Posted on: May 24, 2011 10:19 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:58 am

NFL cancels Rookie Symposium amid lockout

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL lockout hasn't been fun but at least it had not caused the cancellation of anything on the league's calendar -- until now. The NFL has cancelled it's rookie symposium in Canton, Ohio, a league source told CBSSports.com.

The symposium, which was originally scheduled to begin June 26, will likely be "officially" cancelled on Tuesday. Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com reported several months that the symposium was in danger as a result of the lockout.

The symposium is designed to bring all the NFL rookies together to try and teach them about life in the NFL, how to better manage their finances, and give tips on general transition to life as a professional athlete.

Our source says NFLPA officials and current active players spoke to rookies at the NFL PLAYERS’ Rookie Premiere about business aspects of the game. We're told that a portion of the meeting touched on some of the issues normally discussed at the Rookie Symposium.
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The timing of the decision in pretty indicative of where we stand on the lockout. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments from both the NFL and the players regarding the injunction of the lockout on June 3. It is not believed the Court of Appeals will rule on that hearing until at least July.

The cancellation of the symposium makes it pretty clear that the expected timing of the court's decision is accurate.

It also means expecting any sort of settlement and/or conclusion of the labor situation before July might just be a fool's errand.

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Posted on: May 16, 2011 10:26 pm

Ralph Wilson has been vindicated

Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson was one of two owners not to sign a CBA extension in 2006 (US Presswire).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

When presented with the extension of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2006, Bills owner Ralph Wilson wasn’t interested in signing it. It didn’t matter that 30 of the league’s 32 owners gave their approval – Bengals owner Mike Brown was the other dissenter – Wilson didn’t think it was a good deal for the owners.

Now, the rest of the NFL agrees with him and Brown.

Before the rest of the owners caught up to him, Wilson was saying the deal was too rich for the players (though the New York Daily News points out that others DID agree with him but signed the CBA extension anyway) and he didn’t like the revenue sharing plan that he felt didn’t give small-market teams enough money.

"I came into this game 50 years ago because I enjoyed the game of pro football. Not to make money," Wilson told the Daily News. "In those days, everybody was hoping to break even. We lost money for a number of years. I am really not into the game to make money, but I would like to break even or make a little."

Wilson actually bought his spot in 1960 in the first year of the old American Football League, and for a few years, the NFL’s competitor barely stayed afloat. Eventually, the AFL began beating out the NFL to sign the top stars coming out of college and had the NFL worried enough that they agreed to an NFL-AFL merger in 1966.

Wilson, these days, is 92 years old, doesn’t catch many Bills games in person and doesn’t have a role in the current negotiations. But he’s hoping like hell none of the season will be lost to the current lockout.

"I hope the sides come to an agreement," he said. "I hope they can. I miss football like millions of other people."

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Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:31 pm

'NFLPR' files odd Motion in NFL lockout appeal

Posted by Will Brinson

Perhaps the most bizarre thing to come out of the lockout yet happened on Tuesday afternoon, when an "organization" named the National Football League Players' Reserve (NFLPR) filed a Motion to Intervene in the NFL's appeal with the 8th Circuit.

This is odd because no one really seems to know what the NFLPR is, although it's described in the filing as a "separate single entity nominative fair use organization whose reference and interests pertain to collegiate rookie football players entering the ranks" of the NFL.

This is strange because, insofar as anyone can tell, there are no collegiate rookie football players associated with this organization that no one knows about.

It's even more strange because, if you try to find out about the organization, the only things you'll really run into are a suggestion to Google "NFL PR" (like NFL public relations), NFL "Power Rankings" links and a link to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy's Twitter page (@NFLPRGuy).

Things get even weirder, though, as this motion was filed by David R. Flood, President, National Football League Players' Reserve (as well as a US Army veteran apparently). Flood, who is representing the NFLPR pro se in this matter, could not be reached for comment.

There are some odd things in the case, but for the moment they probably don't matter too much, as most reports circulating indicate that this motion is frivolous at best and will likely be either a) ignored or b) dismissed. The only reason it warrants mentioning? Because it somehow became the weirdest thing to happen in this already weird NFL labor dispute.

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Posted on: April 28, 2011 10:16 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 11:30 am

Some teams 'not refusing' to talk to free agents

Posted by Will Brinson and Mike Freeman

On Thursday morning, the NFL said it would continue with the status quo , despite Judge Nelson ruling against their request for a stay. Unsurprisingly, the players disagree with their stance, and Jim Quinn and Jeffrey Kessler, attorneys for the players, sent out an email to all players and agents declaring they believe the league year to be open.

CBSSports.com has obtained a copy of that email correspondence, in which the NFLPA also states they believe the NFL will be in contempt of court if they don't open the league year immediately.

"Unless and until such a request is granted, however, we believe the 2011 League Year now has to begin. The NFL and the Clubs cannot collectively continue to refuse to deal with players. It is our view that the NFL &the Clubs will be in contempt of court if they do not comply with the order unless and until they hear differently from the 8th Circuit."

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Now, this doesn't change a whole lot, really, because the NFL is probably just going to ignore the NFLPA's request to begin the year.

