NFL Lockout Watch, Day 133: Sides Discuss Proposal After Players Don't Vote
NFLPA President Kevin Mawae in a statement Friday morning said player leadership is discussing the most recent written proposal with the NFL after the owners ratified the agreement Thursday night. The discussions include a settlement agreement, deal terms and the right process for addressing recertification. Several NFL team owners and league officials, as well as NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, are in Boston to attend Friday's funeral for Myra Kraft, wife of Patriots Owner Robert Kraft. Mawae said, "There will not be any further NFLPA statements today out of respect for the Kraft family while they mourn the loss of Myra Kraft" (THE DAILY). In Houston, John McClain reports NFL players believe the owners' ratification of a new CBA is a "power play to pressure them into approving the agreement when they don't know if all the details had been agreed upon." The 32 player reps did not vote on the agreement during their conference call Thursday night, and Texans OT and player rep Eric Winston said, "They couldn't ask us to vote on something we didn't see. When we do see it, maybe it's exactly what we talked about, but we don't know that now. ... This is a 10-year agreement. Why would we vote on it when we're not sure about everything that's in it? That wouldn't make sense." He added, "They set an artificial timeline (Thursday) and kind of held us hostage to it. That's never been our timeline. It's like they set it up and then snapped their fingers expecting us to jump" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22). The players reportedly received copies of the proposal at 10:30pm ET (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/22). When asked if owners "tried to slip provisions into a CBA that had not been agreed to by the two sides," an NFLPA source said, "Yup. Politics" (BOSTON HERALD, 7/22). NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen in an e-mail to player reps shortly after the voted suggested strongly the owners could be violating labor law by linking the deal to the NFLPA re-forming as a union.
PLAYER REACTIONS: Chiefs C and player rep Rudy Niswanger said, "This is not about an artificial timeline. The only timeline we're truly operating under right now is when the deal is right. ... If we rush the end game to this deal, one side or the other isn't going to be happy with what we're dealing with" (K.C. STAR, 7/22). Vikings P Chris Kluwe said, "It's disappointing that the owners would try to change the terms of this carefully negotiated CBA right before presenting it to the players. If they try to present us with a fait accompli, then I think they're sadly underestimating the players' unity" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/22). Ravens WR Donte Stallworth: "We all want to start football on time. But we feel like we've been backed into the corner" (Baltimore SUN, 7/22). Chargers C and player rep Nick Hardwick: "I can't put a timeline on it. Our leadership can't put a timeline on it. We're not going to be rushed into taking something we're going to regret down the line" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 7/22). Many players took to their Twitter feeds Thursday night to express their reactions to the owners' vote. Saints FB Heath Evans wrote, "Here is what the 'Real' fans need 2 know: The owners tried 2 slip many things n2 the CBA 'they' voted on that were NEVER agreed 2! #PRPlay." Steelers S and player rep Ryan Clark: "The owners want u to believe that they have been extremely fair everywhere and this is their 'olive branch' to finalize it. Media mind games." Redskins DT and player rep Vonnie Holliday: "It's sad that the owners played this card! We want to get back to work & have been trying to do so! Don't buy into the hype." Free agent WR Mike Sims-Walker: "So yall expect us to sign a 400 page deal in a hour without thoroughly looking thru it?" Cardinals K Jay Feely: "A lot of criticism of greedy players not taking deal. We are being prudent business men. We need to review the offer & it's new terms first" (TWITTER.com, 7/21). But Bears QB Caleb Hanie on Twitter wrote, "I'd like to pre-emptively cast my vote for yes on any agreement put in front of me. Let's get to work" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 7/22).
