Saints to take on Packers to kick off 2011 NFL Season, Lions to host MNF game

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (R) celebrates with teammate Greg Jennings after they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers during the NFL’s Super Bowl XLV football game in Arlington, Texas February 6, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Assuming there even is a 2011 NFL season, the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers will host the New Orleans Saints on Thursday, September 8 to kick off the new year according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The full NFL schedule won’t be released until 7:00PM ET tonight, but word has leaked about some of the matchups. Along with the Saints-Packers tilt on opening night, the Giants are expected to play the Redskins in Week 1 and the Cowboys and Jets will kick off the Sunday Night Football schedule.

And get this: the Detroit Free Press is also reporting that the Lions will host a Monday Night Football game this year against their NFC North rivals, the Bears. The game is slated for October 10 and will be the Lions’ first appearance on MNF since 2001 and their first prime-time game of any kind since 2005.

That’s great news for long-suffering Lions fans, although does anyone else find it ironic that they get to celebrate their team being on MNF next year in the middle of a lockout? Congratulations, Lions fans – your team will be on Monday Night Football next season! Well, if there even is a season, that is.

I’ll update this post with the full schedule once it’s released tonight.

View the full 2011 NFL Schedule.

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2011 NFL season to be uncapped once the lockout ends?

National Football League Players’ Association’s (NFLPA) Executive Director DeMaurice Smith arrives to continue negotiations between the National Football League (NFL) and NFLPA in Washington March 11, 2011. The parties were still negotiating a range of sticking points, including how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues, but the players’ union insist one issue, the NFL’s proposal to add two more games to the regular season, was off the table. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES – Tags: EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS SPORT FOOTBALL)

The Washington Post is reporting that the 2011 NFL season would likely be played with no salary cap if the players succeed in ending the owners’ lockout.

That would mean there would be no player-payroll maximum or minimum for NFL teams. Players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service time to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, rather than the four seasons required when the salary cap system was in effect; players with expired contracts and three to five seasons of NFL experience would be restricted free agents. Each team would have an extra transition-player tag, in addition to the one franchise-player or transition-player designation allowed per club under the salary cap system, to restrict players’ movement in free agency, and there would be limits on the free agent activity of last season’s final eight playoff teams.

The reason that system would be used, sources said, is that it might have a better chance of withstanding an antitrust challenge by the players, given that the union previously agreed to those rules for an uncapped year in collective bargaining. Attorneys for the players’ side have said they would challenge in court any rules put in place by the league if the lockout is lifted.

The NFL is a victim of its own success. After making the game extremely popular over the last decade, fans are rightfully ticked off about this lockout. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve reached a point where I hope neither the players nor owners get what they want in the end.

An uncapped year would be great because the players ultimately won’t get what they want. The union has always wanted players to reach free agency as quickly as possible so that they can cash in great seasons. But as the Post points out, in an uncapped year players with expired contracts would need six years of NFL service to quality for free agency – not four like it would be under a cap. So there would be no “cashing in.”

In the end, both the players and owners will come to realize that their best bet was just to compromise months ago. Now they’re in a hell of their own making and I wouldn’t mind seeing both sides get burned in the process.

NFL owners walk away from CBA negotiations

Uh-oh. (ESPN)

NFL owners walked away from the negotiating table Wednesday when the NFL Players Association proposed to take an average of 50 percent of all revenue generated by the league, according to player sources.

Consequently, a five-hour second negotiating session scheduled for Thursday was canceled, and no further meetings have been proposed. Also, the NFL notified teams and owners Thursday that a scheduled owners meeting in Philadelphia next Tuesday has been canceled, sources told’s John Clayton.

Wednesday’s meeting in Washington started badly, one source said, when the owners’ negotiating team interpreted the union’s proposal of a 49 percent to 51 percent take as “total revenue,” instead of the union’s intended percentage take of “all revenue.”

At the current revenue levels, “total revenue” has been defined as an estimated $9 billion gross, minus a $1 billion credit in the owners’ favor. In the current CBA deal about to expire, the union’s share has been estimated at about 60 percent of $8 billion, once the $1 billion credit was subtracted.

Owners have asked for an additional $1 billion credit — or $2 billion in total — before they split “total revenue” with players.

So if the 60 percent number is correct, the union is currently getting around $4.8 billion while the owners are getting $4.2 billion ($1 billion credit plus 40% of the remaining $8 billion). If the two sides went to a 50/50 split of the full $9 billion, they’d each get $4.5 billion.

A union source said that if the NFLPA accepted the owners’ current proposal, it would receive a little more than 40 percent of all revenue.

[NFLPA executive director DeMaurice] Smith said in an interview with ESPN last week that a 40 percent to 42 percent share of all revenue would represent the smallest percentage of a players’ share by any professional sports union.

Assuming a 41% cut of all revenue, that’s $3.7 billion, so the owners are asking the union to take a $1.1 billion cut. It sounds like the union is willing to take a $0.3 billion cut (from $4.8 billion to $4.5 billion), so the two sides appear to be $0.8 billion apart.

It is telling that a 40-42 percent share would be the smallest percentage of any professional sports union given the fact that NFL rosters are far bigger than the NBA, NHL or MLB rosters. It seems like the NFL should have the highest percentage or at least be nearly equal to those other leagues.

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