SBD/January 12, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Exec Committee Members Call 18-Game Season A Sticking Point

Foxworth, NFLPA not willing to budge on safety

Browns LB Scott Fujita and Ravens CB Domonique Foxworth during a conference call yesterday said that "concerns about injuries and insurance make the league's push to switch to an 18-game regular season a major sticking point in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. Fujita: "To me, right now, as things stand, 18 games, the way it's being proposed, is completely unacceptable. ... I see more and more players get injured every season. ... It feels like a slap in the face." Foxworth: "We're not willing to budge on health and safety, and we'd like to gain some more ground in ways we can protect former players and current players." Both players are members of the NFLPA Exec Committee. NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah yesterday said that 352 active players "went on injured reserve at some point during this season, each missing an average of 9½ games." But NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said that constitutes just a "a few hundred" of the nearly 2,600 players in the league. Meanwhile, Fendrich noted "right around the time the call was beginning," the NFL launched NFLHealthandSafety.com, a website the league "touted as 'providing information on the various ways' it's addressing those issues" (AP, 1/11). Foxworth spent this season on injured reserve, and he said, "We had a daughter five weeks ago and they're threatening to cut off my insurance when March hits. I'm on IR. I've given up my body to help advance the league." Fujita and Foxworth also were asked "whether there would be interest in forming a new league," and the question "appeared to catch them off guard." Atallah interjected, "Once the contract expires, all bets are off." Fujita: "It absolutely could happen" (BALTIMORESUN.com, 1/11). 

NAMING NAMES: Fujita during the call "called Cowboys owner Jerry Jones 'irresponsible' for some comments he made about the labor situation." In an interview that aired during an extended online version of CBS' "60 Minutes" last month, Jones said that a lockout "wouldn't be devastating." Fujita: "For him to say something like that to me is one of the more irresponsible things I've heard through this whole process. Unfortunately that's just where it's at." Fujita added, "Sometimes you get the sense that the owners really are not all that unified in this whole thing. I think on one hand the commissioner has got some heat on him to get a deal done and I think he's going to feel that heat more and more from the fans especially. But I think a lot of people are fine letting this thing run down at least until the 11th hour and again try to squeeze the players into accepting a deal that's not fair to us" (ESPNDALLAS.com, 1/11). ESPN's Adam Schefter said, "The bottom line to all this is we are coming closer and closer to the new league year starting on midnight on March 4, and there's an agreement nowhere -- nowhere -- in sight right now" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 1/12). YAHOO SPORTS' Doug Farrar wrote, "You can definitely consider this conference call a specific landmark in NFL labor negotiations. We're about to go down the rabbit hole" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 1/11).

THE LEAGUE'S VIEW: In a special to ESPN.com, Aiello wrote of the NFL, "The system does not work as well as it could from the standpoint of the teams. The time has arrived for adjustments that create an opportunity to make the game and league better. The crux of the difference is this: The union accepts the status quo, while the NFL wants to improve and secure the future of the game for the benefit of fans and players." Aiello added, "The new CBA is about the future of the game and doing what's necessary to improve the quality of the game. ... The status quo is not acceptable because it will not allow us to build the game with the players as we have done so successfully in the past" (ESPN.com, 1/11). The NFLPA's Atallah shared the union's view in a special to ESPN.com last week.

Polian Preparing For Several Different Scenarios Regarding Labor Situation
HOPING FOR THE BEST: In Indianapolis, Mike Chappell reports Colts President Bill Polian is "optimistic he is prepared for whatever comes" regarding the CBA situation. Polian and his staff "have prepared four scenarios," including a new agreement being reached prior to March 3, a short work stoppage, a long work stoppage or a decision being made to operate under "some undefined set of rules." Polian said of the last scenario: "That's probably the least likely scenario." He added, "It's a muddled situation at best. The good news is that labor situations always get settled at some point. We're going to play at some point under some set of rules. We're not going out of business." Meanwhile, Colts C and player rep Jeff Saturday said, "If the owners choose to lock us out, which it sounds like they're going to do, there's not a whole lot you can do" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 1/12). Eagles DE Trent Cole said, "Hell yeah, I'm worried about a lockout. It's a thing that messes with our livelihood. People have a family to feed, and people's lives are devoted to football." But several Eagles players said that they "don't expect the dispute to drag into the regular season." Eagles TE Brent Celek: "There's got to be something pretty crazy to happen for us to not be playing, because there's a lot of money out there. I don't know how anybody can make any money if we're not playing any football" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 1/12).

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