SBD/January 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Some NFL Players Not Sharing Goodell's Optimism About New CBA

Vrabel Among Those Not Sharing Goodell's Optimism About Avoiding A Lockout

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in his e-mail to fans yesterday said the league and NFLPA "can and will reach an agreement" on a new CBA, but some players "do not share his optimism," according to Rick Gosselin of the DALLAS MORNING NEWS. Chiefs LB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Mike Vrabel: "At the end of the day, we don't have a deal done. So you can say there's a little bit of progress, a lot of progress or no progress. But is there or is there not a deal? Right now there's not. How far are we from that? Nobody knows." Gosselin notes there has been "talk of increasing the length of the season and the size of rosters, reducing off-season programs and establishing a rookie wage scale," but the "bottom line in this standoff is money." Owners initially proposed an 18% reduction in the players' take of league revenues, essentially "another $1 billion taken off the top," and talks "have been chilly ever since." The players are "viewing the negotiations through percentage points," while the owners are "viewing it through dollar bills." The players contend that they will "not accept a dramatic reduction in their percentage of the revenues." Vrabel: "We can't go back to 1985. We're not going to give everything back." He added, "I've heard that we should be partners in growing this game. But in any kind of partnership I've ever been involved in, this isn't how it works. It certainly is frustrating from our standpoint" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 1/4).

PLAYERS SAVING MONEY: Vikings LB and alternate player rep Ben Leber said, "The overall feeling is just prepare for a lockout. I don't think we want to give anyone false hope that we're going to get something done when we do get locked out and we've got players upset because they weren't mentally prepared for it" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/4). Texans LB and player rep DeMeco Ryans: "That's the biggest thing I'm telling guys: to save their money. Because if you're listening now and you save the money, when the time comes and it gets hard, you're not going to be as inclined to (say), 'Aw, man, I can't do this. We need to take a deal. We need to take less'" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 1/4). In Charlotte, Joseph Person notes Panthers K and player rep John Kasay talked to the team yesterday, and his message was to "save your money." Panthers OT Jordan Gross: "That's the same thing they've been saying for two years now is to save up in anticipation of not getting any paychecks this year." Panthers P and alternate player rep Jason Baker indicated that veterans "have advised younger players on issues they would face if the owners lock them out -- a list that includes everything from finding alternate training facilities to minimizing debt and securing insurance for their families." Baker: "Keep your money in your pocket. Stay informed" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/4).

SOME OPTIMISM FROM PLAYERS...: Cowboys LB and alternate player rep Bradie James called a lockout "imminent" and said, "It will be here before we know it." But James added, "In my true heart of hearts I feel like something will get done this summer. Cooler heads will prevail. Everybody loves this game. Owners, players. It's all about what we do as far as what we love and giving some entertainment to the fans, too. So we'll be playing" (DALLASNEWS.com, 1/3). Buccaneers C and player rep Jeff Faine: "I'm very optimistic. Both sides are obviously going to have to work together to find some even ground. Hopefully both sides will concede a little bit so we can get something done and we can keep football going" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/4). Giants LB Keith Bulluck: "When it starts, we don't know, but there definitely will be football." Giants C and player rep Shaun O'Hara said, "I don't think anybody's panicking. ... If (the season) is delayed, then we'll make adjustments. The team that can kind of stick together has a great advantage next year to have success." O'Hara added, "In my 11-year career, this is probably the most unified I've ever seen the players. I've spent more time at my locker answering questions about this from my teammates than I ever have" (N.Y. POST, 1/4).

...BUT NOT FROM OWNERSHIP: During a press conference this morning, NFL Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson took out a pen and paper to diagram the percentage of revenue shared with the players. He went on to call the current business model unsustainable financially and said not enough time was spent in negotiations. Richardson: “We are not spending enough time coming to (a resolution). … I am not optimistic we are making a lot of progress.” He added of NFL owners: “We’re the most united we have been” (THE DAILY).

NO BARGAINING SESSIONS SCHEDULED: With two months left to go before the CBA expires on March 3, there are no bargaining sessions scheduled between the league and the union. “There are no bargaining sessions scheduled,” NFL Senior VP/Communications Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail. “Perhaps someone is confusing bargaining sessions with Special Master sessions.” A Special Master hearing that begins today and is expected to last all week. The NFLPA brought the case against the NFL last year, seeking to stop the league from receiving $4.5B in television rights money that the league will get even if there are no games played. Asked about Goodell's optimism about avoiding a lockout when the two parties are far apart and no bargaining sessions scheduled, Aiello said, “As he's always said, there will be a CBA. It's just a matter of when. Ask the union why no bargaining sessions are scheduled.” NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir of External Affairs George Atallah said, “As we have done for the past 20 months, we will reach out to the NFL to schedule future dates soon” (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

ALL A MATTER OF TIMING: In a special to the HUFFINGTON POST, The Nation's Dave Zirin wrote, "Leave it to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to end a thrilling NFL regular season on a sour, ugly note." Zirin: "Goodell issued an ill-timed letter laying out the state of negotiations with the NFL Players Association. Both sides are striving to secure a new collective bargaining agreement and avoid labor Armageddon, but based on Goodell's letter, that's where the similarities end." Goodell in the letter "seems to be following a tried and true strategy: blame the union and sow resentment between the fans and the players they pay to watch." Zirin: "But in taking a closer look at his musty missive, Goodell also establishes himself as a stalking horse for a broader, systemic strategy being used by governors and captains of industry across the country. It's a strategy that for all the focus-tested language has one end-goal: getting workers to work harder for less" (HUFFINGTONPOST.com, 1/3).

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