POWER PLAY: ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote Thursday's vote was an "obvious power play by owners, who want to pressure players into accepting their latest proposal and see how they respond to public pressure." Players are "calling this the owners' version of a CBA," not the players'. One player who was on the NFLPA player rep call said, "What they said they voted on were things we didn't even agree to. Players were ticked off at owners and have just dug a deeper trench." Clayton noted part of the "power play by owners is to protect their legal position but also force a deadline for the players to come back as a union, which is vital if there is going to be a 10-year agreement." Owners also "want to resolve this crazy situation without losing more games" (ESPN.com, 7/21). CBSSPORTS.com's Will Brisson noted it is "clear that the decision to ratify a proposal the players weren't aware of didn't sit well with everyone on the NFLPA side." Bills S and player rep George Wilson said, "This is nothing more than an attempt to get the fans to turn on the players" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21). 49ers LB Takeo Spikes said the deal was a “straight power move by the owners” and the players “all thought it was disrespectful" ("Mike & Mike in the Morning," ESPN2, 7/22). ESPN's Herm Edwards said, "When you hear both parties speaking right now, the players … are looking at this thing going, ‘Have we just been hoodwinked or maybe even bamboozled? We’re not quite sure what we just bought in to.'" ESPN's Sal Paolantonio: "It's clear, in some ways, this is a power play by the owners" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/21). In St. Louis, Bryan Burwell writes under the header, "NFL Owners Try To Pull A Fast One On Players." The league "has not-so-subtly shifted the public pressure of millions of football fans square into the players' chests." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners "no doubt believe the best way to push this negotiating football over the goal line is with the leverage of public pressure" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 7/22).
LIFE IN THE FAST LANE: CBSSPORTS.com's Ray Ratto wrote in announcing that they "had agreed to what they called 'a settlement,' the owners basically tried to bait a hook to catch a fish that is at least as smart as they are." Ratto: "They managed to pull a fast one so slowly that not only did the NFL Players Association figure it out, the media did too, which means the fans did -- and now the owners look even more galactically disingenuous than ever before. And that's saying something. ... This was yet more proof that the owners believe the players and their elected representatives are truly stupid and unworthy of being negotiated with in good faith" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21). In S.F., Vittorio Tafur writes it was a "bad power move, a botched attempt to put the onus on the players and open them up to possible fan outrage by not ratifying the 'new deal'" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/22). In Houston, Jerome Solomon writes under the header, "Owners' Bully Tactics Aside, Football Around The Corner." It was "funny watching the owners pat themselves on the backs for a job well done" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 7/22). In K.C., Sam Mellinger writes under the header, "Goodell Fumbles As Players Reject Owners' Power Play." Mellinger: "What we're seeing now is the illustration of a major distrust many players have of Goodell and the owners" (K.C. STAR, 7/22). In St. Petersburg, John Romano writes it "just felt terribly manipulative of NFL owners to ratify an agreement Thursday that commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the players had not yet approved" (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 7/22). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote the owners "prematurely declared labor peace" as a way of "generating public pressure on the players to capitulate." Some players "watching Goodell during his press conference were incredulous." One player said, "It was arrogant." Another said, "It was serious gamesmanship designed to make us look bad" (CBSSPORTS.com, 7/21).
BALL'S IN YOUR COURT: In Oakland, Monte Poole writes under the header, "Clever Underhanded Genius By NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell And Owners." Poole: "What Goodell and the owners did was put the pressure squarely on the players -- and invite further acrimony. ... It may have cracked the image the players have projected through this tedious standoff" (OAKLAND TRIBUNE, 7/22). ESPN's Tom Jackson said, "If you are the NFLPA, you're sitting there right now with a tremendous amount of public pressure on you to ratify this deal" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 7/21). KNBR-AM's Damon Bruce said, "Roger Goodell wouldn't go out there on national television and lay it out like that. I mean there's speculation that they were trying to put the onus on the players, but that's really hanging himself out to dry and making himself look bad" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 7/21). In Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan writes under the header, "Snookered Or Not, Players Staring At Fair Deal." It "strained credulity" that Goodell and the owners "would announce approval of a deal the players hadn't agreed to -- not because of their inherent decency, but because it would be all too easy to prove they were lying." Sheridan: "It would take even more gall and arrogance to pull a stunt like that than the owners have previously exhibited, and they've exhibited plenty. It would also take remarkable stupidity, since such a ploy would surely be exposed and would look terrible in the court of public opinion" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 7/22). Also in Philadelphia, Paul Domowitch writes the owners' actions put the NFLPA's Smith "in a bad light and makes him look like a flipping idiot" during his first labor deal. The owners are "suggesting that they signed off on the terms of a deal with him and now he can't get the players to agree to it" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 7/22).