SBD/February 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Relationship Between Goodell And Smith Could Be Key To Reaching New CBA

Upshaw (l) and Tagliabue (r) were known for having close relationship
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith have "much at stake" during the ongoing CBA negotiations, as they have "never gone down this road together before," according to Clifton Brown of SPORTING NEWS. Smith during the union's press conference Thursday indicated his "relationship with Goodell was good enough to get a deal done." Smith said, "I've got a great relationship with Roger. Without a good relationship between the two of us, this is not going to happen." Brown notes former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and late NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw, who negotiated the current CBA in '06, were "often criticized for being too close." Brown: "But at least that relationship helped broker an agreement" (SPORTING NEWS TODAY, 2/4 issue). Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy said, "Gene and Paul had really developed a great relationship and trust with each other. Hopefully De and Roger can have a similar relationship over time. ... It just takes time." In DC, Mark Maske notes "no two people loom larger in the sport right now" than Goodell and Smith (WASHINGTON POST, 2/4). National Football Post President Andrew Brandt said the relationship between Goodell and Smith is the "key" to reaching an agreement, as they are "trying to have some trust" with each other (NFL Network, 2/3). In a USA TODAY cover story, Jarrett Bell notes the "current negotiations are a test of the leadership of the NFL's Goodell and the NFLPA's Smith, both of whom are leading labor talks for the first time." While "many key players remain on both sides, including union attorneys Richard Berthelsen and Jeffrey Kessler, other roles have changed." On the ownership side, the absence of Steelers Chair Emeritus Dan Rooney "adds intrigue to the talks." NFL player agent Tom Condon, a former NFLPA official, said, "For a long time, Dan Rooney was the bell cow." But Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones suggests that history "has run its course." He said, "We're in different times now. We're not dealing with the same dynamics" (USA TODAY, 2/4).

MILES TO GO BEFORE WE SLEEP
: YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote as the March 4 deadline nears, the sides "seem as far apart as they have ever been in finding ways to resolve the matter." Behind the scenes, the "talk is even more problematic." A union source said, "It seems like every proposal the owners give us is a ‘(expletive) you’ offer, like they don’t want to settle. They want us to take whatever they want to give. If that’s how they want to handle it, maybe we should just let the courts handle it." One league source admitted, "We’re not in a concessionary mode." Sources indicated that the NFLPA "gave the league a proposal that would allow for 18 games, but limit the offseason program to approximately five weeks so that players would get a chance to rest." The league "countered with a complicated system that featured offseason participation based on playing time during the regular season." When the union "ran the numbers on the league’s proposal, the union concluded that players would actually have to do more offseason work than they currently do." Cole wrote, "The bickering is so reminiscent of squabbling divorcees. It makes you wonder if the solution is going to be the equivalent of sawing two cars in half, rendering each useless" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/3). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes both sides "are entrenched and stubborn and remain so far apart." Neither side is "backing down and neither side is pulling up to a productive negotiating table." Sullivan: "While they hurl insults across the cavern, the fans are the ones getting hit. No one is smiling now" (Bergen RECORD, 2/4).

UNION NOT FACING URGENCY: SI.com's Don Banks wrote the NFLPA does not seem to have the "same perception when it comes to the urgency of the early March expiration of the CBA" as the owners do. The league is "making a concerted effort to change the players' perception that the real financial pain would only begin once regular-season games (and paychecks) are jeopardized by a work stoppage." Banks added, "Once we get to March 4 without a deal, I'm not sure what the next key deadline will be when it comes to serving as an impetus for an agreement" (SI.com, 2/3).

UP AGAINST IT: YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote what NFLPA members "didn't do" during the union's press conference Thursday, and "haven’t yet been able to do, is give fans any reason to support them in what has become a contentious labor battle." The general public "believes NFL players are extremely well compensated -- excessively so in some cases." So the idea that "those same players might have to take a pay cut ... isn't particularly distasteful." Wetzel: "I don’t sense the average fan shares a strong pro-player viewpoint. On the list of problems in America it doesn’t seem like something to rebel over. ... And that’s one of the greatest obstacles for the NFLPA" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/3). In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes NFL players are "led by a couple of passionate men" in Smith and NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, a "gifted orator and a former player who was always one of the most passionate in the league." Once you "spend an hour in a room with them ... you want to grab a picket sign and invent angry chants." Vaccaro: "They are the good guys in this fight. And they are doomed" (N.Y. POST, 2/4). Meanwhile, Oakland Tribune columnist Monte Poole said of both the league and the union, "What they need to understand is that the fans don't care which side wins. They just want their football" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/3).

WILL UNION STAY TOGETHER? The GLOBE & MAIL's Stephen Brunt notes Smith faces the problem that the NFLPA historically "has been known to break ranks." Brunt: "That’s not so surprising given that careers are short and contracts in the NFL are not guaranteed. Go to the barricades to make life better for future generations of players, and by the time they get back, for many there might not be a job" (GLOBE & MAIL, 2/4). In St. Louis, Jim Thomas writes, "This may turn out to be a war of wills. Which side will give? After a few weeks or a few months of a lockout, as the regular season draws near, will players be eager to return to work and avoid missing a paycheck?" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 2/4). In S.F., Ron Kroichick writes, "The players need to stand firm. Don't let the length of the regular season become a bargaining chip in upcoming labor negotiations. Don't let owners use money as incentive to risk debilitating injury in two extra games" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 2/4).
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