, here's a financial example: with the NFLPA proposal, the ninth-overall pick would receive $18 million over four years. Under the NFL proposal, the ninth-overall pick would receive $8.6 million over five years.

Labor negotiations are ridiculously complicated, but you don't have to be a math major to figure out just how far apart the two sides are right now. And the fact that the rookie wage scale won't be fully addressed until the division of the full "pie" (read: all and/or total revenue) is solved is further proof that there's plenty of labor discussion and hand-wringing over the NFL's situation ahead.

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Posted on: February 10, 2011 9:22 am
Edited on: February 10, 2011 9:43 am

Report: Thursday CBA meeting cancelled

Posted by Will Brinson

During the Super Bowl, the NFL and NFLPA scheduled some "intensive" meetings for this week. Now, Thursday's meeting -- the second of the week -- has reportedly been cancelled.

That's according to ESPN's Adam Schefter who reports that things went so poorly on Wednesday that the two sides decided not to meet again Thursday.

"We are not confirming, denying or commenting on CBA meetings at this point," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in response to the report. "We are focusing on getting an agreement."

As if that weren't damaging enough to the potential for actually seeing football in 2011, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that next week's ownership meeting has been cancelled as well.

The assumption of his source -- and it seems like a good one -- is that Roger Goodell has no need to meet with the owners as there won't have been any new developments in the CBA discussions thanks to the cancellation of the meetings.

"The commissioner canceled the meeting because he did not see a need for it right now," an NFL rep confirmed to Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal.

But why was Thursday's CBA session cancelled? Well, that's not exactly clear.

Theoretically, it could have been cancelled for good reasons -- too much progress? -- but when two sides walk away from the negotiating table, it's typically not good news.

And it seems more likely that the sides are far apart, and that whatever sense of urgency to negotiate that the week in Dallas brought on has since been discarded as they stare into the future and try to bridge a very long gap.

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Posted on: February 9, 2011 9:25 pm

Report: Thursday's bargaining session canceled

Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Late last week, we got word that the NFL and the NFLPA would hold two bargaining sessions this week (following another session last Saturday), and obviously, most of us felt that was a reason for optimism. Considering the March 3 finale of the current CBA is drawing nigh, the more bargaining sessions the better.

Which makes the report tonight from NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora rather disappointing. According to La Canfora, a second day of negotiations between both sides has been canceled.

The owners and the union met for an extended time today and then decided to bag Thursday’s session. As La Canfora points out, the cancelation isn’t necessarily unusual in labor negotiations like this. But still, it’s probably not a great result.

More from La Canfora:

In an interview with "Fox News Sunday" that aired the morning of Super Bowl XLV, Goodell called drug testing a key issue in labor talks. …

Outlining major sticking points, Goodell talked about revenue division, rookie salaries and benefits for retired players.

"We want to continue on with the integrity of the game, which is my No. 1 issue," Goodell said, adding the league wants to make sure "we have the best drug program in sports."

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 5, 2011 5:04 pm
Edited on: February 5, 2011 5:34 pm

NFLPA & NFL schedule more bargaining sessions

Posted by Will Brinson

DALLAS -- The NFL and NFLPA, in an effort to appease the fans of America's favorite game, agreed to hold "formal bargaining session" in Dallas on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.

The session took place at an undisclosed location and lasted for a little over two hours, at which point in time the NFL and NFLPA released their second joint statement in the last week.
The NFL and NFL Players Association met for two hours today in a continuing effort to narrow the differences and reach a fair agreement that will benefit the players, teams and fans. We plan to increase the number, length and intensity of bargaining sessions so that we can reach agreement before the March 4 expiration of the current CBA.
That's pretty vague, but perhaps vague's good? 

Clearly, it would be preferable to hear the two sides say that "things went really well, and we both made some concessions and there's going to be football in 2011."

But that wasn't happening. There were two hours of discussions and both sides didn't emerge from the room spitting angry rhetoric, so that's at least good news.

Better news will be if the two sides can continue to meet and hash out their differences; Rome wasn't built in a day and two sides this far apart won't come together any quicker, either.

As soon as the Super Bowl ends on Sunday, everyone who cares about professional football will shift their attention to how the labor issues are solved. The NFL and NFLPA need make sure they do the same thing.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 4, 2011 3:54 pm

NFLPA considering a Combine, Draft boycott

Posted by Andy Benoit

DALLAS -- NFLPA DeMaurice Smith grabbed the headlines with his Super Bowl press conference on Thursday. But it’s what he’s doing Friday that could be the more punishing move in the labor negotiations.

According to Jason La Canfora of NFL.com, Smith met with player agents Friday to discuss a possible boycott of the Scouting Combine and Draft festivities. A boycott of the festivities at Radio City Music Hall would be much more feasible than a boycott of the Combine.

An agent, obviously, would be concerned that a combine boycott could hurt their client’s stock. Some have reportedly said they’d be on board with the boycott if it was a consensus, but the chances of getting a consensus would presumably be minute.
But in the very least, the NFLPA is prepping to play hardball.

[More Super Bowl coverage]

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 3, 2011 5:56 pm

NFLPA has its turn on Super Bowl week

Posted by Andy Benoit
D. Smith (US Presswire)
DALLAS -- The Houston B-C room on the third floor of the Sheraton was not in compliance with fire code when DeMaurice Smith took the podium for the NFLPA press conference. Smith repeatedly preached the “Let us play!” stance to the throng of reporters, players, well-wishers and observers.

On stage with Smith were NFLPA leader Kevin Mawae, kicker Jay Feeley and the legendary Barry Sanders.

Smith’s tune was not any happier than NFL negotiator Jeff Pash’s was yesterday. Both sides are prepared for a lockout. Smith indicated that in that event the Union would be ready to decertify and go to court.

Regarding an 18-game schedule, Smith said, according to Pro Football Talk, “Any change in the season that increases the risk of injury, increases the risk of concussion, increases the risk of a long-term consequence of playing football, has the potential to shorten careers...anything that does that is not in the interests or the best interests of the players in the National Football League. That’s going to be our position.”

Smith and his colleagues spent much of the press conference emphasizing that fans would be hurt in the event of a work-stoppage. In other words, standard labor negotiating tactics…

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Category: NFL
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