Posted on: March 20, 2011 11:24 am

Cromartie: Let's return to negotiating table

A. Cromartie wants the players and owners to return to the bargaining table. Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Andy did an admirable job Saturday of keeping track of all the letters and e-mails emanating from the computers of the NFLPA and the NFL owners that flew through the universe with reckless abandon.

There was this letter that the players wrote in response to Roger Goodell’s letter from last week.

The players’ letter then inspired lead negotiator Jeff Pash – who the players no longer even want in the bargaining room – to write this response to the response.

Like most of you (and us), Jets CB Antonio Cromartie is apparently tired of all the back and forth. As he tweeted Saturday, Cromartie – who, at times, has been critical of the NFLPA’s strategy – wants to see more progress between the players and the owners.

Wrote Cromartie:
“Im tired of all this emailing each other. How abt the owners and the NFLPA get ur behinds back to the table and talk it out there.”

Then, he makes a pretty good point regarding the permanent injunction hearing next month that could end (or not end) the lockout:

"We as players r depending on t/ April 6th hearing which could go either way. Susan Nelson could side w/ us or keep t/lockout going then wht? … If judge Nelson keeps the lockout we lose all the leverage. So in others words bump April 6th ruling get back 2 the table and handle it.”

Cromartie, on his timeline, also praises Jaguars Pro Bowler Montell Owens, who called Goodell’s original e-mail “heartfelt” and declared that the negotiating table is where a deal will get done. This essentially agrees with what the owners, who clearly don’t want to have to litigate this issue, have been saying.

So, you’ve got a mostly-unified NFLPA which has been resolute in bashing the owners’ offer. But now you’ve got two players – one high-profile and the other a Pro Bowler – who are agreeing with the owners (at least on returning to the bargaining table).

The owners have to like that.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 7:15 pm

Foxworth says union may never return

Posted by Andy Benoit
D. Foxworth
If you like the current NFL structure (not the lockout, but the arrangements of before, where there was a league, an NFLPA, a salary cap, Draft, etc.) then you’d better pray that Domonique Foxworth is simply blowing smoke. The Ravens cornerback told Ken Murray of the Baltimore Sun that the union is cool with staying decertified forever.

“We’re fine with decertifying, we’re fine with never being a union again,” Foxworth said. “That’s our complete intention. Whenever we come to a settlement, they’ll ask that we certify. [But] I don’t know that that’s what we want to do. It’s in our best interests to be an association.

“I don’t perceive any time in the future when we’re going to be a union again.”

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 5:57 pm

Chris Kluwe takes creative shots at Goodell

Posted by Andy Benoit

Back in December when the Metrodome roof collapsed and the NFL moved the Vikings’ Monday night home game to the University of Minnesota’s outdoor venue, Chris Kluwe took to Twitter and spoke out harshly about the unsafe frozen field conditions. He was asked by some faction of the powers that be to pipe down.

With the NFL players locked out, the Vikings punter is at it again. And, obviously, there’s no one to tell him to stop this time.

Kluwe took to Twitter to post his paraphrased version of Roger Goodell’s letter to players:

Kluwe board

Kluwe board 2

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 4:22 pm

Full version of players' letter to Goodell

Posted by Andy Benoit

GreenwichTime.com was kind enough to do what the NFLPA needed to do in the first place: transcribe the players’ response letter to Roger Goodell into actual text. In case you’re interested, here’s the letter in its entirety.

Dear Roger:

This responds to the letter you sent to all NFL players on March 17.

We start by reminding you that we were there at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA's status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players. The players took this step only as a last resort, and only after two years of trying to reach a reasonable collective bargaining agreement and three weeks of mediation with George Cohen of FMCS. At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal. The NFL representatives at the mediation did not, and the owners were mostly absent.

The mediation was at the end of a two-year process started on May 18, 2009, when our Executive Director sent you a letter requesting audited financial statements to justify your opting out of the CBA (letter attached).

The NFLPA did all it could to reach a fair collective bargaining agreement and made numerous proposals to address the concerns raised by the owners. In response, the owners never justified their demands for a massive giveback which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for players in major league pro sports.

That is why we were very troubled to see your letter, and repeated press reports by yourself, Jeff Pash, and the owners, which claim that the owners met the players halfway in negotiations, and that the owners offered a fair deal to the players.

Your statements are false.

We will let the facts speak for themselves.

—The proposal by the NFL was not an "a la carte" proposal. The changes in offseason workouts and other benefits to players were conditioned upon the players accepting an economic framework that was unjustified and unfair.

—Your proposal called for a pegged amount for the salary cap plus benefits starting at 141M in 2011 and increasing to 161M in 2014, regardless of NFL revenues. These amounts by themselves would have set the players back years, and were based on unrealistically low revenue projections. Your proposal also would have given the owners 100 percent of all revenues above the low projections, including the first year of new TV contracts in 2014. Your offer did NOT meet the players halfway when it would have given 100 percent of the additional revenues to the owners.

