FredEx Works Out for the Ravens

(Philadelphia, Pa) — I don’t know if you heard, but there was a sighting of free agent receiver Freddie “FredEx” Mitchell in Baltimore yesterday.  Apparently after not playing in the NFL since 2004 and failed tryouts with the Chiefs and Cowboys, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, who is FredEx’s buddy from their days in Philly, answered his call for a tryout.

I am sure if the workout amounted to Mitchell catching passes from a ballboy, but maybe the former 2001 first-round bust can make it as a 5th receiver and special teams player.  Anything will be better for the out of work former NFL party boy than watching on Sundays as his loudmouth four-year NFL career produced a measely 90 catches for 1,263 yards and five touchdowns. 

Of course Mitchell will always live in Philadelphia Eagles lore for making the miraculous catch that converted the infamous fourth-and-26 versus the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoffs circa January of 2004.  But even in making that play, Mitchell stuck his foot in his mouth by saying, “I would like to Thank my hands for making me so great”.

My take is that Mitchell is getting a look by a coach/friend with the slight chance he could contribute on special teams.  If Mitchell was really committed to playing football again, his best chance would probably be in the Arena Football League, if they want him.  But we all know there is a better chance of seeing him hanging out in his fur coat with Howard Eskin or partying with girls down in Avalon, NJ than playing in the NFL.

2008 NFL Key Dates

The list of key dates around the NFL that will make talking heads like John Madden say “Boom”

 (Philadelphia, Pa) — Here is a list of key dates that I believe every football fan will need to know going into the 2008 NFL season.  I am sure every NFL talking head including John Madden, Peter King, Chris Berman, Fran Charles, Ray Didinger, and others will have some kind of variation of this document in their stack of NFL propaganda.

