Archive for January, 2011

Joint NFL-NFLPA statement:

NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith and Commissioner Roger Goodell met today in New York to discuss a range of issues related to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. As part of a process to intensify negotiations, they agreed to hold a formal bargaining session with both negotiating teams on Saturday in the Dallas area. They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions and smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March. “Players stand to lose millions quickly” without new CBA by March’s Mike Sando writes today about the immediate implications of a work stoppage without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before the March 4 expiration of the current agreement.

Among the points raised by Sando:

Players stand to lose millions quickly. According to the league, 74 players stand to earn more than $140 million in bonuses and other compensation this March. They wouldn’t collect that money during a lockout. These players will feel the effects of a lockout long before fans feel the effects. 

“Players have other immediate concerns. Players accustomed to seeing team doctors and visiting team facilities for treatments would suddenly become responsible for their own health care during a lockout. Securing benefits for family members with special health needs could create challenges. This is an immediate concern among players behind the scenes, but one that doesn’t draw much attention from the outside.

“No agreement means no free agency. The CBA determines qualifications for reaching free agency. In the past, players with at least four accrued seasons could become unrestricted free agents. Nearly 500 players would qualify under those guidelines this offseason, but only if there is an agreement. Those players could have no prospects without a new CBA. Teams hoping to upgrade their rosters could be stuck.”

For the complete story, click here.

2011 Pro Bowl tonight kicks off Super Bowl week

The NFL’s best will be in the spotlight tonight (7:00 PM ET, FOX) as the 2011 Pro Bowl kicks off Super Bowl week. 

The NFL All-Star Game returns to Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii and will be the signature event to start the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV between the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers in North Texas (Sunday, February 6, FOX).

This is the second consecutive year that the Pro Bowl is being played the week before the Super Bowl.   

Last year, the AFC defeated the NFC 41-34 at Sun Life Stadium in South Florida.  Tonight’s game is the 41st between the AFC and NFC All-Stars with the all-time series tied 20-20.

Tagliabue on “war” and labor peace

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue wrote a letter to the editor in today’s New York Times business section to correct a mischaracterization in an article in last Sunday regarding former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw’s business dealings with the league and his contributions to labor peace.

“I take issue with a description of the role of Gene Upshaw (left), the former head of the players’ union, in the labor movement and with the article’s characterization of his relationship with N.F.L. management,” wrote Tagliabue, who served as Commissioner for 17 years before retiring in September 2006.

“Mr. Upshaw served for two decades on the executive council of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., often drawing on the position in securing the interests of N.F.L. players. And far from having a backslapping, ‘easy relationship,’ Mr. Upshaw and I (and others in the N.F.L.) had a constructive relationship that grew out of one imperative that is absent today: We both had two decades of deep experience as adversaries in a highly destructive labor-management ‘war.’

“Mr. Upshaw was in the picket lines and other trenches when many people now involved on the union’s side were in high school or younger. Recall the 1982 players’ strike, as well as the 1987 strike that resulted in three ‘replacement’ games.

“Like others who have experienced a war’s destruction firsthand,” Tagliabue concluded. “Mr. Upshaw and I (and others) came to see the value of peace. An extraordinary game, coupled with reasonable revenue and cost-sharing, soon created the means to achieve it.”

For the complete letter, click here.

Union and NFL agree: Players got “a great deal” in current CBA

NFL Players Association president Kevin Mawae yesterday discussed the labor negotiations on Sirius XM’s “Mad Dog Radio.”

“I think what really happened is in 2006, we got such a great deal,” said Mawae, an eight-time Pro Bowl center who retired prior to the 2010 season. “I mean the players got a good deal and the owners felt they got it handed to them and it’s kind of a revenge factor, ‘let’s get back what we felt like we lost,’ and things like that.”

NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash expressed the same view of the 2006 agreement in a different way yesterday.

“We have said we don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves,” Pash said, “but it is not an agreement that has worked out in a satisfactory way.  Rather than kick the can down the road another four or five years, let’s figure out how we can get a system in place that will be positive for players and positive for clubs.”

Clearly, there is no argument here.

NFL’s Jeff Pash: “Hundreds of millions of dollars” in player bonus money at stake without new CBA by March

NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash spoke with media today about the ramifications if there is not a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by March 4.

“There is a set of very real consequences if we don’t have an agreement by early March,” Pash said. “The consequences are both short term and longer term.  In the short term, there are hundreds of players who stand to lose potentially hundreds of millions of dollars if we do not have an agreement by early March and therefore are not able to proceed with the ordinary course of player transactions.”

