Posted on: February 3, 2011 4:08 pm

NFLPA argues teams can't use franchise tag

Posted by Andy Benoit

There have been reports about players receiving the franchise tag in 2011 (Michael Vick, Haloti Ngata and DeAngelo Williams are all rumored to be in line for one).

But the NFLPA issued a memo to certified agents saying there is no franchise tag this year. Pro Football Talk obtained a copy:

“We have received reports that the NFL is advising clubs that they can place a franchise tag on players whose contracts will expire at the end of the 2010 league year.

The current CBA provides that ‘each club shall be permitted to designate one of its players who would otherwise be an Unrestricted Free Agent [or Restricted Free Agent] as a Franchise Player each season during the term of this Agreement.’ The 2011 season is not a ‘season during the term of this Agreement’ so the NFL has no valid basis for claiming the right to franchise players in 2011.

If you have had any discussions with clubs about their intent to use the Franchise designation for the 2011 season please contact the NFLPA to discuss this matter. Meanwhile, we will make sure that the rights of any players improperly designated will be protected.”

Interesting thing to squabble about. Guarantee this isn’t the last you’ll ever hear of this story.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: February 1, 2011 5:51 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2011 6:04 pm

NFL claims minor victory over union

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

After NFL special master Stephen Holder ruled today in favor of the NFL’s TV deals for 2011, the league was quick to claim victory.

“As we have said all along, a new CBA has to be hammered out at the negotiating table, not in the courtroom,” wrote NFL spokesman Greg Aiello on his Twitter page. “If union commits to invest as much time and resources in negotiations as it has in litigation, a new agreement could well be reached by 3/4. We understand the union intends to appeal Special Master’s decision, but we are confident his detailed ruling will be affirmed.”

The union, saying the fact the current TV deal calls for the networks to pay the owners whether or not there are games next year, amounts to lockout insurance.

Naturally, that would give the owners huge leverage in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, because, since they’re getting money regardless, they wouldn’t be nearly as desperate for a paycheck (though the league has said it would have to pay back the money to the networks, with interest, if games are missed). The NFLPA asked Holder to deny the owners those payments, a request he dismissed today.

But Holder also ruled, according to Sports Business Journal reporter Liz Mullen that Holder found violations of the agreement with respect to the league’s payment negotiations in its ESPN and NBC contracts.

Expect the NFLPA to appeal the ruling, although the union, in fact, was awarded damages today. Aiello quickly pointed out that the NFLPA sent twice as much on the case as it received in damages. Which isn’t really the point, but there you go.

Expect a statement from the NFLPA soon.

UPDATED (5:53 p.m.):
Here's the official NFLPA statement:

The Special Master, who is appointed by a federal judge, found violations of the Reggie White Settlement Agreement with respect to the NFL's negotiation of Lockout Insurance in its contracts with ESPN and NBC. Although the Special Master awarded damages, the players intend to file an immediate and expedited appeal before the federal court in Minnesota."And then

And then there's this tweet from George Atallah of the NFLPA: "NFL's reaction to the result of this network case is like a team popping champagne after a preseason game." Awesome.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: January 31, 2011 5:11 pm
Edited on: January 31, 2011 5:31 pm

NFL and NFLPA intensify negotiations in Dallas

Posted by Will Brinson

DALLAS -- The only thing more ominous than the weather in Dallas is the looming threat of an NFL lockout -- there's a little sliver of light on the horizon though, because the NFL and NFLPA announced on Monday afternoon their intention to ramp up negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith released a joint statement Monday after meeting in New York earlier in the day.

"As part of a process to intensify negotiations, they agreed to hold a formal bargaining session w\both negotiating teams Sat in Dallas," the statement from spokesman Greg Aiello read. "They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions & smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March."

The skeptic could ask: "What took so long?"

And while much of the discussion heretofore has been pointless public rhetoric aimed at swinging the PR pendulum in the favor of one side or the other, a private meeting between Goodell and Smith, followed by a joint statement means good things for fans of football.

Does it mean that a labor deal will be done by the Super Bowl? Um, no.

Does it mean that a labor deal will be done by the early March deadline? That's optimistic, but it's certainly a possibility.

The reality is, there's no precise timetable for when the labor deal will get done and things could still come down to the wire. But right now, that's beside the point, because the NFL and the NFLPA are doing the most important thing here by sitting down at the table and talking.

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Posted on: January 26, 2011 3:43 pm

DeMaurice Smith also willing to take a salary cut

Posted by Will Brinson

Earlier Wednesday, Roger Goodell sent a letter to NFL owners indicating that he (and a number of other NFL employees) would take a serious salary cut if there was a work stoppage.

DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association, has one-upped him.

"NFL executives reducing salaries in the event of a lockout? If we have a deal by Super Bowl, I'll go down to 68 cents," Smith tweeted Wednesday.

Of course, it's much, much more likely that there's no "work stoppage" (ah, vague rhetoric) than it is that there's a labor deal in place within the next 10 days.

