Reporting Tim Kephart
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBSMiami.com) – Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross joined 30 fellow owners in approving a deal negotiated between the players’ trade association and the NFL to end the more than 120 day lockout. Then the players decided to throw on the brakes for a new NFL season starting on time.
The owners voted 31-0 in support of a ten-year-deal to settle the work stoppage. But no sooner than the owners had finished their vote, did players take to Twitter. They in essence were quoting a line from Dirty Dancing saying “nobody puts baby in the corner.”
“NFL players! Stay Strong! We are still fighting for past, present, and future players. We will vote when they give us something to vote on!” wrote Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark.
“Owners tried to pull a fast 1 on us making the fans believe it’s because of US the players….Not this time buddy,” added Tennessee Titan Robert Johnson.
The problem with the players position is they had the deal 24 hours before the owners ever saw the deal and knew the owners were going to vote on it Thursday. So the players’ claim they had a fast one pulled on them was not quite correct.
According to multiple reports, the players feel like the owners have now put all of the pressure on them to make a deal or walk away. The players association was at the table negotiating all of the points that were voted upon by the owners, and the NFLPA has had the deal in front of them for more than 48 hours.
As the players sit on their hands, the chances of playing a full preseason are increasingly slim. The NFL has already canceled the Hall of Fame game and will have to start weighing cancelling entire weeks of preseason games.
Each preseason week that is canceled will cost both sides approximately $100 million. Once regular season weeks begin to get canceled, the amount of money lost will be astronomically more.
“I can’t say we got everything we wanted to get in the deal. I’m sure (players) would say the same thing,” said New York Giants owner John Mara. “The best thing about it is our fans don’t have to hear about labor-management relations for another 10 years.”
But, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who was in regular contact with Roger Goodell throughout the day Thursday fired off an email to team reps as soon as the owners voted saying no deal was completed.
“Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers’ compensation, economic issues, and end of deal terms, remain unresolved. There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time,” Smith wrote.
One big hurdle towards getting back to talking about football is the fact that the NFLPA is not in the position to collectively bargain. In March, the NFLPA decertified to allow an antitrust lawsuit to be filed. So, the NFLPA can’t bargain for things like workers comp, drug testing, etc.
The danger of a decertified union comes into play if the players decide to walk away from the table and let the courts settle everything. The appellate courts have told both sides if they have to settle the differences, both sides will very unhappy with the details.
The deal, as approved by owners, gave players most of the things they were asking for and stopped some things they didn’t want. There will be no 18-game schedule, which the players fought against. Offseason workouts would be cut by five weeks and organized team activities would be cut to just 10 sessions.
There would also be limited on-field practice time and contact, and more days off for players. Current players would be able to stay on their medical plan for life and will have an injury protection benefit up to $1 million of a player’s salary for the year after his injury and up to $500,000 in the second year after injury.
A total of $50 million per year will go into joint fund for medical research, health-care programs and charities. Plus, the retiree fund would be increased to roughly one billion dollars to help former players.
The players also will keep roughly 47-48 percent of every dollar that comes into the league. The players did agree to a rookie-wage scale with an agreement that the savings be put back into the players pile for veteran pay to be increased.
The owners agreed to increase the salary-cap, but just as importantly for the players, the salary-floor would be significantly higher. A team would have to spend roughly 90 percent of their salary cap to be in compliance.
That means a notoriously cheap team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the Cincinnati Bengals would have to finally pay their players a more competitive wage. It would also mean large market owners would have to share more revenue with small market owners to strike a competitive balance.
But, the players wanted more.
The named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit have to agree to terms to drop the lawsuit. San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson wants either $10 million in damages or to become an unrestricted free agent. A similar demand has been made by New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins.
Mankins claimed he never made such a request, but Jackson and his lawyers have remained silent on the issue, leading most NFL experts to say that his camp indeed wants the cash or his freedom.
Assuming the players would finally approve a deal on Friday, things in the NFL could get back to normal very quickly as other issues were ironed out by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Smith.
On Saturday, teams could stage voluntary workouts at club facilities and players may be waived. Contracts can be negotiated and clubs can sign draft picks and their own free agents. Teams can also start negotiating with, but not sign, free agents from other clubs and undrafted rookies.
Then on Sunday, teams would be allowed to sign undrafted rookies. Finally, on Wendesday unrestricted free agency would open in full, and all training camps would open with a 90-player roster limit; activities that day would be limited to physicals, meetings, and conditioning.
But everything is contingent on the players finally voting yea or nay on the new deal. So far, no vote has been scheduled by the players for Friday, but some players are optimistic.
“We treat this like a football game: You have one bad play, move on to the next play. You don’t sit and harp on the negative plays,” George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills said. “Ultimately, tomorrow’s a new day.”
Note: The Oakland Raiders abstained from the vote by NFL owners.