SBD/March 26, 2012/Franchises

Cowboys, Redskins File Grievance Against NFL, NFLPA Over Salary Cap Penalties

Other 30 NFL owners will be briefed on grievance filed by Redskins, Cowboys
The Cowboys and Redskins have each “filed a grievance against the NFL and the NFLPA to have $46 million in salary cap penalties overturned,” according to Calvin Watkins of ESPN DALLAS. Cowboys Exec VP, COO & Dir of Player Personnel Stephen Jones yesterday said, “Within the confines of our collective bargaining agreement, we are trying to have a voice and a hearing in terms of our cap situation.” He also said that the Cowboys “hoped to avoid filing any legal action over the cap penalty.” The owners of the other 30 NFL teams “will be briefed on the grievance at the owners meetings” this week. Arbitrator Stephen Burbank “will rule on the grievance” (ESPN.com, 3/25). In Ft. Worth, Clarence Hill Jr. cited a team source as saying that the Cowboys think they have a "good case largely because the NFL management council originally approved the contracts in 2010” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 3/26). In DC, Rich Campbell notes the specific grounds on which the Redskins “are disputing the matter also were unknown.” Redskins Exec VP & GM Bruce Allen last Wednesday said that it was “up to the league to answer for the penalty” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 3/26).

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY: Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones Friday said, "What we're doing is a combination procedural and legal and all of that." He added the team is "talking with not only the league but the Redskins and whoever we can visit about it." In Dallas, Rainer Sabin noted Jones “is working in concert with the Redskins -- an arrangement he admits is odd.” Jones: “First of all, there is no joy in Mudville, having to team up with the Redskins on a point with the league. They're competitors, not cohorts. It just shows you, independent of that, some of the issues we have with this cap space issue. Sometimes you can have strange bedfellows and this is one of them" (DALLASNEWS.com, 3/23).

IN HIS OWN WORDS: Giants President & CEO John Mara, who also serves as NFL Competition Committee Chair, said of the situation, “The penalties imposed were proper, and what they (Redskins and Cowboys) did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap and they attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole and gain a competitive advantage. The commissioner acted reasonably, and quite frankly I think they’re lucky they didn’t lose draft picks. ... It has nothing to do with collusion. It has to do with attempting to gain a competitive advantage through a loophole (USA TODAY, 3/26). Stephen Jones responded to Mara's comments, saying, “That’s John’s opinion. That’s not my opinion” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25). ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano wrote when people sit down to talk about “the right and the wrong of this whole situation, there's very little right and a whole big pile of wrong, and the defiant stance Mara took Sunday afternoon made that pile much bigger.” Mara came out “guns-a-blazin.” And if there are people out there “who believe (as I do) that the NFL has acted with irresponsible, petty arrogance in this case and imposed unjustified penalties against teams that broke no actual rules, Mara's stance isn't likely to change their minds” (ESPN.com, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS’ Doug Farrar wrote there are “a few problems with Mara's statement.” First, he “establishes a serious conflict of interest case against the Management Council -- it could very easily be argued that existing owners should either step down from the Council, or that the council should not have the ability to rule against its competitors.” That is “antitrust at the very least.” Second, the "spirit of the salary cap" statement is “just plain silly” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25).

WHAT HAPPENS NOW: SI.com’s Don Banks cited NFL sources as saying that while the “process of having the matter settled by an arbitrator always makes the outcome of the grievance process more difficult to predict, Mara expressed no sense of concern.” But other league sources “weren't as confident, and acknowledged that the size of cap penalties might be reduced as part of a final ruling, or perhaps even overturned.” A source said, “Who knows where this goes with an arbitrator involved? There might have to be some ground given. But it really doesn't seem to be (NFL commissioner) Roger Goodell's style to change his mind to any great degree when it comes to his decisions” (SI.com, 3/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Farrar wrote if the Management Council “is smart, or if Roger Goodell is smart enough to advise them strongly, there will be a settlement that favors both sides in this case” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/25).
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