So Smith's salary is pretty safe. But that probably wasn't his point -- what he likely was implying is that, in the big scheme of things, "salary cuts" are pointless PR manipulations designed to curry favor with the fans.

None of that will matter, of course, if there's no football for fans to watch in 2011.

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Posted on: January 25, 2011 12:09 am

NFLPA and owners supposed to meet this week

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Might we see a thaw in the labor relations between the NFLPA and the NFL owners this week? Could be, because, according to Pro Football Talk, union executive director DeMaurice Smith is set to meet with the league in the next few days.

The meeting is much-needed, because the relationship between owners and the union has grown rather nasty lately, especially through the Twitter pages on both sides.

But Steelers owner Dan Rooney made an interesting comment last weekend, saying he was opposed to an 18-game schedule – a centerpiece of what the owners want – while Falcons owner Arthur Blank told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the NFLPA needs to find the same energy to negotiate that the owners have.

Meanwhile, the NY Times featured Smith on Sunday and revealed that he’s been telling his players that they need to prepare for war.

I’m sure Smith and the NFL will have plenty to talk about this week. Hopefully, something gets done.

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Posted on: January 18, 2011 5:07 pm

'Trash-talk' rule changes coming in 2011?

Posted by Will Brinson

The first order of business for the 2011 season is actually making sure it happens (it's not going well, by the way). There might also be some changes with the whole trash-talking "problem" in the NFL that emerged over the past couple of weeks, as well.

Or, at least, Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated as much in his press conference following the owners' meeting on Tuesday "There's got to be respect among people who play the game," Goodell said. "And I want to make sure it's respected throughout the league and it's something we're going to talk about in the offseason."

Asked whether there could be fines, Goodell said no but emphasized he wanted to see "respect for the game."

"I understand the approach of different teams and I think that's great," Goodell said. "I think that's healthy with their different approaches.

"There is also a line you don't want to cross, and we need to make sure we define that and we don't cross that."

The league clearly doesn't care for excessive smack-talking, particularly to the point where it becomes violent and/or threatening in nature.

Oddly enough, there was a significant amount of online discourse before the league commented on the Jets and Patriots comments as to how refreshing the NFL's hands-off approach was, at least compared to the NBA's.

More than likely, Goodell is fine with players keeping things spicy, but he doesn't want a situation in place where something violent actually does emerge from the trash-talking, because that would put an absolutely horrible spin on the league's public image.

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Posted on: January 18, 2011 2:44 pm

Hot Routes 01.18.11: Celebration motivation

Posted by Will Brinson

Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • If you want to see George Atallah and Kevin Mawae discuss the labor situation live on the internets, you can do so here.
  • CBSSports.com's Bryan D. Fischer talks to the NCAA's Julie Roe Lach about compliance and agents. If you don't think this affects the NFL, you're not thinking.
  • And because I think you should really, really read this, I'm linking another CBSSports.com article. Deal with it. (But, no seriously, if you haven't read Gregg Doyel's take on the Aaron Rodgers saga, you need to do so right now.)
Posted on: January 13, 2011 9:46 am

Owners' labor attorney fires out allegation

DeMaurice Smith Posted by Josh Katzowitz

A labor attorney representing the NFL owners made a pretty interesting accusation Wednesday. Basically, Bob Batterman told the Washington Post that the NFLPA actually wants the owners to lock out the players.

Instead of focusing on negotiating with the owners, Batterman says the NFLPA is working on lobbying in Washington D.C. and strategizing for litigation. To him, that means the NFLPA isn’t serious about talking about a new CBA.

"If you want to litigate, if you want to get Congress involved, you want a lockout to occur and you want the clock to run out (on negotiations) so your decertification and litigation strategy can come into play," Batterman told the paper. "This is not a union eager to avoid a lockout. This is a union waiting for a lockout to occur."

That obviously is hard to confirm – and also hard to casually toss it away as sheer politicking. The teams already have voted to decertify in case of a lockout, because that makes it easier for the NFLPA to bring an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL if need be and because it would give the union tremendous leverage.

The union also lately has been rather adamant in accusing the owners of procuring lockout insurance, because they’ll still get paid by the networks even if there are no games next season.

Whether any of that confirms Batterman’s charge is unknowable. It could simply be due diligence by the NFLPA or because they’re trying to swing the fans on their side.

Responded Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel: “(NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith) does not want a lockout, and he has proved that by offering to extend the current CBA to avoid one. Batterman, on the other hand, has been advocating a lockout since the first day he became involved. I have been involved since the '70s, and I can tell you that the word lockout wasn't even in the NFL's vocabulary until he came around."

Not that any of this back and forth should be surprising. It’s a labor fight and it’s a PR battle, and it probably will get nastier before it gets better. But it’s also hard to tell if this is a real problem and if there are real problems of trust. Or if this is all traditional grand-standing.

NFL fans hope it’s the latter, because if not, this certainly isn’t a good sign.

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