EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - MARCH 03: An empty parking lot is seen at New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the NFL's New York Jets and New York Giants, March 3, 2011 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Last minute negotiations between the NFL owners and its players union are being held as the two sides face a midnight deadline to avoid a possible lockout next season. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NFL Lockout 2011: Court Grants NFL Expedited Appeal To Keep Lockout In Place

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NFL Owners Granted Expedited Lockout Appeal

Well, score one for the NFL in its labor dispute with the league’s players. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis set a June 3 hearing on the NFL’s request to keep the lockout in place until a new labor agreement is reached, fast-tracking the appeal as the league had asked.

From the AP:

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued her injunction stopping the lockout on April 25 and denied the NFL’s appeal two days later. The league appealed to the 8th Circuit, and the same three-judge panel issued a temporary stay of Nelson’s order on Friday.

The lockout was put back in place by the owners a few hours later. The 8th Circuit is still deciding whether to make the stay more permanent, until the appeals process can play out.

Via Twitter, NFL.com’s Albert Breer said the stay might be a good thing for both sides because it "pushes the process along, puts more pressure on sides to get an agreement.


NFL To Begin Opening Doors Fully To Players On Friday

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson refused late Wednesday night to stay her ruling lifting the NFL Lockout. The NFL responded today with a statement regarding the steps it will take comply with the decision.

The NFL ‘League Year’ will not begin yet, but the league will begin opening its doors fully to players beginning Friday at 8 a.m. ET.

Here is the NFL’s statement on the matter:

The NFL clubs have been notified that we have requested from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals a stay of the preliminary injunction issued late Monday afternoon by the Federal District Court. Pending further guidance from the Eighth Circuit, we believe it is appropriate for clubs to take additional steps in response to the preliminary injunction. The clubs were informed of the steps below that will be effective on Friday at 8 am ET following tonight’s first round of the NFL Draft. Clubs are free to contact players immediately to advise them of the hours that the facility will be open for their use, to schedule medical and rehabilitation activity, and to arrange meetings with coaches or related activity, such as film study or classroom work.

1. Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment, as scheduled by the club.

2. Clubs will be permitted to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players.

3. Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed to players under item 2 above, as well as the club’s off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps, Organized Team Activities (“OTAs”), and other similar matters.

4. Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction, may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 CBA and Appendix L. Participating players will be paid $130 per day, provided the player fulfills the club’s reasonable off-season workout requirements. Such workouts will count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.

5. On days during which no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled under item 4 above, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on his own on a voluntary, unpaid basis during normal business hours, or such other hours as may be set by the club, provided: (i) there is no participation or supervision by any coach, trainer or other club personnel; and (ii) the club has first verified that the player has an existing medical insurance policy in place. Players without such personal coverage should not be permitted to work out at the club facility on an unsupervised basis under this item 5, but may do so under item 4 above. Unsupervised workouts will not count toward the requirements of any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract. This item 5 will apply both prior to and after the commencement of the club’s official off-season workout program.

6. Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 CBA.

7. The league office will promptly make arrangements to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs. We will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.

8. Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community relations events.

With respect to player transactions (such as signings, trades of player contracts, terminations, tryouts, etc.), we plan to distribute to all clubs, likely tomorrow, a comprehensive set of procedures governing such transactions. This will include the timing for the commencement of the 2011 League Year, free agent signings and other customary player transactions.


Giants Close Training Facilities To Players

As much as it should not have been a real surprise that the New York Giants were the only NFL to open their weight room to players on Tuesday it really should come as no surprise that the team has now closed it.

The Giants announced Tuesday night that they will get in line with the other 31 NFL teams and keep their training facilities closed to players while awaiting a court ruling on the league’s request for a “stay” of Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s ruling to end the NFL Lockout. Nelson could rule on that request as early as Thursday.

“We have decided that our workout and training rooms will be closed,” said team spokesman Pat Hanlon, “until we get clarification from the pending challenges to the court’s decision.”

Per the Daily News, there is a belief that the Giants were pressured into this decision by the NFL. That should not surprise anyone, either. What the Giants did on Tuesday, opening the weight room and allowing players to see coaches and staff members, made the rest of the league look bad.


NFL Lockout 2011: Giants Allow Players To Work Out

The New York Giants not only opened their doors to players today, but when Chris Canty, Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs arrived at the Timex Performance Center the players were greeted by team officials and coaches — and Canty was allowed to work out. As of now, the Giants appear to be the only NFL team to allow players full access.

Via Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger, here is a statement by Giants PR Director Pat Hanlon:

“In light of last night’s ruling by Judge Nelson, we were directed by the league that if our players showed up at the Timex Performance Center today to treat them with courtesy and respect. That message, which sounds a lot like how we always treat our players, was reinforced to our staff by our ownership. As of now, three Giants players (Mario Manningham, Chris Canty and Brandon Jacobs) have shown up at Timex today, a number that is understandable given that we are all awaiting further rulings from the court and both the league and the NFLPA have indicated we need time to sort out the meaning of the current status of the litigation.”

