SBD/July 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 125: Rookie Wage Scale Reportedly Not Only Major Issue Left

The NFL and the NFLPA are “still quarreling over the precise composition of the all revenue pie that would be split between them,” contrary to reports that a "disagreement over the rookie wage scale is the only remaining roadblock” to a new CBA being reached, according to two sources cited by Michael Silver of YAHOO SPORTS. The sources added that owners "still insist that a 'legacy fund' for retired players come out of the salary cap, meaning current players would bear the entire burden." There are "additional arguments over how many right-of-first refusal devices each team will be allowed via franchise and transition tags." The owners' "desire to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games hasn't been addressed in recent weeks, and players are unsure whether the subject will be revisited or tabled for discussion in future years." There also has been "no official negotiation on issues relating to health care and player safety, largely because the decertified NFLPA technically is prohibited from handling such matters for the membership." Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees yesterday appeared on a San Diego radio station and said, "We're very close to a settlement. We're at that point in the negotiations where there's just a few more details to be ironed out." But another NFLPA Exec Committee member said, "Are we close? I wouldn't say that at all. Drew is the eternal optimist, and yeah, it's closer than it was a week ago. Could it happen quickly? Yes. But I'd be extremely surprised." Another players source said of Brees' comments, "Don't read too much into that. We're not there yet, and there are still a lot of issues in play" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/13).

TELLING A DIFFERENT STORY: In DC, Mark Maske cites sources as saying that an "agreement in principle" on a new CBA is "likely to be completed between Friday and next Tuesday, barring further complications." Individuals "not involved in the negotiations but familiar with them" said that they "did not expect a handshake deal to be completed" yesterday. But they added that an agreement in principle was "possible in coming days." Sources said that "deadline pressure may force the two sides into a compromise by Tuesday, when they are scheduled to meet in Minneapolis with their court-appointed mediator," Judge Arthur Boylan (WASHINGTON POST, 7/14). In N.Y., Kevin Armstrong reports "revenue-sharing splits and a rookie wage scale remain issues being discussed, but both sides maintain they would like to have a deal ready for league meetings" next Thursday in Atlanta. The latest round of talks yesterday "lasted throughout the day and into Wednesday night" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/14). In Las Vegas, Ed Graney writes under the header, "Rookie Wage Scale Overdue." Graney: "If we are down to the minor detail of whether a rookie class becomes free agents after four or five years, flip a coin and end this thing" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 7/14).

HIGH-PROFILE STATEMENT: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch reports after "feeling rushed by numerous unsourced stories in the national media claiming a deal was imminent, the players finally struck back yesterday with a joint statement" by Brees, Patriots QB Tom Brady and Colts QB Peyton Manning, all of whom are plaintiffs in the Brady v. NFL antitrust suit. The statement read, "We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get a deal done. ... This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way." The league "quickly followed with a statement of its own that was seemingly designed to lessen the PR hit in the eyes the fans." NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello in the statement said, "We share the view that now is the time to reach an agreement so we can all get back to football and a full 2011 season. We are working hard with the players' negotiating team every day to complete an agreement as soon as possible." Hubbuch notes the "heavyweights in the 4-month old lockout returned to the negotiating table" yesterday in N.Y. and "met for nearly 11 hours in a bid to work out a settlement in time to salvage the entire season" (N.Y. POST, 7/14). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes the antitrust suit "must be settled" as part of a new CBA. It "sounds as if the quarterbacks are ready for that to happen, but only if they get a CBA that is to their liking" (NEWSDAY, 7/14).

Brees says players want to make sure money
saved from rookie wage scale goes to veterans
INTERESTING TIMING
: In Boston, Ian Rapoport wonders, "Why did Brady step suddenly forward yesterday? Maybe Brady's voice was held back until the union deemed it the right time to be an impetus for a deal. Maybe the union was hoping the words of Brady, Brees and Manning would create public pressure for the owners to cave" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/14). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, “There’s no way these three guys would put their names out there and hang themselves out to dry unless they knew this thing was getting done." ESPN.com's Jackie MacMullan: "We’ve been expecting an agreement any day. We need these three guys to announce it for us, that yes, it’s time to get a deal done" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/13). Meanwhile, Brees yesterday said that if owners are "going to cut rookie salaries they need to spread that money among seasoned players." Brees: "Our standpoint is if that money is taken away from the rookies, it needs to go to the veteran players, proven veterans as well as retired players" (L.A. TIMES, 7/14).

REACHING OUT TO FANS: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman cites an NFLPA source as saying that he "would like to do some sort of acknowledgment to the fans, with or without the league's cooperation," should the lockout come to an end. The "ideal gesture would be players wearing a patch on their uniforms dedicated to their fans." He said that owners and players also could "combine to give 1,000 fans free tickets for each game, or give a small number of season-ticket holders refunds for one game." Freeman: "That will never happen, but hell, what a gesture that would be." Several team and league officials also indicated that they "believe some type of apologetic gesture to the fans should be made." But one exec said that the problem is the league "fears such a gesture might leave the NFL vulnerable to some type of lawsuit" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/13).
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