NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday credited his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell -- often "rocky during the last several months -- with setting the stage" for the sides to reach a new CBA, according to Bob Glauber of NEWSDAY. Smith during a joint press conference with Goodell announcing the end of the 136-day lockout said, "I'm not sure any two people have ever come together in a more compressed, public, interesting time than Roger and I, but I'm proud to say that our relationship has grown." Glauber reports once the NFLPA re-forms as a union, "players can vote on the CBA." Owners and players "have until Aug. 4 to agree on any remaining issues, among them player safety, the league's drug policy and its personal conduct policy." Smith said that he "doesn't foresee any problems in agreeing on all outstanding issues." He added, "We have a little bit of a head start on those issues, and I think the faster we can resolve them, the better it is for the game of football and the men who play it" (NEWSDAY, 7/26). ESPN.com's Ashley Fox listed Smith and Goodell both as "winners" of the past four months. Fox: "Both men took hits, and the rhetoric, at times, was ugly. But the two men were able to keep their constituents together. Neither had massive factions develop, and Smith put together a sharp executive committee to negotiate." Although they "probably never will have the close, collegial relationship" that their predecessors -- Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw -- enjoyed, Goodell and Smith "worked together to close the deal and keep the owners and players from losing games" (ESPN.com, 7/25). NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora said during the negotiations, the relationship between Goodell and Smith “in some ways defined their existence.” La Canfora: “There’s no doubt that the trust has grown, the relationship has grown, the respect has grown. I don’t think the situation was ever as dire as some presented it, but this experience will be a common bond they’ll always share” (NFL Network, 7/25).
A JOB WELL DONE: In Denver, Jeff Legwold writes a "significant portion of Goodell's legacy now rests" with the new 10-year CBA. Legwold: "Did Goodell get everything the owners wanted in the negotiations? No, he did not. Did the commissioner build a consensus and help keep things on track toward a deal that prevented a meltdown of professional football that would have been felt for decades? Yes, he did" (DENVER POST, 7/26). In Chicago, David Haugh writes Goodell "will be known forever as the commissioner who delivered labor peace after the NFL's longest work stoppage, the leader who consistently acted with professional elegance no matter how inflammatory his counterpart's remarks." Negotiating the new CBA "will enhance Smith's career more than his legacy." Goodell, on the other hand, "had an easier job serving a constituency of 32 owners than Smith did working for 1,900 players." Haugh: "Skillfully doing that job -- harder than it sounds, given egos as large as some owners' bank accounts -- secured Goodell's niche in NFL history. He couldn't screw this up and didn't" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 7/26). Meanwhile, The Nation’s Dave Zirin said the "most underrated contribution by DeMaurice Smith is that he kept 1,900 people together." Zirin: "He was able to keep them together in a way that I don't think sports unions have been able to do in the recent past” ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 7/25).
DOT YOUR I'S AND CROSS YOUR T'S: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the new 10-year agreement "does not include an opt-out clause, a provision players wanted but owners resisted, arguing that financial certainty would be critical when the league starts renegotiating television contracts in the next few years." For now, the league and players "will immediately begin to negotiate final elements of a collective bargaining agreement, including drug testing and personal-conduct policies, and the union will be re-formed so that all 1,900 players can vote to ratify it by Aug. 4." If those items "are not completed by Aug. 4, the settlement will be void" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/26). FOXSPORTS.com's AJ Perez noted the CBA "cannot be ratified until the NFLPA, currently considered a trade association, recertifies." Ballots "already began going out to team representatives on Monday, and a simple majority of the league’s 1,900 players is needed to vote the union back into existence." Players then will "vote to approve the CBA." The NFL "aims to have this process completed by Aug. 4, which will allow time for the Brady v. NFL suit to be settled in federal court and other issues, like a substance abuse policy, to be worked out" (FOXSPORTS.com, 7/25).
PEACE BE WITH YOU: The AP's Howard Fendrich noted one of the "final issues -- if not THE final issue -- was the players' wish to add an opt-out clause," but they ultimately "were willing to drop that demand." A source said that the opt-out clause was the "only issue he worried might be able to stand in the way of a deal being closed" yesterday (AP, 7/25). In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan writes the CBA not having an opt-out clause for either side is "one of the truest signs this deal is a good one, and reportedly was one of the final concessions made by the players to bring the negotiations to a satisfied end." Smith could "give it up because he gained so much more, fostering a unity that many thought would crack once players stopped getting paychecks" (Bergen RECORD, 7/26). ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the NFLPA Exec Committee “told the players that the reason they’re not going to go for the opt-out is that the penalty was going to be very steep for the players if they opted out and didn’t see the value in doing that” ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 7/25). Falcons OT and player rep Tyson Clabo said, "An opt-out clause, in some guys’ opinion, limited the players’ ability to negotiate the maximum amount of revenue. So we would kind of be taking money out of our own pockets with an opt-out clause. If they can make more money without an opt-out clause, then we’ll make more money eventually" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 7/26).
BREAKING DOWN THE DEAL: In N.Y., Ebenezer Samuel notes the new CBA "controls salaries for NFL draft picks, reduces offseason demands on players, and permits free agency after four years in the league." The owners see a 6% "increase in their share of revenues," but NFLPA President Kevin Mawae said that the increase "was fine because of the new mandate on team spending." Mawae: "There's guaranteed 'spend' for the next 10 years. There's a guaranteed minimum (that each team must spend each year). The flow will never go below a certain point, and it doesn't matter whether revenues go up or down. The percentage will always stay the same" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/26). Packers OT and player rep Mark Tauscher said, "The owners were looking for a bigger piece of the pie; we knew that. We gave back a little of the pie, but we got it redistributed as well. The fact we got some of the health and safety guarantees, from a player standpoint, that was big. There's never been a system like this where there's only one-a-day training camp practices and fewer off-season dates." He added, "Health and safety was something that was important for us" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/26). Bengals OT and player rep Andrew Whitworth said that "one part of the deal that he liked the most was the fact that all teams had to meet a higher minimum payroll." He added, "It's going to keep it fair and competitive for everyone. The new offseason and training camp rules are good, too, because it is going to help guys out and allow them to play longer" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 7/26).
STADIUM ARCADIUM: In Milwaukee, Tom Silverstein notes one aspect of the new agreement "that is particularly appealing" to Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy is a "stadium fund that will invest in renovations and new construction." Each year, 1.5% of the league revenues "will be shaved off the top and put into the fund." For every "private dollar a team puts into construction, the league will match 50% of it." The new fund "will allow the Packers to move forward on completing the upper seating bowl in the south end of Lambeau Field and expanding the amenities around the stadium." Murphy said, "With the projects we're looking at doing, with the variety of different things we're looking at doing in the stadium, that will be beneficial to us. The incentive to put money into the stadium; I'm encouraged by that" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/26). The CBA also could help AEG build Farmers Field in downtown L.A.