Canty called the Giants’ organization a “class act.”

“No, there was no tension here,” he said. “I know that hasn’t exactly been the thing around the rest of the league, but coming in here it was like we never left. Coming back, coaches are very excited to have guys back in the building and we’re just excited to move forward and get back to work.”


NFL Lockout: Players Trickle In, Not Allowed To Work Out

Earlier today we wondered what would happen when players for the New York Jets or New York Giants reported to their training facilities this morning, the day after Judge Susan Nelson lifted the NFL Lockout.

Well, six New York Jets showed up this morning. They were allowed into the facility, but not allowed into the weight room or given any access to coaches.

The only New York Giant to appear today was Mario Manningham, who apparently entered the team’s facility and left shortly thereafter.

The NFL has apparently said it is “not appropriate” for players to be working out at team facilities while the matter of the lockout is still in court, even though it has been lifted.

The NFL has asked the judge for a stay of her ruling and Nelson has given the league until 6 p.m. Wednesday to file its motion.

Not to be outdone, the players have asked Nelson to force the league to start the NFL calendar, which likely would force teams to allow players to work out at team facilities.


What Will Happen When Jets, Giants Players Report To Work?

The NFL Lockout has been lifted, at least for now. That, however, does not mean life returns to normal at NFL training facilities around the country. Some players are saying they will show up for work at team facilities, though what happens when they do is really anybody's guess.

For the New York Jets, Pro Bowl tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson has said he will be showing up at Florham Park. For the New York Giants, defensive tackle Chris Canty will be reporting to the Timex Performance Center.

Per ESPN, NFL teams have been instructed to open their doors to players but not to allow them into weight rooms. Coaches have also been instructed not to have contact with any players who show up.

So, why bother to show up if you are a player? What purpose could it serve? Well, partially to prove a point. For some, though, it is about money. Many players have workout bonuses that kick in as soon as players show up for off-season programs, and some NFL agents are saying they aim to try and collect on those bonuses since the league is open for business.

So, it might be back to work for some NFL players. It definitely, however, is not back to normal for the league.


NFL Lockout: League Will Seek Stay, File Appeal Of Ruling

As expected, the NFL quickly announced that it would appeal today’s ruling by S.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson lifting the NFL Lockout.

We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.

The league must first ask Nelson to issue a stay of her ruling, then will appeal to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. So, don’t start thinking it will be business as usual again in the NFL any time soon. That does not seem likely for a while yet.


NFL Lockout Lifted By U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson

The NFL Lockout has been lifted in United States District Court. Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled in favor of the players today in an 89-page document.

While this seems to be good news for those that were hoping for a regular start to the 2011 NFL schedule, the owners will almost certainly appeal as soon as possible in the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Until that appeal is either approved or denied, it doesn’t seem like this will have any effect on the current NFL landscape.

According to the NFL report, “If the league does not get the court to stay the ruling pending an appeal, the league will have to open its doors for players. The NFL also will have to decide whether to impose a similar system that has been in place under the previous collective bargaining agreement that expired on March 11.”

Once the actual decision is released to the media, more information will be available. For now, it seems like there’s reason for football fans to be cautiously optimistic.


NFL Labor Dispute: Judge Won't Rule Immediately

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson listened to arguments from NFL players and owners Wednesday regrading whether or not the NFL Lockout should remain in place, then said she would rule in a “couple of weeks.”

In the meantime we are left with spinning by both sides, conjecture, reading between the lines and whole lot of guess work about what the judge will do. Will she side with the players, requiring NFL owners to lift the lockout and guaranteeing that there will be football in the fall? Will she side with the owners, taking away much of the players’ leverage and endangering the 2011 season?

Nelson suggest that the two sides get back to the bargaining table while they await her ruling. Certainly, both sides will spend time the next couple of weeks talking about how that is a good idea. It seems unlikely, though.

Want football in the fall? Root for Nelson to rule in favor of the players.


NFL Owners, Players In Court: Lawsuit Ruling 'Key To Labor Fight'

NFL owners and players are in a Minnesota courtroom as I write this, appearing in front of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson. The judge is hearing oral arguments in a suit the players have filed in an effort to gain a temporary injunction to block the ongoing NFL Lockout.

Nelson would be highly unlikely to rule today, though Business Insider says she could issue a ruling within a week.

Business Insider also states that “this hearing is key to the future of the labor fight.”

If the players win the injunction that basically means the NFL will have to open its doors to players and — most importantly to fans — virtually guarantees football in the fall.

