A New CBA - Part 2

In Part 2 of our continuing look at the Labor Talks, we come to the area of consequence that will be the source of negotiation. The Issues.

For reference, you can find Part 1 here.

1) Rookie pay scale

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell believes there's something wrong about the system.

"The money should go to people who perform. Now, with the economics where they are, the consequences if you don’t evaluate that player, you can lose a significant amount of money".

He also claims that it's ridiculous to reward untested rookies with lucrative contracts and wants the issue addressed in contract talks. The NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith agrees. This issue will be resolved in the new CBA. Consider it like two sides are in Verbal Agreement: it just remains for the details to be sorted out.

Goodell also feels there should be a provision that allows the players to renegotiate after performing on the field. I can see the players agreeing to this also.

2) Percentage of revenue assigned to salaries

A recent NFLPA study claims the owners will collectively lose $150 million in non-recoverable expenses if there is a lockout. For owners hustling to cut deals with state-sponsored lotteries, some worth between only $1 million and $2 million per year in revenues, $150 million is a lot of money. The owners will have to give some serious concessions to the players for them to budge off the 59% revenue figure. More freedom with Free Agency, and some pension considerations. The NFL also said it wanted to address recouping bonuses from players who violate their contracts, as well as establishing a tighter salary scale for rookies who currently secure multimillion-dollar contracts. This is the Major point of contention for the two sides, and everything else will take a back seat. As Navin R. Johnson would say, "Ah, it's a profit deal."

3) Veteran Pensions and Disability

It is Smith's intention to take better care of retired players, and his insistence on more transparency from the league will cause major problems. "There are a number of significant consequences to our retired players in an uncapped year", said Smith.

There are significant consequences for current players in an uncapped year. Disability Benefits for retired NFL players are paid from two separate funds. One of those funds is protected by law and cannot be reduced if their were a work stoppage. However, the other fund is supplemental and can certainly be reduced if a new CBA is not reached prior to a work stoppage in 2011. For a football-related disability, i.e., one that occurred on the field and renders a player unable to work in another occupation within 6 months of the injury, a player gets $224,000 in disability payments now. In an uncapped year, the payment would shrink to $48,000 annually. An active player who becomes disabled in an accident off the field get $134,000 a year now; he’d get $48,000 in the uncapped year. NFL players could lose their family's health insurance next spring, plus their 401(k) retirement plan matches and nearly every other league-provided benefit.

Commissioner Goodell has tried to reassure retired players that their pensions and disability benefits would not be reduced in a labor dispute next year, refuting statements made by the NFL Players Association. Goodell claims that these statements have no basis in fact.

"In all my conversations with DeMaurice Smith, he has never raised the subject with me," Goodell wrote in response to questions raised by NFL Alumni board members. "Had he done so, my answer would have been unequivocal — there will be no reduction in pension or disability payments to retired players during 2010."

In a statement released by the NFLPA, Smith responded by challenging the NFL to guarantee paying benefits beyond 2010. "If these benefits are now being guaranteed for one year by the NFL, which they currently are not, then that's a win for the players," NFLPA benefits director Miki Yaras-Davis said.

Portions of Goodell's letter were released by NFL Alumni and Fourth and Goal, an independent retired-player advocacy group. Goodell was responding to concerns raised by the groups' directors after NFLPA members stated retired players would take a hit in an uncapped year. In the letter, Goodell said that since 2007, owners consistently have agreed not to reduce funding to retired players if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached and results in the salary cap being lifted next season. The debate is viewed as a sign both the league and the union are courting the support of retired players in negotiations to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

Numerous former players have had a long-standing rift with the NFLPA, believing their needs were dismissed by former executive director Gene Upshaw, who died last August. Smith has made strides to ease tensions and address retired players' concerns since he was elected in March.

Still, retired players are taking sides. One retiree said that the NFL, under Goodell, is contributing up to $9 million more toward retired player benefits than it previously did. As for the NFLPA, He questioned whether the union was using this issue to gain support from retired players in labor talks.

Hall of Famer Mike Ditka said it's simply about doing what's right."The outcome of labor negotiations should not directly or indirectly impact the retirees pension and disabilities in 2010 and beyond. They have already suffered from the being on the short end of the stick," said Ditka, who is also the chairman of the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund.

This is another issue that will be hard fought as well. If the "He said, They said" blame game is happening at this point, you can bet "It ain't over til it's over."

4) Policy for player conduct violations/sanctions

On September 1, 2006, just days prior to the start of the 2006 NFL season, Roger Goodell and the National Football League Players Association decided that teams will be responsible for the conduct of their employees, and will be subject to discipline for any transgressions. A six-man player advisory committee was also created, to discuss conduct, discipline and other topics.

"Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson and Michael Vick were all suspended. Many considered the suspensions on Jones and Henry to be too harsh, especially Jones's, which was enforced despite Jones having not been convicted of any crime. Additional criticism stemmed from the players' ability to keep their jobs while simply being fined or suspended. Criticism was also drawn at the commissioner's ability to punish the rest of the player's team and revoke draft picks. Goodell's actions are also leaving the league vulnerable to legal action from player's lawyers.

When "Spygate" occurred, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff were fined $500,000. The team was penalized a 1st round draft pick in 2008 as they qualified for the playoffs, but would have been penalized with a 2nd and 3rd round pick had they failed to make the playoffs. The move was heavily criticized as being a double standard. Although the videotaping is not considered to violate personal conduct rules, NFL players were critical of the Commissioner's move. When Goodell penalized Belichick, he determined that the use of the camera during the Patriots’ season-opening 38-14 win over the New York Jets had no impact on the game.

Here is The 2008 Personal Conduct Policy

5) Extending the season/shortening preseason

This is merely an opportunity for the league to generate more money, increasing revenues out of the TV networks by adding meaningful games and reducing the number of preseason games. Clubs charge their fans regular-season prices to attend as part of their season-ticket deals anyways, shouldn't the fans be considered?

The only things that could derail an expansion of the NFL season to 17 or 18 games are problems with the players union or broadcast partners.The players may not wish to add 2 more weeks of wear and tear on their bodies. Then you wouldn't need much beyond injury reports to pick the champions at that point.

It looks like Roger Goodell expects the league to start expanding across the pond. The League plans to schedule some regular-season games in the U.K. in the next few years. The League is thinking of expanding, and that could put a franchise in London.

It’s the third year in a row the NFL is staging a regular-season game in London, and the league is now looking into playing at least two games a year in Britain. Along with London, Manchester and Glasgow, Scotland are being considered as possible expansion sites. however, there is no possibility of an International Super Bowl, this is, still American Football.

The league is considering expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games, with a possibility for every team to play one game abroad. If the league wants more of the current franchises to travel internationally for games, the regular season should be extended so that teams can keep the same number of home games.

Goodell said he would prefer a potential London-based team was a completely new franchise, rather than moving one from an existing market. The league is also eyeing having a team in Los Angeles again, especially after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill this week allowing the construction of a 75,000-seat stadium that developers hope will lure an NFL team back to the Los Angeles area.

6) Drug policy.

Recently, a federal appeals court in Minnesota unanimously ruled in favor of the NFL in the so-called "Star Caps" case, rejecting all of the challenges brought by the NFL Players Association, including unfounded claims of bias and failure to share information with players about diuretics. The Court of Appeals fully upheld the earlier rulings of a federal district court in favor of the league. Commissioner Goodell added, "because the Minnesota and New Orleans players committed the same violation and had their appeals resolved at the same time, I believe the appropriate step is to defer the suspensions while we pursue both our legal options
and continue discussions with the NFLPA."

The four players, along with former Saints running back Deuce McAllister, all fought their suspensions last season after they tested positive for the banned diuretic Bumetanide, which can be used to mask the presence steroids. The players argued that the league knew Bumetanide had been detected in the over-the-counter weight-loss supplement, StarCaps, but failed to notify players who were using it. Bumetanide was not a listed ingredient in the product.

The Commissioner also said he hoped the players union would begin working with the league to resolve the matter now that federal courts "have rejected the NFLPA's improper challenge to our collectively bargained program. We hope the union will join us in ensuring that these principles of fairness and uniformity are preserved," Goodell said. "The union's unfortunate refusal to do so thus far has created needless uncertainty for our program. This is an important issue not only for the NFL, but for all sports and everyone who cares about the integrity of sports competition."

NFL reminds players about drug-testing program

7) The Commissioner's authority

*Issues 4 and 6 tie in to this point as well.

When the NFLPA begins talks with the NFL on a new collective bargaining agreement one of the topics of conversation will be the power of commissioner Roger Goodell to discipline players, union chief executive DeMaurice Smith told USA Today on July 28th.

Goodell has made his mark as commissioner of the NFL through his rigid discipline and enforcement of the leagues’ personal conduct policy. Despite his many rulings on punishment for players that have violated the personal conduct policy, the amount of authority wielded by Goodell has raised concerns amongst players and for that reason, the NFLPA wants to take a closer look at the amount of power the commissioner has.

"That's something that's very important to the players that we intend to raise," Smith said. "It's long been a subject of negotiations," Goodell said. "But I believe I have been responsible with my authority. It's important to have somebody who can make the best decisions on behalf of the league and the game. I do that with a great deal of consideration of everyone involved in the league.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement in pdf form.

In Part 3, we will talk about the Escalation, Impact, and Consequences of an Uncapped year. I hope this fills your Bye week with knowledge.

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