They're also probably just going to ignore any calls from agents and players,

However, sources tell CBSSports.com that "some team phones are ringing off the hook" with agents flooding teams with requests for free agent business. Additionally, those sources said that some teams are "not refusing" to talk about free agency at the moment.

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Posted on: April 28, 2011 8:14 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 11:31 am

NFL: Clubs to 'continue to follow current rules'

Posted by Will Brinson

When one of the weirdest days in NFL history dawned Thursday morning, it seemed like the NFL might have to begin the league year. But the league told its clubs to keep on keeping on with the current -- read: lockout -- set of rules until otherwise notified.

It was presumed that the NFL might cave and open up in order to avoid any potential contempt of court or collusion charges from the players, but they're going to roll with the status quo for now.

"Clubs were notified last night they should continue to follow the current rules and practices until otherwise advised by our office," Aiello said, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network .

This puts the NFL in a curious position. Their plan is to wait for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to rule on Judge Nelson's lockout lifting, which might work out fine for them ... if the Court of Appeals agrees with the NFL. (Many people, myself included, believe they will.)

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If the Eighth Circuit doesn't agree with the NFL, then they will face some potentially disastrous charges -- collusion, contempt of court? -- in relation to the Brady v. NFL antitrust case.

In the meantime, however, it probably means that you will not see any free agent signings. And you will not see any trades of players on draft day. And you will not see any signings of unrestricted free agents.

Unless some owner decides to go rogue anyway .

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Posted on: April 27, 2011 10:02 am
Edited on: April 27, 2011 1:51 pm

Players ask for $1B bond if Nelson grants stay

Posted by Will Brinson

The plaintiffs in Brady v. NFL have filed their response (CBSSports.com has obtained a copy) to the NFL's request for a stay from Judge Nelson, and it's pretty spicy. They're asking for -- if Judge Nelson grants the stay the NFL requests -- a $1 billion bond.

Yes, that's "billion" with a "b."

The thinking on that large sum of money, based on the players' response, is thus: it's one-quarter of what the players' received in compensation during the 2010 season, and it's the baseline guesstimate for what sort of "irreparable damages" would be done if the stay was granted and lasted through the time it will take for the league to appeal.

What makes their request pretty interesting, is whether or not the NFL would pay $1 billion to the players (likely in some sort of trust account, I presume) in order to get the stay they want.

Part and parcel of the NFL's legal request for a stay involves the fact that they currently must either a) impose old rules or b) allow chaos to reign. The problem with (a) is that, according to the league, they risk violating anti-trust laws (they do). The problem with (b) is "unrestricted free agency."
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The players' attorneys point out in their response that any "alleged predicament is of their own making" and that it's entirely possible for the NFL to "implement a new player system that does not violate antitrust laws."

Based on the various responses to Judge Nelson's original ruling, and her tendency thus far to lean, legally, towards the players, it seems unlikely that she will grant the NFL a stay. That's not because she "favors the players," but as the plaintiffs' response points out, if she rules in favor of the NFL's stay, she's essentially leaning against her own ruling that she issued on Monday when lifting the lockout.

Such a backtrack within a week doesn't seem like Nelson's style.

UPDATE 1:51 p.m. EST: Judy Batista of the New York Times reports that the NFL has written a letter to Judge Nelson asking for an opportunity to respond in writing to players' request for NFL to post $1 billion bond if stay issued.

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Posted on: April 25, 2011 8:14 pm
Edited on: April 28, 2011 12:07 pm

7 questions to ask now that lockout's lifted

Posted by Will Brinson

On Monday, Judge Susan Nelson lifted the NFL's lockout, in a hefty, 89-page ruling that ended simply with the words "the 'lockout' is enjoined."

But what to make of a situation that could end up being even more chaotic than the initial period following the lockout itself ?

How about we answer that question with the old, seven-question format? Good? Good.

1. So we're getting football in 2011????
Not so fast, my friend -- despite the fact that the lockout being lifted is huge and breaking news and all that, this what everyone expected. When Judge Nelson spoke during the April 6 hearing, all reports indicated that she favored the players in terms of how she viewed the legal positions in this case. And, clearly, that was the truth, because Nelson lifted the lockout and didn't directly grant a stay for the owners despite doing so.

One thing's clear from Judge Nelson's ruling though: she understands that the public just wants football . While she recognizes that the players are suffering "irreparable harm" because of the lockout, she also titled a chunk of opinion as "The Public Interest Does Not Favor The 'Lockout'." This is good to keep in mind when wondering whether or not anyone has the public in mind amid all this, because Judge Nelson clearly does.

And that's good news when hoping for football to happen in 2011.

2. Okay, but what happens next?
The NFL's already said it will request a "stay" of Judge Nelson's ruling. That means the league will ask her to hold off on her lockout ruling so that the defendants in this matter can file an appeal with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. If Judge Nelson grants that stay, we go back to the state of limbo we were in before Monday's ruling.

If Judge Nelson denies that stay, the NFL will request a stay from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Same deal applies here: if the Court of Appeals grants that stay, it's limbo time until the court rules as to whether or not Nelson correctly lifted the lockout.