If the owners are allowed to keep the lockout in place, all bets are off. That would be a serious blow to the players and would likely jeopardize the 2011 NFL season.


Giants' Co-Owner John Mara: 'Teams Are Making A Lot Less'

New York Giants' co-owner John Mara has been one of the most heavily-involved NFL owners in the negotiations between players and the league toward a new collective bargaining agreement. We know, of course, that negotiations have halted, a lockout is in progress and that the whole mess is now in the hands of the court.

Mara recently joined WFAN in New York to discuss the lockout. Management has consistently expressed disappointment that the players have chosen to take their case to court, and Mara reiterated that during his WFAN appearance.

"There was a deal to be made but in order for that to happen you have to have two sides to do it. I felt we made them a tremendous offer last Friday, and to not even get a response or a counter-proposal I thought was pretty disappointing and it became clear to me, as I have said before, that their strategy here was just proceed through litigation because I think that they believe that gives them the maximum amount of leverage," Mara said.

The biggest issue, of course, has been how to split the $9 billion revenue pie between the teams and the players.

League-wide profitability is down considerably the last four or five years," Mara said. "Nobody has ever claimed, and we certainly have never claimed, that teams are not making money. It is just that teams are making a lot less than we did in 2005 under the old deal."

Mara admitted that NFL owners accepted an awful deal during the last CBA negotiations, in 2006.

"Listen, their own President Kevin Mawae said a couple of weeks ago that the players made a great deal in ’06 because we panicked. Listen, I am as guilty as anybody. We were all for labor peace and at any cost at that point in time," Mara said. "We were all definitely afraid of going into an uncapped year, we were definitely afraid of any kind of work stoppage, and in so we ended up agreeing to a deal that has not worked out the way we thought it would."


NFLPA Says It Is Only Recommending NFL Draft Boycott

After issuing a declaration on Monday that they did not want top prospects attending the upcoming NFL Draft, and having that declaration met mostly with derision, the NFLPA has apparently toned down that stance.

The Player’s Association is now saying it is simply recommending that players skip the Draft.

That sounds better, but the whole draft scenario will be a strange one. The NFL’s plan appears to be to invite players and let them decide. Think about it, though. As soon as they are drafted by an NFL team, these rookies will also be locked out by the NFL. The handshake/hug routing with Commissioner Roger Goodell will look a little strange under those circumstances.

In other NFL Lockout news, the lawsuit filed by players seeking an injunction to lift the lockout will be heard April 6 by U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in Minnesota.

At least one anti-trust expert thinks it will be very difficult for players to obtain than injunction.


NFL Draft Boycott Plan Panned By SB Nation Writers

The NFLPA's reported desire to prevent the top prospects from attending next month's 2011 NFL Draft might be the players first mis-step -- at least, this is, when it comes to courting public opinion. Which, by the way, both sides seem to be doing a whole lot more of than actually trying to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

The boycott plan was reported earlier today by ESPN's Adam Schefter. Reaction has been swift, and mostly negative. Over at Big Blue View, I called the move "petty," and had this to say:

I don't get this move at all. How does this help the NFLPA? How does it hurt the owners? How does it move the two sides any closer to a collective bargaining agreement that would guarantee a 2011 football season? I can't see that it accomplishes any of those objectives.

Here is a little of the reaction from around SB Nation.

Arrowhead Pride's Joel Thorman said the move "doesn't make sense." He wrote:

Fans want to see the player their team picked walk across the stage at Radio City Music Hall. Depriving us of that would make us upset at the NFLPA/trade association/players/whatever. So much of the labor stuff has been about winning the PR battle. Why blow it on this?

What are the players gaining here? What's the point? What leverage is gained? Maybe I'm not an expert in negotiations but I don't get it.

Cat Scratch Reader says asking the prospects to boycott is not fair to them:

I feel that if there is one event on the NFL calender that is sacrosact it's the NFL draft. This is an extremely happy day for many prospects and marks the cornerstone of their NFL career that will (hopefully) last long after this labor dispute is over. It puts the rookies between a rock and a hard place; do they want to oppose their team or their union before their career begins? It's an extremely difficult situation and I feel like the draft shouldn't be touched by the PR machine and players should be allowed to have their moment in the sun, even while there's an eclipse.

Mocking The Draft could care less if players show up at Radio City Music Hall:

Just think what we're going to miss out on. Players getting their picture taken with Roger Goodell. Some player sitting in the green room longer than he should. ESPN conducting a bad interview with the player saying answers we'll already know.

For true NFL Draft geeks, this is a good thing. The less glamour in the process, the better. Besides, even if the NFLPA forbids players from attending the draft, we'll still hear from them. Players will jump on Facebook to celebrate. They'll talk to local media.