—As a result, the players' share of NFL revenues would have suffered a massive decrease. This is clear by comparing your proposal to what the players would receive under the 50 percent share of all revenues they have had for the past twenty years.

—If NFL revenues grow at 8 percent over the next four years (consistent with Moody's projections), which is the same growth rate it has been for the past decade, then the cap plus benefits with our historical share would be 159M in 2011 (18M more per team than your 141M proposal) and grow to 201M per team in 2014 (40M more per team than your 161M proposal).

—Your proposal would have resulted in a league-wide giveback by the players of 576M in 2011 increasing to 1.2 BILLION in 2014, for a total of more than 3.6 BILLION for just the first four years. Even if revenues increased at a slower rate of only 5 percent, the players would still have lost over 2 BILLION over the next four years. These amounts would be even higher if your stadium deductions apply to the first four years (your proposal did not note any such limits on these deductions).

—We believe these massive givebacks were not justified at all by the owners, especially given recent projections by Moody's that NFL media revenues are expected to double to about 8 BILLION per year during the next TV deal.

—Given that you have repeatedly admitted that your clubs are not losing money, the billions of dollars in givebacks you proposed would have gone directly into the owners' pockets. We understand why the owners would want to keep 100 percent of this additional money, but trying to sell it as a fair deal to the players is not truthful.

—You proposed a CBA term of ten years. But you did not include any proposal on the players' share of revenues after the first four years, which left open entirely how much more the owners would have taken from the players.

—The owners continued to refuse any financial justification for these massive givebacks. Our auditors and bankers told us the extremely limited information you offered just a few days before the mediation ended would be meaningless.

—Your rookie compensation proposal went far beyond addressing any problem of rookie "busts," and amounted to severely restricting veteran salaries for all or most of their careers, since most players play less than 4 years. What your letter doesn't say is that you proposed to limit compensation long after rookies become veterans — into players' fourth and fifth years. As our player leadership told you and the owners time and again during the negotiations, the current players would not sell out their future teammates who will be veterans in a few short years.

—Your proposal did not offer to return the 320M taken from players by the elimination of certain benefits in 2010. It also did not offer to compensate over 200 players who were adversely affected in 2010 by a change in the free agency rules. Your letter did not even address a finding by a federal judge that you orchestrated new television contracts to benefit the NFL during the lockout that you imposed.
—You continued to ask for an 18 game season, offering to delay it for only one more year (you earlier said it could not be implemented in 2011 no matter what due to logistical issues). This was so even though the players and our medical experts warned you many times that increasing the season would increase the risk of player injury and shorten careers.

—All of the other elements you offered in the mediation, which you claim the players should have been eager to accept, were conditioned on the players agreeing to a rollback of their traditional share of 50/50 of all revenues to what it was in the 1980s, which would have given up the successes the players fought for and won by asserting their rights in court, including the financial benefits of free agency the players won in the Freeman McNeil and Reggie White litigations more than 20 years ago.

—The cap system for the past twenty years has always been one in which the players were guaranteed to share in revenue growth as partners. Your proposal would have shifted to a system in which players are told how much they will get, instead of knowing their share will grow with revenues, and end the partnership.

You had ample time over the last two years to make a proposal that would be fair to both sides, but you failed to do so. During the last week of the mediation, we waited the entire week for the NFL to make a new economic proposal. That proposal did not come until 12:30 on Friday, and, when we examined it, we found it was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week when we agreed to extend the mediation. At that point it became clear to everyone that the NFL had no intention to make a good faith effort to resolve these issues in collective bargaining and the owners were determined to carry out the lockout strategy they decided on in 2007.

We thus had no choice except to conclude that it was in the best interests of all NFL players to renounce collective bargaining so the players could pursue their antitrust rights to stop the lockout. We no longer have the authority to collectively bargain on behalf of the NFL players, and are supporting the players who are asserting their antitrust rights in the Brady litigation. We have heard that you have offered to have discussions with representatives of the players. As you know, the players are represented by class counsel in the Brady litigation, with the NFLPA and its Executive Committee serving as an advisor to any such settlement discussions. If you have any desire to discuss a settlement of the issues in that case, you should contact Class Counsel.


Kevin Mawae
Charlie Batch
Drew Brees
Brian Dawkins
Domonique Foxworth
Scott Fujita
Sean Morey
Tony Richardson
Jeff Saturday
Mike Vrabel
Brian Waters
CC: All NFL Players

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 19, 2011 2:08 pm

NFL writes back to players (3 letters total now)

Posted by Andy Benoit

So this is what our Saturday has turned into. The NFLA wrote a four-page letter in response to Roger Goodell's letter from Thursday. Now, the NFL has written a response to the players' response letter.

