Major strides save NFL CBA discussions?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at his annual Super Bowl news conference in Dallas, Texas, February 4, 2011. The Super Bowl XLV NFL football game will be played in nearby Arlington, Texas on February 6. REUTERS/Pierre Ducharme (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

After talks nearly broke down during the day, NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that the owners and players made major strides on the revenue split late into Thursday night and early Friday morning.


Talks didn’t wrap up until after midnight after they came close to breaking down earlier in the day. Mediator Arthur Boylan has “optimism building a bit,” and it now looks like the revenue split “might not be a major stumbling block” when talks resume next week. Boylan orchestrated a “huge rebound,” writes Breer. That sentiment coincides with a cryptic tweet from’s Mike Freeman, who suggested football fans should be thanking Boylan as the July 4 holiday weekend begins.

CBS’ Mike Freeman reported Friday morning that the owners had “suddenly reversed course” and were offering “models that had been previously rejected by the players” in terms of the all-important revenue split. But it sounds like Boylan has saved the day and maybe more heartache (I use that term very loosely) for the fans.

As John Paulsen wrote this morning, now isn’t the time for the owners to be reneging on compromises that have already been made. Now isn’t the time to be greedy when so much progress has been made over the last couple of weeks (and so much time has been wasted fighting in court).

While the situation remains as fluid as ever, it still appears as though they’re getting close to signing a new CBA. This is just a hunch on my part, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a deal is completed within the next 2-3 weeks and free agency begins sometime this month. Then things will really get interesting as general managers scramble to fill roster holes and coaches try to get rookies and new players up to speed. Teams with new coaching staffs will certainly have their work cut out for them.

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New CBA not as close as some assume?

DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director, makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) in Washington on March 11, 2011. The last real hope for a quick end to the dispute ended when the union representing the players (NFLPA) filed a court application to dissolve itself after failing to reach an agreement with league and owners over a range of issues. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

Over the last few weeks, the majority of fans have been under the assumption that the NFL was on the verge of signing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That’s because most of the reports on the labor dispute have been positive lately.

Until now, that is.

According to a FOX Sports report, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith met with a group of players on Tuesday to inform them that the NFL is not nearly as close to signing a new CBA as many say. does a nice job summing up FOX Sports’ findings:

Smith did express optimism in the “under-the-radar” conference call, but told a group of 50 players that recent reports of a close or even done deal are “way off.” According to FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer, problem points include years of service for free agency and money allocated for retirees. “And (those problems are) even before we start talking about splitting the revenue,” one player on the call told Glazer. It sounds like speculation of a CBA just after July 4 has been misinformed. The owners are desperate to get all four preseason games in, however, so we’d still expect a deal before August.

I still think a deal will get done sometime in July. I’m no expert on the situation but it’s my understanding that the framework for a new CBA is already done. Now all the sides have to do is iron out the details (which I understand could take a few more weeks) and put a bow on things.

That said, I don’t blame Smith for managing the players’ expectations. There’s no sense in assuming anything at this point, especially when you consider how fluid these talks have been over the last couple of months. Things could break down rather quickly, so it’s smart of Smith to keep everyone focused until things are official.

At this point, I don’t view FOX’s report as a positive or negative thing. It’s understandable that the two sides still have plenty to work on, but there’s no reason to believe that the situation is as dire as it was a month ago. Again, I’m willing to bet that the CBA will be signed sometime in July and free agency can begin.

NFL to lose a reported $1 billion if the preseason is canceled

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell does a television interview before the 2011 NFL football Draft in New York, April 28, 2011. REUTERS/MIke Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Back in January a friend of mine asked me if I thought the entire 2011 NFL season would be wiped out because of the labor dispute. My response to him was simple:

“Nobody is that stupid to leave that much money on the table.”

I’ll admit that after months of bickering, lawsuits and plenty false hope, my opinion has changed a little. I still don’t think the 2011 season will be lost for good but it doesn’t seem like the two sides are any closer to settling this labor fight then when the owners locked the players out back in March.