I think Mocking The Draft misses the point that the NFL Draft is an event, an 'experience' if you will. True draft geeks care only about the picks, but the rest of us tune in for the picks -- and the show -- as stupid and mundane at it is. Besides, asking prospects to boycott -- especially when you are pushing for limits on rookie salaries -- is asking these players to take a side in a fight they are not even involved in yet. And that's not right.


NFL Lockout 2011: If Court Halts Lockout, Free Agency Will Follow

Even with a lockout of NFL players currently in place, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports wrote just prior to the lockout being enforced by owners that "the NFL offseason – including the NFL draft – will progress pretty much as normal after a short break."

How can that be? Well, let's break down where the situation is the best we can.

The players, of course, have filed suit seeking an injunction seeking to stop the lockout. "We hope it will stop a lockout dead in its tracks," said Jeffrey Kessler, outside counsel for the NFL Players Association.

If the players get a favorable ruling from the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, where the case is assigned, the lockout would be lifted. In that case, Yahoo!'s Cole said he would expect there to be a free-agency period prior to the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

Even if the lockout is lifted and off-season activities like free agency commence, that does not guarantee a 2011 season. Both sides say they want football to be played in 2011, but at least one legal expert thinks it will be several months before a deal is completed.

"There will be no negotiating for a while," said Gary Roberts, dean of the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis. "Both sides will wait to see how the legal maneuvering plays out.

"Where we are after all the mediated negotiations is the players reached a point where they figure they can get a better deal if they file an antitrust lawsuit than continue to bargain at the table. The league would have preferred to be in collective bargaining and lock the players out because they feel it's the best way to maximize their leverage.

"Ultimately, come August and September, they feel they will have more leverage to get a better deal."

Peter King of SI.com wrote this morning that players and owners may not be as far apart as they think they are in getting a new collective bargaining agreement in place.

Both King and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported the possibility that the NFL could play the 2011 season without a salary cap, basically just playing the season under the capless 2010 rules.

Whatever happens, the next step is to wait for the District Court ruling on whether or not the lockout will be lifted. Until then, it's all just speculation.


Owners Of Giants, Jets Try To Strike Conciliatory Note With Fans

The owners of the New York Giants and New York Jets each issued statements today trying to strike an optimistic tone toward the now-endangered 2011 NFL season.

Giants' owners John Mara and Steve Tisch sent the following letter to their season ticket holders:

We are as disappointed as you are in the developments of the past week and the current state of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

For there to be no CBA in place today is extremely disappointing, given the amount of time and hard work and the numerous conversations devoted to achieving an agreement, not just in the last two weeks but over the last two years. We are not happy about that and we certainly understand and appreciate your unhappiness and frustration.

Where we are today serves no positive purpose for you, for our players and for the National Football League. Although we had hoped and expected to have an agreement by now and are disappointed that we do not, we remain as committed as ever to returning this process where it belongs, which is the negotiating table. We are convinced that what we have stated many times remains true, that there will be a new agreement and there will be a 2011 NFL season. It is just a matter of when we are able to reach an accord on the current issues.

The impatience and the displeasure we know you are feeling is completely understandable. We can only assure you that the point of the entire process is to make our game as strong as it can possibly be and to enable it to continue to grow for the good of everybody - the league, the players and the fans.

The last thing we wanted is for the business end of our sport to play out this way. We know people frankly don’t care how owners and players manage their business. These negotiations distract and detract from what is most important to all of us: the game.

Jets' owner Woody Johnson issued a much shorter, but equally optimistic statement, to Jets' fans:

"It may take longer than we all had hoped, but New York Jets fans should know that a deal will get done and I remain confident that there will be NFL football in 2011. Although I was very disappointed that the union chose legal maneuvering over negotiating, I am convinced that our differences can be resolved at the bargaining table. We care deeply about our players and will continue to work towards an agreement that is fair and reasonable for everyone - the fans, the players and the teams. The goal for the Jets will not change - we are committed to bringing you a championship."

Is anybody buying what these guys are selling? I'm not. Forget the statements, fellas. Everybody involved with the NFL is getting rich. Just get a deal done, somehow.


NFL Lockout 2011: Explaining The Issues From Both Sides

On Day 1 of NFL Lockout 2011, which began at midnight, both sides issues statements essentially basically trying to blame the other side for the breakdown of negotiations between players and owners.

In a statement e-mailed to the media, the NFL wrote, in part:

The union left a very good deal on the table. At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.

In a statement released Friday night on NFLLockout.com, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith had this to say:

We asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted.

The NFL statement gave some details as to what was in its most recent offer to players:

- An offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference
- Guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7
- Ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules
- Retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union
- Establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

The players, for their part, listed the issues preventing a new CBA as follows:

- The NFL demanded a multi-billion dollar giveback and refused to provide any legitimate financial information to justify it.

