SBD/March 10, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Smith Says 18-Game Schedule Off The Negotiating Table

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Players are concerned two extra regular-season games would increase injuries
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith last night "for the first time publicly" said that an 18-game regular-season schedule is "off the negotiating table in collective bargaining talks with the owners," according to Jim Trotter of SI.com. Smith, "speaking before approximately 100 fans during a joint event" with WJFK-FM at the NFLPA's DC office, was "categorical that the players won't expand the regular season from 16 to 18 games." Smith after a Q&A session with fans "reiterated that 18 games is a no-go with the players." Smith: "First of all, the league has never presented a formal proposal for 18 games. But more importantly, it's something that our players don't want. Eighteen games is not in the best interest of our players' safety, so we're not doing it." Trotter notes an 18-game schedule was "thought to be one of the key talking points in the sides' negotiations for a new agreement" (SI.com, 3/10). Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald wrote on his Twitter account, “My body is cheering after hearing the 18 game season talk is off the table!” (TWITTER.com, 3/9). ESPN's Adam Schefter said Smith's comment was his "strongest language to date." Schefter: "This is part of the tricky part of these negotiations. The NFL wants more revenue and yet the NFLPA is unwilling to budge on the 18-game schedule that could yield more revenue" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 3/10). However, in N.Y., Judy Battista cites two sources as saying that the NFLPA "had not pulled the 18-game proposal off the table and that it had rarely come up before" federal mediator George Cohen. The "question remains whether Smith will tell owners that he is rejecting 18 games before Friday's deadline" (N.Y. TIMES, 3/10).

DRAFT AGREEMENT: YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole cited two sources as saying that the league and the union have "reached a basic compromise on a rookie wage scale that will replace the current rookie salary cap." The owners "backed off the idea of requiring first-round picks to sign five-year deals, instead limiting the contracts to four years before a player could become a free agent." The agreement "is also expected to include a stipulation limiting the amount of money and signing bonus offered to draft picks." The league also "agreed that all players drafted after the first round would be limited to three-year deals, but teams would be allowed to put restricted free agent tags after the three years." The "key change is for the players in the first round." Currently, the first 16 players drafted "can sign for up to six years," while the next 16 "can sign up to five years." Cole noted the reason the union "wanted shorter deals is that it allows good players to get to free agency faster." The NFLPA, "in addition to the rookie wage scale," is "expected to agree on stronger language to allow teams to recoup money from players who get in trouble with the law" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/9). However, the Washington Post’s Mark Maske on Twitter yesterday reported, “Sources on both sides of dispute say there's no agreement yet on a rookie wage scale” (TWITTER.com, 3/9).

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