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Volume 24 No. 160
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NFL Owners Set To Meet On March 3; Is Richardson A Hindrance To Reaching A Deal?

The NFL confirmed owners will meet as a group March 3 in Ft. Lauderdale, the day the league’s CBA is set to expire. Committee meetings will precede the full ownership gathering on March 1-2, NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said. The early March meetings are a regular on the NFL calendar, but only as committee meetings. The expiration of the CBA necessitated making the last day a full owners meeting. The two sides are far apart on reaching a new deal, and the league is expected to lock out the players soon after the expiration of the deal (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported negotiating sessions were originally scheduled for this week, but sources on both sides indicated that they are "not sure if those meetings will take place" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/14).'s John Clayton wrote the NFLPA "lived up to the faith I had in both sides by making what I consider the perfect proposal." Their "offer of a 50-50 split of all revenues wasn't going to bring immediate harmony, but it showed what I thought all along -- that the players want to get a deal done." Clayton: "Even though they're not ready to make a deal, the owners need to make a counter that addresses their needs and acknowledges the movement of the players. No counter would show what players have feared for a long time -- that owners want to use a lockout to win the talks" (, 2/14).

Is Richardson's role on negotiating
committee an impediment to talks?
IMPEDIMENT TO PROGRESS? YAHOO SPORTS' Michael Silver reported in addition to Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson copping a "condescending attitude" toward Colts QB Peyton Manning and Saints QB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Drew Brees in a Feb. 5 bargaining session, Richardson also became "angry" at former NFLer and Exec Committee member Sean Morey when he "cited a slew of statistics on player safety and average career length." Richardson reportedly said, "You guys made so much (expletive) money -- if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own (expletive) team." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and "several of Richardson's fellow owners cringed" at that point, and league reps "suggested that the two sides take a break." Later, several owners, including the Patriots' Robert Kraft, the Giants' John Mara and the Chiefs' Clark Hunt, "apologized to the players who were present, assuring them that they respect the union's position." One player said that Richardson "apologized to Manning for having lost his cool." Another player said of the bargaining session, "It was bad from the start. (Richardson) opened the meeting by describing how he was almost annoyed how we would ask for that meeting on their busiest weekend of the year." Silver noted Richardson's role as co-Chair of the league's negotiating committee "has become an impediment to potential labor peace, which means one of two things: Either the owners have no intention of trying to strike a deal before the March 4 expiration of the current CBA and are hell-bent on a lockout or Richardson needs to go." A player yesterday said, "When the owners want to get serious, they just need to get him out of the room --- because we'll never get a deal done with him in there." Silver wrote, "If nothing else, it would behoove the owners to encourage Richardson to take a leave of absence for the next several bargaining sessions, if and when they occur, because he's not helping their cause" (, 2/14).

PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Cardinals K and player rep Jay Feely yesterday said that Richardson was "behaving poorly in the negotiating meeting the day before the Super Bowl." A Panthers spokesperson yesterday said that those reports "were a 'mischaracterization,' of Richardson's feelings, but said he wouldn't comment further, since Richardson wanted the negotiations to happen in private" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/15). Brees yesterday said of Richardson's comments to him and Manning, "I wouldn't say that things were disrespectful but what I would say is that there are a lot of issues to get through and we're obviously not going to agree on everything and so it's a process and there are a lot of things to consider here" (, 2/14). ESPN's Michael Wilbon, noting Richardson played two seasons in the NFL, said the players "think Jerry Richardson is only an owner. He's not, and there's some gravity to his words that other owners wouldn't even dare." But Wilbon noted it was a "nice move" by Feely to sort of out Richardson and put this out there and put him back on his heels." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser: "This is good to put it out here and put him back on his heels" ("PTI," ESPN, 2/14).

TIME FOR A DEAL: NFL player agent Ralph Cindrich said the negotiations are a "test of Goodell's leadership." Cindrich: "He is employed and paid by the league office; owners fund the league office. So his duty is to the owners, but when you hold that type of position, his duty supersedes the game" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 2/15). In Jacksonville, Chet Fussman wrote the NFL "might be the most popular sports league in North America x10, but nothing is impenetrable and it’s issues like labor unrest and months of negative PR that can chip away at the league’s aura of invincibility." Fans will "tire of the posturing, the threats and do-nothing attitudes very quickly and some will find something else to spend their time and money on." Fussman: "Losing customers is bad for any business, and the NFL isn’t exempt from that" (, 2/14). In West Palm Beach, Ben Volin wrote a potential lockout "purely and simply" is "about the owners wanting more money." Volin: "It appears they will try to bully the players until they get their way" (, 2/14).

ON THE BACKBURNER: In Green Bay, Pete Dougherty notes though the labor dispute "has put plans for a game in London this year on hold," the Packers "could be an attractive draw for overseas fans." The league "has sent a top team before ... and it has had discussions to play a game in Ireland," with the Steelers a "likely participant." Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy: "We would love to go over -- as an away team" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 2/15).