- The NFL’s offer on March 7 to give the NFLPA a single sheet of numbers was NOT financial disclosure. The players’ accountants and bankers advised that the "offered" information was meaningless: only two numbers for each year.

- The NFL wanted to turn the clock back on player compensation by four years, moving them back to where they were in 2007.

- The NFL offered no proposal at all for long-term share of revenues.

- NFL demanded 100% of all revenues which went above unrealistically low projections for the first four years.

- The NFL refused to meet the players on significant changes to in-season, off-season or pre-season health and safety rules.

- The NFL kept on the table its hypocritical demand for an 18-game season, despite its public claims to be working toward improving the heath and safety of players.

- The NFL wanted cutbacks in payer workers’ compensation benefits for injured players.

- The NFL sought to limit rookie compensation long after they become veterans — into players’ fourth and fifth years.


NFL Lockout 2011: NFL, NFLPA Start Spinning The Story

The NFLPA has decertified, and with talks broken down between players and owners the spinning by both sides has begun.

NFLPA Executive Director Maurice Smith released a statement, the full text of which is available at NFLLockout.com.

Here is part of it:

As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that’s a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.

The NFL, of course, has released its own statement.

The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had "decertified" and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.

The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.

The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.

At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.

The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.

Fact is, it really doesn’t matter what either side says right now as we are back to playing the blame game. What matter is it looks like we are headed for a lockout, and jeopardizing the 2011 NFL season.


NFL Lockout: Players Union Decertifies, Antitrust Lawsuit Likely Will Follow

The one thing every football fan was hoping for is that the NFL owners and players would settle their differences before it came an NFL lockout, but it seems that Friday’s events pushed us even closer to no football for the foreseeable future.

The NFL Players Association released the following statement around 5 p.m. on Friday evening after earlier in the day issuing an ultimatum that asked for 10 years worth of audited financial statements from the owners.

The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.

The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.

What this means — as far as anyone can tell — is that instead of negotiating, these issues will now be settled in court.


NFL Lockout: League, NFLPA Trade Accusations -- Not Ideas -- As Deadline Looms

Right now no one knows what will happen with the twice-extended labor contract between the NFL and its players set to expire this evening. Signs that there might be an agreement — or at least another extension for negotiating purposes — do not appear good, however.

Friday is the 16th day of federally mediated negotiations, which began Feb. 18. During most of that mediated time, the NFL and NFL PA have seemingly had a moratorium on the public sniping and accusations that had characterized prior discussions about the labor agreement. That congeniality seemed to go out the window Thursday night as NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash and NFLPOA spokesman George Atallah traded barbs.

"I’ve said it many times: If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done," he said. "I don’t know if both sides have an equal commitment. … Obviously, we have the commitment."

When that was relayed to NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah, he responded with an e-mail to The Associated Press that said: "Jeff Pash was part of an executive team that sold the networks a $4 billion ticket to a game they knew wouldn’t be played. The only thing they’ve been committed to is a lockout."

The basic problem remains the disagreement over how to split the league’s $9 billion revenue pie. If no agreement or extension is reached the players could decertify their union and the owners could begin imposing a lockout.

Settle in, football fans. This ride might be about to get even bumpier.


NFLPA Says It Won't Accept 18-Game Season -- 'We're Not Doing It'

The proposed 18-game schedule is apparently off the table in the current labor negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA, according to a published report at SI.com. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said flatly in the report that an 18-game season will not happen.

"First of all, the league has never presented a formal proposal for 18 games," he told SI.com. "But more importantly, it's something that our players don't want. Eighteen games is not in the best interest of our players' safety, so we're not doing it."
Yahoo! Sports has further reported today that the two sides have agreed to a rookie wage scale. Yahoo! also stated that the NFLPA is also likely to agree on stronger language to allow teams to recoup money from players whorun afoul of the law.

The two sides have until Friday to reach a full agreement in the mediated talks or to extend the negotiating deadline once again. If neither of those things happen, owners are still expected to lock out the players.


NFL Lockout 2011: NFL, NFLPA Extend Talks For One Week

Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting that the NFL and NFL Players Association have agreed to extend mediated labor negotiations for another week. Both sides now apparently formally agreed to the seven-day extension.

Schefter reported that negotiators will break for the weekend and that talks will resume on Monday. The new deadline is next Friday, March 11, at 5 p.m. ET.

In addition, Schefter reported that no transactions can be done during the extended negotiating window. So, no cuts, no signings. Just negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement.

This has to be considered good news. Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports had earlier written that if an extension of a week or more could be reached it was a strong signal that an agreement on a new CBA could happen before the end of the month.

No one is currently voicing that much optimism, but this certainly has to be taken as a positive sign.


NFL, NFLPA Make 'Signficant Progress' Toward Labor Settlement

SI.com’s Peter King tweeted this morning that “significant progress” is being made today in the extended labor talks between the NFL and NFL Players Association. King also tweeted "This is not a sham,‘’ my source says, "but it is very fragile.’’

