Players to Roger Goodell: “Your statements are false.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (R) and Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch (C) arrive for labor negotiations between NFL players and owners with federal mediation in Washington on March 3, 2011. The current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight tonight and a lockout is possible but not definite if none is reached. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg.

The bickering between the players and the NFL just got turned up another notch.

Earlier this week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to every player encouraging them to return to the bargaining table. In response, the players sent out their own letter on Saturday that basically told Goodell that they’re not buying what he’s selling.

Here are some of the highlights from the players’ letter (courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle):

We start by reminding you that we were there at the negotiations and know the truth about what happened, which ultimately led the players to renounce the NFLPA’s status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players. The players took this step only as a last resort, and only after two years of trying to reach a reasonable collective bargaining agreement and three weeks of mediation with George Cohen of FMCS. At all times during the mediation session we had representatives at the table with the authority to make a deal. The NFL representatives at the mediation did not, and the owners were mostly absent.

The NFLPA did all it could to reach a fair collective bargaining agreement and made numerous proposals to address the concerns raised by the owners. In response, the owners never justified their demands for a massive giveback which would have resulted in the worst economic deal for players in major league pro sports.

That is why we were very troubled to see your letter, and repeated press reports by yourself, Jeff Pash, and the owners, which claim that the owners met the players halfway in negotiations, and that the owners offered a fair deal to the players.

Your statements are false.

One point that that players keep making (and it’s a strong one) is that most of the owners weren’t involved in the talks. As Mike Vrabel of the Chiefs has pointed out, Roger Goodell can’t make a deal. Jeff Pash can’t make a deal. Jerry Jones can make a deal. Jerry Richardson can make a deal. The owners can make a deal.

But if the owners aren’t even involved in the negotiations, and I mean sitting at the tables in the flesh, then how is a deal going to get made? I don’t agree with all of the moves that the players have made to this point but that’s one thing I do side with them on. They don’t need Roger Goodell sending them letters telling them to get back to the negotiating table if the owners aren’t even going to be there. No wonder most of them laughed Goodell’s letter off.

That said, the owners claim that their proposal last Friday was in effort to get the players to agree to another extension and to keep the lines of communication open. But according to the NFL, the players never offered a counter-proposal so in my opinion, it sounds like the NFLPA had already made up its mind that it wanted to go to litigation. It sure seems like DeMaurice Smith cares more about going to court than being one of the heroes (and I use that term very, very, VERY loosely) that negotiates a deal so that we can have a season next year.

For the record, I think Goodell’s heart is in the right place. He doesn’t want the courts to decide the fate of the league: he wants the players and owners to. But again, it’s his job to get both sides to the table. He needs to get all of the decision-makers in one room to hash this thing out or else this situation will only get uglier than it already is.

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NFL Player Rep: Owners’ contract offer was “kind of the old switcheroo”

General view of the New Meadowlands Stadium where the New York Jets and New York Giants NFL football teams play home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey March 14, 2011. The NFL has officially announced a lockout of players by team owners following the move by the players’ union to dissolve themselves and pursue court action against the league. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL BUSINESS)

Part of the reason the talks between the players and owners fell apart last week was because the NFLPA says the owners’ last proposal would have made salaries a fixed cost and eliminated the players’ chance to share in “higher-than-projected” revenue growth. Pete Kendall, the NFLPA’s permanent player representative, described the league’s offer as “kind of the old switcheroo,” while NFL spokesman Greg Aiello says that the players were in “a hurray to get out of the room last Friday and file their lawsuit.” Aiello also noted that the players never offered a counterproposal before decertifying.

Also, also, also, the players say that the owners took their CCR “Greatest Hits” album without asking and the owners claim that the players ate their leftovers from “La Senorita Mexican Café.”

Both sides deny each other’s claims.

It’s only been a week and already this lockout is making me want to carve out my eyes with a spoon. Know what I think? I think the owners had already made up their minds that they were going to lock the players out when these labor discussions (if you can even call them that) began. But once Judge David Doty ruled that they couldn’t use the $4 billion from the renegotiated TV contracts to fund their lockout, they figured the best way to get what they wanted was to actually sit down with the players.

But by that time, the players knew they had the upper hand and were going to follow through with their lawsuit unless the owners bent over backwards in negotiations. Thinking they would win with Doty if they went to court, they weren’t going to budge on their demands. The two CBA deadline extensions were just for show to make the public think that a resolution may be forthcoming.

As it turns out, Doty isn’t overseeing the players’ case so it appears as though nobody currently has the upper hand. Between draft boycotts, lawsuits, ridiculous slavery comparisons, Roger Goodell’s letter and $1 salaries, it’s amazing the men in charge can even put their shoes on the right feet in the morning. Had the owners and players actually tried to compromise from the start, I wonder if they would have agreed to a new CBA within a matter of weeks. But this entire situation has been a series of missteps by both sides, so here we are.

Goodell wants NFLPA to return to the bargaining table

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League (NFL), makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the NFL and National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) in Washington 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)

According to a report by NBCSports.com, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has sent a letter to all players encouraging them to return the bargaining table to conclude a new bargaining agreement.

“We want you to understand the offer that we made to the NFLPA,” Goodell wrote. “The proposal was made to avoid a work stoppage. Each passing day puts our game and our shared economics further at risk. We believe the offer presented a strong and fair basis for continuing negotiations, allowing the new league year and free agency to begin, and growing our game in the years to come.”

Goodell then summarizes the key elements of the proposal: maximum salary and benefits per team of $141 million per club in 2011, with maximum salary and benefits per team of $161 million in 2014; free agency for players with four or more accrued season; reduced draft-choice compensation for restricted free agents; extensive changes in offseason workouts; reduction of preseason and regular-season padded practices; increased days off; retention of the 16-game season through 2012 with no change to 18 games without the players’ agreement; expanded injury guarantees, with up to $1 million in the year after an injury occurs; continuing medical coverage for life; immediate increases in pension for pre-1993 players; a new rookie wage scale that would make $300 million per draft class available for veteran pay and player benefits; abd external arbitration of all drug and steroids appeals.

If the players were smart, they would return to the bargaining table because going through the courts will only make the situation messier than it already is. The two sides need to keep the lines of communication open, learn how to compromise, agree to a new deal and go back to gauging the fans for billions of dollars.

That said, Goodell’s words will probably fall on deaf ears. Chargers’ linebacker Kevin Burnett recently called Goodell a “blatant liar” on a San Diego radio station and questioned what the commissioner has done to improve the league. I would imagine that other players share Burnett’s point of view and thus, the NFLPA will stay the course (which means going through the court system instead of heading back to the bargaining table).

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