But there’s one fear that can end this dispute in the blink of an eye and it’s something I touched on when I responded to my friend’s question six months ago: The fear of losing money.

The NFL Network’s Albert Breer just wrote a solid piece about how the time for both sides to negotiate is now. That’s because keeping the lockout in place past August 1 will cost the NFL $350 million according to Breer. That number would escalate to $1 billion if the league cancels the preseason.

Nobody wants to lose money and as Breer points out, the two sides are now entering a crucial 30-day window. The owners and players can talk about what’s fair and unjust all they want but when you start throwing around real number losses, that’s when things start to get interesting. That’s when the true panic will set in and maybe then and only then will both sides finally start to get serious.

I don’t pretend to know even a fraction about what’s going on with the lockout. Labor disputes are nasty business and I feel like I should have a law degree to talk about what’s going on in the courts. But I’m old enough to know the effect money can have on our society and I know nobody likes pissing it away. If Breer’s numbers are correct, then I wouldn’t be surprised if a new CBA deal is done by the first of August.

But maybe that’s just more false hope creeping in.

Could there be a CBA in place by the time of the NFL draft?

David Boies, attorney for the National Football League, speaks to the media after attending a federal court hearing regarding labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association in St. Paul, April 6, 2011. Right of Boies is attorney Gregg Levy. REUTERS/Eric Miller (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL CRIME LAW BUSINESS)

Football fans have been waiting weeks for positive news to come out of the NFL labor dispute for weeks and finally, we may have a little.

The NFL Network’s Albert Breer is reporting that the CBA discussions between the owners and players are “serious,” even though the two sides will not talk over the weekend. Apparently progress is being made under mediator Judge Arthur Boylan and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement may be struck before or just after this month’s draft.

Of course, fans have gotten their hopes up before only to see them dashed. Back when the previous CBA was still in place, the two sides agreed to an extension and some thought that meant the owners and players were serious about agreeing on a new deal. But it wasn’t meant to be and a week later, the lockout began.

At this point, all we can do is hope that progress is actually being made. Nobody outside of the players and owners themselves truly know what’s going on behind closed doors, so maybe a deal will be struck within the next two weeks. Considering the issues at hand, I find it hard to believe that the two sides are any closer now than they were a month ago, and it’s rather disappointing that the players and owners won’t continue talks over the weekend. But at least they’re in mediation and talking. It’s certainly better than the alternative (i.e. leaving everything in the hands of the court system).

Pennington’s injury should come as a warning to players who don’t have insurance

Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington passes under pressure by San Diego Chargers linebacker Shaun Phillips during the first half of their NFL football game in San Diego, California September 27, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Blake (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Chad Pennington will need surgery after tearing his ACL in a pickup basketball on Thursday. Pennington, who is now a shoe-in to win the I’m the Unluckiest Bastard in the World award yet again this year, can probably put to rest any thoughts of another NFL comeback.

Now, if this were 2002 or even 2008, Pennington tearing his knee would be big news on its own. But with apologies to the Pennington family, it’s not now. The big news here is that a player just got seriously hurt during the lockout and for those in need of a reminder, the NFL stopped the players’ insurance the moment they locked them out.

Pennington seems like he’s on top of things so I would image he sought the advice of his union when it told him to make sure that he has insurance during the lockout. But there are 1,700-plus players in the NFL – what’s the chances that all 1,700-plus players acted swiftly and made sure they were covered as well? Don’t forget, we’re talking about 23, 24, 25-year-old kids here that think they’re invincible. How many of them are rolling the dice right now thinking they don’t have to have insurance, or who have put the task off hoping the lockout will end soon?

Maybe Pennington’s injury will serve as a wake up call for those that ignored the union’s letters and e-mails about attaining insurance. Freak injuries happen all the time and you know Pennington isn’t the only athlete playing pickup basketball, or hiking, or skiing, or whatever this offseason.

And thinking on an even grander scale, maybe Pennington’s injury will encourage the NFLPA to get back to the bargaining table and put an end to this CBA mess so that the NFL can start providing players with insurance again.

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