The two sides are meeting today after agreeing on Thursday to extend the deadline for negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement 24 hours. The new deadline is 11:59 p.m. ET. If no agreement on a new deal is reached by then — or at least an agreement to once again extend the talks — the players are expected to decertify their union and the owners will lock the players out.

There seems, however, to be increasing optimism that a deal can be reached without either of those scenarios playing out. MIchael Silver of Yahoo! Sports posted the best breakdown I have seen to date of where the negotiations stand (hat tip to Pro Football Talk, as well).

Here is part of what Silver wrote:

Sources on both sides of the conflict agreed on one basic premise: If enough progress is made that another short-term CBA extension – perhaps a week, perhaps two – is announced by Friday night, the players and owners will almost certainly be headed for a settlement that will result in a multi-year deal before the end of this month.

If not, as one person familiar with the negotiations put it, "It will be Armageddon." The union will decertify and file a class-action, anti-trust lawsuit against the owners, who’ll issue a legal challenge to the validity of the act while implementing a lockout (or de facto lockout). A long, bitter standoff would likely ensue, and the 2011 season could be threatened.

Given the lose-lose nature of the latter scenario, the smart money is on a settlement. And while the situation remains delicate, for the first time key figures in each camp believe a deal is highly achievable.

So, stay tuned. At least now it seems like serious work toward an agreement is being done and there is some hope that the upcoming season will not be interrupted.


NFL, NFLPA Might 'Stop The Clock' By Extending Talks

The NFL and NFL Players Association are said to be considering extending mediated negotiations beyond tonight’s 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, which is when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.

The phrase being used to describe the action is “stopping the clock.” Meaning, the clock ticking inevitably toward a lockout of NFL players.

Ralph Vacchiano of the Daily News tweeted that an extension is “possible to likely.” SI’s Don Banks called it “legit but fragile.”

NFL.com points out that a similar extension was used during the 2006 CBA negotiations and that a deal was ultimately collectively bargained. Also according to NFL.com for an extension to happen federal judge David Doty would have to sign off on it and paperwork would need to be done by late this afternoon.

An extension would put the lockout on hold. It would also put the players’ plan to decertify their union on hold for the time being.

Even President Obama weighed in today on the possible lockout.

“I hope they can work it out w/o me intervening, because as it turns out, I’ve got a lot of other stuff to do,” Obama said.


NFL Lockout: Clock Ticks Toward Deadline

The clock is ticking toward an inevitable lockout of the players in the ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and NFL Players Association. The current collective bargaining agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. ET Thursday. If no agreement is reached during today’s meetings, owners are expected to lock out players beginning Friday.

That would mean no football activities until the dispute is settled. No OTA’s, mini-camps, training camps or games until a new CBA is reached. The Star-Ledger has an informative breakdown of how teams, players, employees and fans could all be affected.

The players association may choose to decertify later today if it becomes obvious that no agreement will be reached by the deadline. The Biz Of Football broke down exactly what that means. The New York Times wonders if that move would be a sham.

The Biz of Football also wonders if today is the “real” deadline for the two sides to reach agreement. After all, the 2011 NFL season remains months away.

Although the current CBA expires tomorrow {today} at 11:59 PM, one must question whether this is a "hard deadline." Last month, CNBC sports business reporter Darren Rovell suggested this possibility during an interview with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. During the interview, Rovell questioned whether the sides thus far have actually engaged in serious bargaining and posited that the acrimony on public display is not genuine. After labor unrest persists through the summer and threatens the millions in annual sponsorship dollars, the public animus will surely exit from negotiations and both sides will quicken the bargaining pace to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.

Rovell’s conjecture that the current deadline is not a hard one seems reasonable to follow. This labor dispute has included considerable gamesmanship, as the sides have seemed more content to file grievances and unfair labor practices instead of engaging in good faith bargaining. The majority of negotiations have seemed fruitless and even insiders say that mediation only concerns minor disputes. This would mean that the sides have a long way to go until a new accord is within reach. Narrowing the gap would, as Rovell suggested, coincide with the potential loss of league revenues due to a labor stoppage. In other words, dates and deadlines may mean nothing in these negotiations.


NFL Lockout Moving Closer

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson says he is “still optimistic” that an agreement can be reached between the NFL and NFLPA by Thursday night’s deadline to avoid a work stoppage/ He might be the only one who feels that way.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday night. Mediated sessions will resume Thursday morning, with little real chance that an agreement will be reached in time to avoid a lockout.

Owners reportedly met for three hours Wednesday without voting on a lockout.

SI.com called the chance of an agreement being reached Thursday “an extreme long shot.”