Lead negotiator Jeff Pash wrote on NFLLabor.com:

“We are pleased now to have received a reply to the comprehensive proposal that we made eight days ago. The points made in the players’ letter are precisely the kind of points that collective bargaining is intended to address.  Debating the merits of the offer in this fashion is what collective bargaining is all about. But we would note that three facts we have consistently identified over the past week are ignored and we therefore assume acknowledged. First, the proposal called for player costs of between $19 and $20 billion over the next four seasons; second, the player cost figure in 2011 was above the actual cash spending for 2009 and 2010; and third, the economic offer, combined with other elements of the proposal, was a substantial move by the clubs to keep negotiations going and avoid a work stoppage and related litigation.

“This letter again proves that the most sensible step for everyone is to get back to bargaining. So we again accept Mike Vrabel’s suggestion that the union’s executive committee meet with our negotiating team, including Jerry Richardson, Robert Kraft and Jerry Jones, to resume bargaining. If Mike will let us know when and where he and his colleagues would like to meet, we will be there. We are ready.”

If the players write back, we'll pass it along. As annoying as this all is, at least both sides are (sort of) negotiating. Granted, this form of negotiating is almost as childish as it is transparent.

One more note: it's funny Pash would refer to Mike Vrabel's offer to resume bargaining. One of the contingencies in Vrabel's offer was that the players would resume bargaining as long as Pash wasn't involved.

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Posted on: March 19, 2011 1:06 pm
Edited on: March 19, 2011 2:11 pm

Players write a letter back to Goodell

Posted by Andy Benoit

UPDATE 2:10 p.m. EST: The NFL has written a response to the players' response. You can read it here.


The NFLPA wrote a letter to Roger Goodell, responding to his letter from Thursday. We were planning on posting the entire thing. That was before we found out the NFLPA’s letter was actually a novella. (It’s over four pages long.)
So, instead, here are highlights

*The letter starts by saying “We start by reminding you that we were at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA’s status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL Players.” (And yes, they included the bold.)

*“Owners never justified their demands for a massive give-back which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for player sin major league pro sports.”

*“Your statements are false.”

*“The changes in offseason workouts and other benefits to players were conditioned upon the players accepting an economic framework that was unjustified and unfair.”

*The proposal made on the final Friday of negotiations was “was worse than the proposal the NFL had made the prior week"

NFL Labor

*Goodell’s financial projections greatly underestimated the league’s likely growth over the next 10 years.

*Goodell was only taking the 18-game season off the table for 2011. (The players’ logic on this one is a little hard to follow given that the league, in its latest proposal, offered to only extend the regular season with the union’s permission).

*The rookie wage scale would hurt future teammates (i.e. young players who are just coming into the league).

**The letter was signed by the NFLPA executive committee (Charlie Batch, Kevin Mawae, Drew Brees, Scott Fujita, Mike Vrabel, Brian Dawkins, Tony Richardson, Sean Morey, Jeff Saturday, Brian Waters and Domonique Foxworth.)

You can read the entire letter (novella) at NFLLockout.com.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: March 19, 2011 9:45 am

Start you weekend with some NFLPA & NFL nonsense

Posted by Andy Benoit

In a recent sit down interview with ESPN’s George Hill, NFLPA executive committee members Mike Vrabel, Drew Brees, Domonique Foxworth, Brian Dawkins and Jeff Saturday told their side of several of the stories that have come to define the acrimonious labor negotiations.

One of the things Vrabel said was that the players would love to get back to the negotiating table . . . as long as it’s Jerry Jones, Bob Kraft, Jerry Richardson and other owners seated at that table, not owners and their cadre of lawyers and negotiators. Vrabel specifically said no Jeff Pash.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded: “The NFL’s negotiating team — accompanied by the three owners (Vrabel) mentioned, Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson and Robert Kraft — is prepared to meet immediately. Just tell us when and where.”

Of course, this was hardly a response at all, as the NFL’s negotiating team includes Roger Goodell and Pash.

In the end, it’s more verbal posturing by two sides that everyone is starting to root against.

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Posted on: March 18, 2011 3:31 pm

Report: De Smith to cut salary to $0

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash recently announced that they'd be cutting their respective salaries to $1 until a new CBA is reached. Not to be outdone, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has undercut them and will reportedly set his salary at $0.

That's according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who cites sources that indicate Smith's moving to his salary to that of a volunteer.

The news isn't too shocking, of course, because Smith previously stated he'd take a big salary cut if there'd been a deal before the Super Bowl. (At the time, he offered "68 cents.") Additionally, a salary "cut" by either side is wholly symbolic. While they won't make the same money until there are games played, they've still got cash in the bank and they'll still likely have bonus money waiting once the NFL resumes play.

It's also worth noting that Goodell and Pash also previously announced their salary cuts in the event of a work stoppage.

So, yeah, it's a public relations maneuver by both sides, with the point being to show everyone that they care so much about the negotiations that they're willing to make personal sacrifices.

All of which is to say that salary cuts for the people in charge of two clearly embattled sides do nothing to actually advance any discussion about a new deal designed to get football to the folks with salaries who really matter: the fans.

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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