If the Court of Appeals denies that stay (following Nelson's theoretical denial), the NFL would likely be forced to open its doors and impose some rules for the current players. Except for the fact that, per Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal , the Eighth Circuit could actually rule on an emergency stay by Friday. 

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3. There's still going to be a Draft on Thursday, though, right?

How nice that you still care! But, yes, there will still be an NFL Draft and, barring something really, really, really odd from happening, it'll still kick off on Thursday and teams will still make selections (though, as you'll see below, they probably won't be making some of the deals you've seen in the past).

There's too much at stake in terms of broadcast partners and timing and travel and whatnot to alter the Draft; plus, it was going on whether or not the lockout was lifted in the first place.

Perhaps now hopeful fans will simply be more interested.

4. So players can't go to the stadium and start working out yet?
Actually, they can, at least between Nelson's ruling and her decision Tuesday on the stay. Or, at least, they can try  to go work out. After all, the lockout no longer exists, and it would be a murky labor situation for teams to deny their non-unionized employees access to facilities provided by an employer for team activities.

In fact, reports have begun to surface that agents are telling their players to go to team facilities and work out so as to make sure they can't be denied any offseason workout bonuses that are included in their contracts. Our own Mike Freeman has reported he's heard some agents telling their players NOT to show up, so it could be a mixed bag.

Adding fuel to that fire is Steelers' player rep Ryan Clark, who said on television Monday night that he's "telling guys to go [to team facilities]" and "telling guys to get to work." Yes, things could get awkward when/if players show up and aren't allowed into the team building.

5. What about free agents -- can my team sign them?
Theoretically, it would be possible. But remember, the players in Brady v. NFL  aren't just suing the NFL, they're also suing the individual teams. Don't expect Marty Hurney to run out and ink Matt Hasselbeck to a deal just because the Panthers desperately need a quarterback.

His boss, Jerry Richardson, probably wouldn't be too thrilled with him breaking rank and signing a free agent. Besides, there are no rules for the current NFL season that hasn't started yet, so it's kind of impossible to even determine who is and who isn't a free agent until the NFL decides to impose those rules. (Although, if you want to see who who will most likely be free agents, my colleague Andy Benoit did an excellent job of compiling such a list right here .)

Which it won't do until it's exhausted all opportunities to receive a stay. Where this gets interesting, though, 

6. I really want the Eagles to land another first-rounder? Can they trade Kevin Kolb?
Same rules apply as with free agents: nothing until the NFL exhausts its options in seeking a stay of the injunction and imposes a set of rules.

The issue of trades might be a bit less murky than with free agency, because trades, theoretically, can benefit teams more so than they do the players (obviously a lot of teams would like a crack at the aforementioned Kolb BEFORE the draft). But, if the league decided to allow trades, they'd probably be conceding that a stay doesn't matter and would need to start signing free agents.

Since not signing the big pile of available free agents would amount -- or at least appear to amount -- to collusion, it's unlikely you'll see either one happen until the issue of a potential stay gets sorted out.

7. You keep saying a "set of rules" -- what rules will those be?
The common belief is that the NFL, if it cannot get a stay, will impose the 2010 rules on the new league year.

That means that there won't be a salary cap and it'll take six years to get to free agency. As referenced above, that dramatically changes the players who will be available to other teams, and you should reference Andy's post to see who will likely be available. But, we can't know what set of rules are actually applied until their applied.

Which means, as with much else, we're stuck waiting on the courts once again.

Which leaves us right back where we started, really. Remember back when we did "7 Questions fans should ask about the lockout " thing? (Seems like YEARS, doesn't it?) Well, I closed by saying that "leverage" was critical for both sides.  

And that's still the case. Leverage just happens to have shifted (heavily, I might add) in the direction of the players right now. Should the NFL receive a stay, though, that leverage tilts back in towards the league's direction, at least for the moment.

For now, we sit back and wait for the legal system to make rulings on the issues at hand. Once they do, things will be somewhat clearer, but thinking that the NFL labor issues are behind us is a little more naive than anyone should be, even in the face of the positive emotions coming from some corners following Judge Nelson's ruling.

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Posted on: April 15, 2011 5:45 pm

So how did Friday's mediation go?

Posted by Andy Benoit

As we wrote earlier, the second day of court-ordered mediated talks between the NFL and NFLPA has wrapped up. Friday’s discussions lasted about three hours, a considerably lighter schedule after the two sides negotiated under the watchful eye of Judge Arthur Boylan for over nine hours on Thursday.

The next session won’t take place until 10:00 a.m. Tuesday. However, that doesn’t mean the two sides won’t be working. Albert Breer of NFL Network says that Michael Hausfeld -- lead attorney for the Eller class, which is representing the retired players – told him the sides left with a "homework" assignment from the judge.

Breer also says that both parties are “serious” about the talks and are mindful of the consequences of failed negotiations.

Without being in Boylan’s chambers, it’s hard to say whether significant progress is being made, though many likely feel it’d be better if negotiations continued through the weekend.

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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