NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday went "directly to the players in a bid to jump start negotiations aimed at" a new CBA by sending an e-mail letter to players and agents "outlining the league's "most recent contract proposal, and urging them to prod the union to return to the table," according to NEWSDAY. Goodell "outlined several points of the latest proposal, including: a salary cap of $141 million per team in 2011; free agency for players with four or more years' experience; reduced offseason program requirements; retraining a 16-game regular season for at least the next two years and not expanding to 18 games without the union's consent." Goodell wrote, "I hope you will encourage your union to return to the bargaining table and conclude a new collective bargaining agreement" (NEWSDAY, 3/18). Goodell added, "We want you to understand the offer that we made to the NFLPA. The proposal was made to avoid a work stoppage. Each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk" (LATIMES.com, 3/17). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Matthew Futterman writes the league's aim in disclosing details of their latest offer is to "try to show the general public -- and specifically fans and players -- the union's leaders and its attorneys potentially sacrificed millions of dollars in player pay this season for a chance to sue the NFL when the two parties were, according to league officials, close on the economics of the deal." NFL Exec VP/Business Operations Eric Grubman: "If I was a player and I found out my union had cost me an entire season because of a disagreement over about 2.5% or 3% (of overall revenue), I'd be very angry." However, NFLPA Assistant Exec Dir for External Affairs George Atallah "insisted the two sides weren't close." An NFLPA analysis indicated that the league's proposal "reduces player compensation by $448 million, compared with the expired agreement, in the first year and some $2.1 billion overall through the 2014 season" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 3/18).
PLAYERS RESPOND: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted the letter is Goodell's "first direct communication with rank-and-file players since talks toward a new agreement broke off, the union decertified and the owners locked players out last Friday." Seahawks OT and player rep Chester Pitts said, "I told all my guys to set this letter on fire. We're not that stupid" (NYTIMES.com, 3/17). Titans LB Will Witherspoon in a text message said it was "very distasteful" for Goodell to send out the letter. Witherspoon: "If we were in court, I would compare to a lawyer trying to lead a witness. I duly object to the fact he has highlighted his highpoints but not given them any ground to stand on!" (AP, 3/17). Patriots CB Leigh Bodden tweeted, “Who gave Goodell my email address??” (TWITTER.com, 3/17).
HAVING HIS SAY: In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes the letter "came to light just hours after" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "appeared to strike a promising note in the dispute in an interview with" WFAN-AM. Smith "revealed the players still are open to an 18-game regular season, and indicated his group is open to further negotiations" (N.Y. POST, 3/18). Smith on WFAN said that "'there's no reason' the league and the players can't talk or negotiate before the April 6 court hearing on the lockout injunction" (PROFOOTBALLWEEKLY.com, 3/17). But he added, "The NFL publicly projected by 2027, they want to have revenue numbers of approximately $25 billion. If we would have taken the worst deal in the history of sports, by the time they are making $25 billion off the backs, fingers, and legs of our players, our share of all revenue would be somewhere around 25%. My simple question to you as a fan of this sport for a long time: Does that sound fair?” (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 3/17).
CONDUCT POLICY IN PLACE: NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy Thursday said that the league "plans to enforce its personal conduct policy even with players prohibited from reporting to team headquarters." FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez noted the policy, enacted in '07, "subjects players to fines and possible suspension at the discretion of" Goodell. McCarthy in an e-mail wrote, "While players won't be able to get the benefit of our evaluation and counseling program during the work stoppage, the personal conduct of players and employees is an integrity-of-the-game issue. Any misconduct that is detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in the NFL will certainly be addressed when play resumes." Atallah in response said, "The best amendment the NFL and the owners can make to any policy at this point is to end the lockout" (FOXSPORTS.com, 3/17).