Here is a summary of the situation as it stands right now, from Sports Illustrated:

The next steps look like all but a fait accompli: The NFLPA is expected to announce plans to decertify as a union on Thursday, which puts it on the path to challenge the league on antitrust grounds, and the league will likely then put in place the lockout of players that has seemed almost inevitable since owners opted out of the current CBA in May 2008.


NFL Lockout: Giants' Shaun O'Hara Says 'It Is Going To Happen'

Still hoping that the NFL and NFL Players Association will come to some sort of collective bargaining agreement before the current deal expires Thursday night, avoiding a lockout? Well, don’t expect a miracle.

New York Giants player rep Shaun O’Hara said as much Tuesday evening, saying that any deal done between now and Thursday night would be a "bad deal" for the players."

“Basically at this point we are heading for a lockout,” O’Hara said. "It is going to happen. I think we have been preparing for it. I am not worried about it and I don’t think the players are worried about it. It is not a surprise at this point.

“I think we are ready for it and prepared and I think we are OK with it as players because we realize that at this point in time, any deal that gets done over the next couple of days is probably going to be a bad deal for the players.”

Buffalo Bills safety George Wilson echoed O’Hara’s sentiment that a lockout is coming.

"Everything I’m telling my guys is: Prepare this Friday for the start of a lockout," Wilson said. "I certainly don’t believe a deal will be reached by Thursday midnight. That’s what I feel in my heart. I have not received any indication (from the union) that we’re close to a deal."

Giants owner John Mara joined the mediated talks on Wednesday, the first NFL owner to sit at the bargaining table since the session mediated by George Cohen began.

The biggest current news is the ruling be federal judge David Doty that NFL owners cannot use more than $4 billion in television revenue during the lockout.


NFL Lockout Closer To Reality As Negotiations Halt For Now

NFL lockout, here we come. That is pretty much the only conclusion that can be drawn from the news that the NFL and NFLPA are taking a break following seven days of mediated negotiations in the current labor dispute. The sides will reportedly begin meeting again March 1, but that is just two days before the current collective bargaining agreement expires and the lockout is likely to begin.

Federal mediator George Cohen said in a statement on NFL.com that "some progress was made, but very strong differences remain."

Can a lockout still be avoided in the short three-day negotiating window that will take place next week? Pro Football Talk does not think so:

So if "some progress was made" in seven straight days of talks, how can the "very strong differences [that] remain" be resolved in only three more days of talks?  It most likely won’t happen.

The best hope for avoiding a lockout comes from the possibility that enough progress will be made on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week to prompt the two sides to extend the deadline for the expiration of the deal.

The best news through the last week has probably been that both sides, owners and players, have continued to remain silent about the talks. In the end it isn't really going to be important that we know who said what about whom, and what incremental steps have or have not been taken toward getting a deal done. Whatever the terms of an eventual deal all NFL fans care about is seeing an uninterrupted season in 2011.


NFL Labor Dispute: Deal Possible 'Within The Next Week?'

I think we should file this one in the "we will believe it when we see it" column, but one legal expert thinks that the NFL and NFLPA could reach a new collective bargaining agreement "within the next week."

"I've always been very optimistic about the prospects for reaching a deal. Now, I think it's possible they may reach a deal within the next week or so," said Roger Abrams, a law professor at Northeastern University.

Abrams has such confidence because of federal mediator George Cohen, who is now in the middle of the talks between the two sides.

The newly-mediated talks are continuing today for the fifth straight day. That has to be a good thing, as does the fact that we have not heard the public posturing from either side that had become prevalent before Cohen was brought in to mediate the labor negotiations.

"Things are going well right now," [NFLPA Executive Committee member Charlie] Batch said, while climbing into a car bound for an airport Monday afternoon. "We'll see how things progress over the last couple of days. Any time that you're talking, you have to feel better."

The simple fact that there seems to be real negotiating going on -- or at least meetings from which neither side is storming away -- has to encourage NFL fans.

The current collective bargaining agreement expires March 3. A lockout of NFL players is expected if that happens.


NFL, NFLPA Allow Mediator To Become Involved In Labor Dispute

Could this be the first real sign that the NFL and NFLPA are beginning to get serious about trying to reach an agreement in their ongoing labor dispute? The sides have agreed to mediation from Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The best explanation I have found for what the use of mediation means comes from Pro Football Talk:

Mediation is a non-binding process, which has become increasingly popular over the last three decades as a tool for resolving civil litigation. Basically, courts require the parties to give it a try, and that they proceed in good faith. In this case, the parties have decided to do it on their own.

A mediator has no power to issue rulings or resolve disputes or otherwise say or do anything to force an agreement. But a mediator has the ability to speak candidly to the parties about the weaknesses of their position and the realities of the predicament and to serve as a devil’s advocate of sorts in order to get each side to be more objective.