In 2008 and 2009, there was an average of 325 unrestricted free agents – 165 of whom earned an average of $2 million in signing and/or roster bonuses in March.  In 2011, there will be 495 players with at least four accrued seasons who could be eligible for unrestricted free agency and similar-type bonuses if a new agreement is in place.  In addition, there are 74 players currently under contract who are due to earn more than $140 million in March.

“Beyond that,” Pash continued, “the uncertainty about a labor agreement will have a clear and cumulative effect on our revenues, the biggest share of which goes to players.  As our revenues are affected in a negative way, it obviously makes it harder, not easier, to reach an agreement.  It makes the work stoppage, if one occurs, more costly.  That’s a cost that will complicate and impede the negotiation process.

“Because of those consequences, that is really why you have heard the Commissioner consistently call for an increase and a ramping up in the intensity of these negotiations and the need for more meetings, more frequent meetings, more productive meetings and an on-going, consistent and clear commitment to negotiate and to work as hard as we can to get to an agreement by early March before these consequences begin to materialize.”

CDC hosts live chat on concussions in sports

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “Heads Up” initiative will host a live chat on concussions in sports today at 3:00 PM ET.

Experts participating in the chat include Dr. Richard Hunt, director of CDC Division of Injury Response, and Dr. Stan Herring, the team physician for the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Mariners. Dr. Herring is also a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee and chairs the committee’s subcommittee on advocacy and education. The doctors will focus on how to prevent, recognize and respond to concussions.

In addition, former NFL wide receiver Sean Morey and former professional wrestler and college football player Chris Nowinski will discuss their personal experiences with concussions.

For more information, click here.

Broncos fan gets phone call from Commissioner Goodell

Denver Broncos fan James Owen, who writes “The South Stands” blog, received a phone call from Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday in response to an email he sent “to express his frustration about the lack of open discourse from the league and the NFL Players Association about the labor negotiations,” according to Lindsay Jones of the Denver Post.

Jones wrote that the two had “a 15-minute conversation in which Goodell responded to the issues Owen had raised in his email. Owen said it was a ‘low-key’ and friendly talk, like any normal chat between sports fans.”

Said Owen, “He said he got my email and wanted to first off thank me for sending my concerns to him, and wanted to let me know they are always concerned about the fans and wouldn’t be in position where it was if it wasn’t for the fans. It was the standard stuff we’ve heard from the league, but he added some personal stuff to it.”

Owen, the story concluded, said he did not receive a return call from the union.

For the complete story, click here.

Former player Ross Tucker: “18 games could work”

Former NFL offensive lineman Ross Tucker discusses the prospects of an enhanced season today in an column under the header, “With concessions, 18 games could work.”

Tucker, who played seven NFL seasons (2001-07), writes that compensation, increased roster size and offseason training are the key factors from a player’s perspective in creating a workable 18-game solution.

“If the total compensation is equal to or greater than what a player would have earned playing an additional year or two or three, then I think this proposal has a real chance,” Tucker writes. “A player could maximize his physical abilities and then tackle the next phase of his life earlier. Nothing wrong with that.”

In terms of offseason training, Tucker adds, “The league would also probably have to dial back the amount of ‘voluntarily mandatory’ offseason work. There are so many minicamps and organized team activities these days that a lot of players don’t feel as if they are given enough time to recuperate and heal from the previous season, let alone train properly and prepare their bodies for the rigors of the enhanced season.”

Tucker also noted that the last time the schedule was transitioned – from 14 regular-season and six preseason games to 16 regular-season and four preseason games in 1978 – things worked out for the better.

“The NFL once expanded from 14 games to 16 in 1978, and you may have noticed that the product survived that increase pretty well and is in fact flourishing,” he wrote. “And if you think about it, the wild-card teams in the playoffs play an additional game, and that one extra game did not appear to dilute the Green Bay Packers or the New York Jets all that much.”

For the complete story, click here.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank on CBA negotiations: “Commissioner and negotiators ready to do whatever it takes”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke at a luncheon with Atlanta business leaders last week and discussed topics including NFL labor negotiations, D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“Yes, I think there will be football in 2011,” Blank said. “We continue to work as hard as we can.”

“The owners are looking forward to having a successful conclusion to the bargaining process,” Blank continued. “We want a healthy league; a healthy league for all of the stakeholders. That starts with our fans, includes our ownership, our players, everybody that is connected to the NFL.”

“My view is that we are in these negotiations,” Blank concluded. “I’m hoping they will accelerate. The Commissioner is prepared to go 24/7. The Commissioner and the negotiators that are involved are ready to do whatever it takes. Throwing themselves in the room, throwing away the key and have them feed them food under the doors, whatever it’s going to take . . . we need to get the NFLPA to step up with the same sense of urgency to make that happen.”

For the complete story, click here.