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SBD/February 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies
NFL, Union Meet For First Formal Bargaining Session In Over Two Months
Published February 7, 2011
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LET'S MAKE A DEAL: Kraft, following Goodell's State of the League address on Friday, said it will be "criminal if a deal isn't done by March 4." Kraft: "This business is very healthy. There is a deal to be done here and it can set the business right for the next 15 years. And if we don't do it, it's criminal. We're healthy as an industry. It's not like we have to do cutbacks to survive." Kraft added, "We can get a deal done in a week. This deal could be done in a week." In N.Y., Gary Myers noted Kraft "has a plan [on] how to get an agreement: Kick all the lawyers out of the room," including the NFLPA's Smith and NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash. Kraft: "We got to get the lawyers off of both sides of the table. Have business people at the table. We can grow this business in a way that the players and owners, everyone makes out. ... We will have all failed if we don't find a way to get this deal done" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/5). In N.Y., Steve Serby wrote, "What we need now ... is a lockin. Have the owners and union heads representing the players lock themselves in a room and do not let them leave until there is a new collective bargaining agreement" (N.Y. POST, 2/5). In Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz wrote both sides "have way too much to lose." They "know they can't kill the golden goose," and they "know their game is too important and too popular to let it vanish for very long" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/5). In Boston, Bob Ryan: "There is too much at stake, and too much money for too many people to lose, if a new deal is not hammered out before the expiration date of the current collective bargaining agreement." Ryan added, "The feeling is that of Europe in the beginning of 1914. There are serious tensions between owners and those who represent the players, and Bad Stuff is coming" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/5).
PREPARING FOR THE WORST? ESPN.com's Adam Schefter wrote NFL owners "have been preparing for the potential protracted labor battle with some super game planning." Team sources indicated that "under the terms of the CBA that govern uncapped years, each of the NFL's 32 teams was not required to fund player benefits such as 401K plans that are not in effect in uncapped years, saving each team $10 million that the NFL is holding on to." The $320M "could be used to help offset some of the costs during the early stages of a lockout." The league "continued funding pension, disability, 88 plan, post-retirement medical care and other benefits, and has committed to fund all benefits for retirees even after the CBA expires and even if there is a lockout." But Schefter noted it "stopped funding the specific player benefits, another step in the preparation for what could be a lengthy labor standoff in which some NFL employees will likely see pay cuts and furloughs" (ESPN.com, 2/6). In N.Y., Ken Belson noted if the owners "shut their doors, players will not receive hundreds of millions of dollars in salary advances and signing and roster bonuses, and free agents, rookies and other players will not be able to sign new contracts." Players "will also have to start paying for their own health care." Since Smith became NFLPA Exec Dir in March '09, he "has urged his union members to set aside extra money in case of a lockout." The NFLPA in '09 "increased its annual dues to $15,000, from $10,000, and put the money into a Lockout Fund." Accountant Steven Piascik, who prepares tax returns for pro athletes, said, "Are the players ready for a lockout? Absolutely not. Hopefully, a lockout won't be bad. But we are advising our athletes to maintain a strict budget" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/6).
DRAFT DODGERS? In DC, Mark Maske cited an NFL player agent as saying that there have been "discussions between agents and union representatives about the possibility of draft-eligible players boycotting the scouting combine later this month in Indianapolis and refusing to attend the draft in April." The draft "will take place even if there is a lockout because the current labor deal contains a provision for it to be held." However, the agent said that he "believes it's unlikely that players will boycott the combine because those players are yet to be drafted and technically are not members of the union, and potentially could hurt their own draft status." The scouting combine "takes place before the expiration of the current labor deal" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 2/4). In West Palm Beach, Dave George wrote, "Maybe if April's NFL Draft were in danger of being canceled fans would be all wound up about the whole thing. ... The draft, however, is the only off-season activity that's guaranteed to go on even if there's no new CBA. ... That's enough to keep fans happy for quite a while because the draft stirs an insane amount of interest" (PALM BEACH POST, 2/5). In New Orleans, Peter Finney: "What will the fans say? They’ll say from very little to next to nothing. All the fans are worried about is this: Who do we draft? What free agents do we go after?” (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/6).