  • Late May thru June – Rookies from all 32 NFL teams are scheduled to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame during June 2008. The program will run for five weeks with the first team being the Oakland Raiders on May 28th.  The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins rookies will visit in August, when their teams participate in the Hall of Fame Game.
  • June 1 — Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned unrestricted free agents to receive exclusive negotiating rights for rest of season if another club does not sign player by July 22.
  • June 1 — Deadline for old clubs to send tender to unsigned restricted free agents or to extend qualifying offer to retain exclusive negotiating rights.
  • June 1 — Under CBA rules, this date allows veterans that have received signing bonuses in the past to be cut by their teams without their entire signing bonus kicking-in for the current cap year.  By cutting a veteran after this date, the past signing bonuses can be stretched into the next cap year rather than taking a hit all at once.
  • June 15 — Deadline for old clubs to withdraw original qualifying offer to unsigned restricted free agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting tender of 110 percent of previous year’s salary.
  • June 29-July 2  — NFL Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, California.  This is the yearly NFL freshman basic skills prep course.
  • Around July 12 — NFL Supplemental Draft – The NFL’s “special” draft for players wishing to enter the NFL for a number of reasons (Academics, Family Obligations, etc) that missed the main NFL Draft in April.  If a team elects to use a supplemental draft pick on one of the eligible prospects, that team will give up its pick in the same round in next April’s draft (2009).
  • July 22 — Signing period ends at 4:00 PM ET for unrestricted free agents who received June 1 tender.  This means that a player unhappy with the contract tendered to him can either sign the deal or holdout. Once the deadline passes, franchise players can sign only one-year deals with their current teams.  Watch for franchised players Titans DT Albert Haynesworth and Dallas FS Ken Hamlin
  • July 27 — The Arena Football League (AFL) season will commence with the playing of ArenaBowl XXII in New Orleans at 3 pm (ABC)
  • Late July — Training camps open.  The Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins will be the first to open camp as both have rookies reporting on July 22nd.  The last teams to report will be the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, and Baltimore Ravens with all checking players in on July 29th.
  • August 2 – Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2008 Enshrinement Ceremonies.  The newest class of enshrinees (WR Art Monk, CB Darryl Green, LB Andre Tippett, DB Emitt Thomas, DE Fred Dean, and OT Gary Zimmerman) will be formally inducted into the PHOF in a ceremony held at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
  • August 3 —  Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.  The NFL’s 2008 season kicks off with the preseason opener featuring the Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins at Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Game time is 8:00 p.m (NBC).
  • August 7-11 — First full week of preseason games with featured match-ups: Baltimore @ New England on 8/7, New Orleans @ Arizona on 8/8 (ESPN), and Cincinnati @ GB on 8/11 (ESPN).
  • August 14-17 – Week 2 of preseason games with featured match-ups: Carolina @ Philadelphia on 8/14 (Fox), OAK @ TEN on 8/15 (CBS), and NE @ TB on 8/17 (NFL NETWORK)
  • August 21-25 — Week 3 of preseason games with featured match-ups: HOU @ DAL on 8/22 (CBS), PIT @ MIN on 8/23 (CBS), and SEA @ SD on 8/25 (ESPN)
  • August 26  — Roster cutdown to maximum of 75 players.
  • August 28-29 — Week 4 of preseason games with featured match-ups: JAC @ WAS on 8/28 (NBC) and SD @ SF on 8/29
  • August 30 — Roster cutdown to maximum of 53 players.
  • September 2 — NFL teams can sign up to 8 players to their practice squad.
  • September 4 — First game will feature the Super Bowl Champion playing on Thursday night as usual with WAS @ NYG, 7:00 PM (NBC). 
  • September 7 — First slate of Sunday Games with featured match-ups: KC @ NE, 1:00 PM (CBS), DAL @ CLE, 4:15 PM (FOX), and CHI @ IND, 8:15 PM (NBC)
  • September 8 – Monday Night Football Doubleheader with MIN @ GB, 7:00 PM (ESPN) and DEN @ OAK, 10:15 PM (ESPN)
  • Around October 17th — NFL Trade Deadline – This is the last chance for teams to grab players from other teams via a trade, but don’t hold your breath.
  • October 26, 2008 — The NFL invades Merry Ole England for the second time in the regular season as the San Diego Chargers face the New Orleans Saints at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
  • November 06 – Players on NFL teams’ Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list must be activated by Week 10.  If they are not moved off the list, they must be removed from the team’s active roster.
  • November 23 — The Canadian Football League (CFL) season will commence with the playing of the 96th Grey Cup game at Olympic Stadium in Montreal (TSN)
  • November 27 – NFL Thanksgiving Day Games with TEN @ DET, 12:30 PM (CBS), SEA @ DAL, 4:15 PM (FOX), and ARI @ PHI, 8:15 PM (NFL NETWORK)
  • January 3-4 — Wild Card Weekend (NBC, CBS, and Fox)
  • January 10-11 — Divisional Playoffs (CBS and Fox)
  • January 18 — AFC and NFC Championship Games (CBS and Fox)
  • February 1  — Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Florida  (NBC)
  • February 8  — NFL Pro Bowl with AFC All-Stars vs. NFC All-Stars in Honolulu, Hawaii (NBC)

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for Taking It to the House  and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2008 NFL Spring Meetings Recap

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Of course everyone heard the “big news” coming out of the NFL Spring Meetings regarding NFL owners opting out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Rookies learning the history of the game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and most importantly the proposed NFL Hair Policy taking a backseat.

But there was much more news that needs to be decimated to the masses.

Indianapolis awarded 2012 Super Bowl – The biggest winner from the Spring Meetings in Atlanta, GA was the city of Indianapolis.  With the opening of 700 Million Dollar Lucas Oil Stadium, the Colts state of the art palace will be on display in February 2012 while hosting Super Bowl XLVI.  The new retractable-roof stadium beat out Houston and Arizona for the game. Indianapolis joins Detroit (1982, 2006) and Minneapolis (1992) as the only cold weather areas to host the Super Bowl extravaganza.  The next four Super Bowls will be 2009 in Tampa, FL – Super Bowl XLIII, 2010 in South Florida – Super Bowl XLIV, 2011 in Dallas-Fort Worth, TX – Super Bowl XLV, and 2012 in Indianapolis, IN – Super Bowl XLVI

The Commish to now make teams responsible for misconduct – We already knew NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cracked down on malcontent players like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick, but now teams — lookout Bengals – will also be held accountable for player offenses.  The exact particulars need to be worked out, but look for fines and possibly draft picks to come into play.  Goodell said about the new policy, “We want to continue to emphasize personal conduct and personal responsibility”.  He added, “One way to do it is to hold teams responsible for the conduct of their players.  BTW:  Is the misconduct policy even working as there were a reported 26 players being arrested or cited since the Super Bowl this year versus 27 players at the same time last year.

Behave yourselves at games fans – