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 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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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 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: November 30, 2010 11:35 am
Edited on: November 30, 2010 12:16 pm

NFL to offer refund on 2011 locked out tickets

Posted by Will Brinson

If the NFL eventually ends up in a serious labor issue (for purposes of the post, "serious" means "missing regular season games"), there's going to be a big problem with tickets, because plenty of them will have already been purchased.

To that extent, the NFL has announced that it, as first reported by Michael McCarthy of USA Today, will offer a full refund on all general admission tickets purchased to any preseason or regular games that are cancelled by a work stoppage.

Downside: this won't extend to PSL's, club tickets or luxury boxes. Those choices will be determined by each of the NFL's 32 clubs on an individual basis.

The NFL estimated that, based on this policy, it will pay out between $7 and $8 million per game that's refunded -- which is a nice number to throw around for public support, especially when you multiply it by 16 games per week.

Season ticket holders will have a choice as to how they want their refund -- either in the method they paid (credit card refund, check, etc.) or as a credit for future ticket purchases (which seems less awesome in these economic times). Fans who buy individual tickets have the same options -- a refund or a credit towards a future purchase, and both groups will be reimbursed "no later than 30 days after the final determination of how many games will be played" in 2011.

It's a smart policy, for two reasons. First, if folks think they won't get a refund for purchasing tickets, there's zero chance they'll gamble on the NFL playing games in 2011 by planning trips to see their favorite teams. And secondly, this adds to the hypothetical losses the NFL is incurring in a hypothetical situation where there's no football being played in 2011; currying fan favor is critical in terms of the PR battle over the labor negotiations, and the NFL would be silly not to appear to incur losses on this while also acting generously towards the everyday fan.

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Posted on: September 24, 2010 1:08 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2010 3:13 pm

Jets vote for decertification, Bears to vote soon

Posted by Will Brinson

Eight teams in the NFL have now voted to decertify from the union with the news that the Jets unanimously agreed Thursday and according to a report, the Bears will be voting soon as well.

The Jets, according to Jane McManus of ESPN , joined the Bills, Saints, Cowboys, Colts, Eagles, Redskins, and Giants as the list of teams to  unanimously vote to decertify

And Brad Biggs of Chicago Breaking Sports reports that the Bears will vote soon as well, with a similar result likely to occur.

"It's necessary because the legal process of decertifying is not an overnight deal. We need to have the wheels in motion," said Hunter Hillenmeyer, the Bears' representative to the NFLPA.

Decertification, for those wondering, is a good thing. At least for fans anyway -- a union can't sue the NFL, but a huge group of wage-earning individual players can (this is the result of the American Needle case that the NFL lost at the Supreme Court level).

If every single team (as in, all of the individual players) votes to decertify, it means that if the NFL owners decide to lock out their employees, they can quickly strike to actually decertify and then sue the NFL for antitrust violations.

Theoretically, then, lining up all the teams now, in preparation for actually decertifying, gives the NFLPA greater leverage in working to negotiate a new labor agreement.

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Posted on: September 8, 2010 1:07 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2010 4:22 pm

DeMaurice Smith: 'lockout is coming in March'

Posted by Will Brinson

Of all the frustrating offseason storylines , there's one that's perhaps most annoying: the impending NFL lockout in 2011. DeMaurice Smith, the union leader for the NFLPA, confirmed his belief on Wednesday that he think a lockout is coming.

“I still feel that a lockout is coming in March,” Smith told Bloomberg Sports .

Smith's biggest point of contention is the NFL refusing to actually provide financial information relating to their claim that they're not pulling in enough cash. (Enough here, of course, is relative.)

“If this model is not working, i.e. teams are losing money, then we’re willing to see the evidence of that and make the changes,” Smith said. “But prove it. If not, what’s the justification for getting a billion back from us?”

Smith, along with most players, doesn't care for the also-impending possibility of an 18-game season.

“We don’t look at two extra games as being divorced from the health, medical and safety standpoint,” Smith said. “It’s impossible to divorce one part of this from the whole.”

That may be true -- however, it seems pretty likely that the league will get its 18-games one way or another. Also likely, as expressed by Smith's quotes, is the NFL locking its players out.

Owners and players are just too far apart right now, and because the 2010 season is beginning and because 2011 seems so far away (regardless of whether it's true or not), the urgency to really sit down, negotiate and hammer out a deal just isn't out there for either side.

Which is why there's a pretty good chance that the most important people, the fans, will end up suffering the most.

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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