In his report on the mediation development, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News said simply “couldn’t hurt.”

The Boston Globe also termed the move a “positive development.”

Now, we just have to wait and see if mediator George Cohen can get either side to budge.


NFL Labor Dispute: NFLPA Calls Owners' Proposal A 'Non-Starter'

NFL Players Association Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, George Atallah, held an exclusive “Lockout Chat” with bloggers Thursday afternoon. Atallah termed the owners’ current proposal in the labor dispute a “non-starter.”

“It’s important that, if the owners really want 18 games, they recognize the risks,” Atallah said. “So far, no dice.”

Atallah said during the chat that “players have been and are willing to discuss any proposal that ensures football next year.”

“Players are willing to talk about anything to improve the game,” Atallah said. "A lockout designed to force the players to cave and “win” 18 games that way … well that’s not good for the game.

“We don’t really have rigid demands. We want a long-term deal. We want a fair deal. Willing to talk about anything.”

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier this week in an Op-Ed piece that appeared in newspapers around the country that “the status quo is not an option.”

That, of course, is at the crux of the problem in getting a new collective bargaining agreement. The players like the way things are.

“Players believe we have a fair deal now,” Atallah said. "Revenues up 43% since 2006. The game has grown in every way.

“In an effort to avoid a lockout, we have offered to extend the current deal and avoid uncapped year.”

Atallah said that reports that the NFLPA would boycott the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine or NFL Draft "are too strong. It’s unfortunate that the NFLPA’s conversations with agents become public.

“Players will be at the combine. Young men have an opportunity of a lifetime. They are not locked out…yet.”


NFL Labor Dispute: Roger Goodell Says 'Status Quo Is Not An Option'

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continued what seems like a quest to gain public support for the owners in their ongoing labor dispute with the NFL Players Association, penning an op-ed piece that stated, in part, "the status quo is not an option."

Goodell's piece appears in its entirety on NFLLabor.com and is being run in newspapers around the country.

Wrote Goodell:

The hard work to secure the next NFL season must now accelerate in earnest. ... There has been enough rhetoric, litigation and other efforts beyond the negotiating table. It is time for serious negotiations.

Staying with the status quo is not an option. ... We need an agreement that both sides can live with and obtain what they need, not simply what they want.

I really don't understand what Goodell is doing here. I know what he is trying to do -- which is get some public support for the owners and paint DeMaurice Smith and the players as the bad guys who won't compromise -- I just don't understand how he is going about it.

He says in his piece "There has been enough rhetoric, litigation and other efforts beyond the negotiating table. It is time for serious negotiations."

Yet, here he is taking his case to the public and trying to sway opinion. On top of which, didn't the owners just file a complaint with the labor board against the players? So, which side is it that is creating the litigation Goodell is saying he wants to see stopped?

I don't claim to know everything about the collective bargaining agreement or how the whole thing should be split up. I do know I don't like dealing with people who say one thing and do another, and to me that is how today's message from Goodell comes across.


NFL Labor Dispute: Owners Charge NFLPA With 'Surface Bargaining'

I am no legal expert, but the fact that the NFL filed a formal complaint Monday with the National Labor Relations Board charging the NFL Players Association with "surface bargaining" cannot be a good thing.

From the report:

"The NFL is asking for nothing more than the NLRB to order the union to bargain in good faith," the league said in its filing with the National Labor Relations Board.

"The NFL stated to the (board) that the union has engaged in ‘surface bargaining’ and tactics designed to avoid reaching an agreement before the CBA expires so that it can file antitrust litigation. … The union’s strategy amounts to an unlawful anticipatory refusal to bargain."

In reaction, the NFLPA said the following in a statement, "The players didn’t walkout and the players can’t lockout. Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised. This claim has absolutely no merit."

Could the league be right? Maybe. The NFLPA could be planning to de-certify after March 3. There is precedent, with the union having done that back in 1987.

No matter at this point, though. It just seems like more pointless finger-pointing and posturing. With less than three weeks to go before the current collective bargaining agreement expires it seems neither side has actually gotten serious about reaching an agreement.


NFL Labor Negotiations On Hold As Meeting Is Cancelled

The second day of NFL labor negotiations between between owners and players, set for today in Washington, D.C., has been canceled per reports from multiple media outlets.

Many of the reports indicated that no progress was made toward a new collective bargaining agreement when the sides met on Wednesday. The current agreement expires March 3 and owners have threatened a lockout of the players if a deal is not reached by that date.

Commissioner Roger Goodell had previously said “It’s always a positive when both parties are talking.”

Which, apparently, they are not. At least not today. No word yet on when another round of talks will be held.

I guess this is what happens when neither side is actually willing to talk, or compromise.

The main sticking points in the negotiations appear to be the owners desire for an 18-game schedule, along with their request for a billion dollar per year giveback by the players.

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