SBJ/Feb. 14-20, 2011/Labor and Agents

Super Bowl week CBA talks yield cautious optimism

Liz Mullen
There is a saying in labor circles that when things get quiet, deals get done.

As of early last week, after a Super Bowl weekend CBA session in which the NFL and NFL Players Association issued a somewhat rare joint statement, there was in NFL circles a tad bit more optimism than there has been in months about the prospect of the owners and the players getting a deal done without a lockout or the decertification of the union.

Some sources were saying last week that there might be a window of opportunity to get a deal done, and that window is now. Additionally, there was talk that what most everyone has assumed is a hard and fast deadline of March 3 at midnight might not be so hard and fast.

“If you are making progress, you can stop the clock,” Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and chief labor negotiator, told reporters at a news conference during Super Bowl week. That could mean a standstill for all parties while the NFL and NFLPA continue to negotiate for days, perhaps weeks, after March 3.

This has been done in sports labor negotiations before, including in 2006, when the NFL and NFLPA agreed to extend the deadline for about a week to hammer out the current agreement.

But in order for a deal to get done, the players and the owners will have to move off their respective positions.
The NFLPA in December made concessions on core economic issues, and a league representative said a response was issued to that union proposal. Details on that exchange were not available, and it’s unclear whether that exchange is the basis for more movement toward a deal now.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith declined to answer a question about the players’ proposals at his Thursday news conference ahead of the Super Bowl, noting that the players and owners would have a negotiating session two days later, on Feb. 5. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at his Friday news conference also would not say what owners were willing to give, saying he did not want to negotiate in the press.

Some NFL insiders during Super Bowl week were talking about the possibility of the NFL losing three to four regular-season games because of the labor dispute. Others talked about there being an awareness of how much there was to lose if there’s a work stoppage with the game at its zenith of popularity.

“The buzz was optimistic and hopeful, because people want it to be optimistic and hopeful, because the good old days are right now,” said agent Leigh Steinberg. “It’s hard to imagine how much better things will get in the NFL. The talk was ‘They will get it done.’ No one wants to be the person who kills the golden goose.”
Cal's Cameron Jordan picked Octagon after many interviews.
Most highly rated NFL draft prospects choose their agents within weeks of their last regular-season game or bowl game. California defensive end Cameron Jordan waited until this month, signing with Octagon in early February after a lengthy agent interview process.

Jordan, who was ranked No. 13 by last week, is the son of former NFL tight end Steve Jordan, who played his entire career from 1982 to 1994 with Minnesota and went to the Pro Bowl for six consecutive years. Steve Jordan attended Brown University and is enjoying a successful second career as a civil engineer.

“Education is very important to their family,” said Doug Hendrickson, the Octagon agent who will serve as Cam Jordan’s primary agent. “Cam is a senior and is going to go back and finish up school this spring.”

Hendrickson said the Jordan family took a long time interviewing and selecting an agent, starting with seven agencies and then narrowing it down to three candidates, then two.

“I am extremely excited,” Hendrickson said. “We think he is going to be one of the first defensive ends taken. His future is unlimited. He is a bright kid, a smart kid and articulate.”
IMG SIGNS BROADCASTER: IMG has signed ESPN broadcaster Chris McKendry for representation. She will be represented by a team of agents led by Ben Stauber.

Liz Mullen can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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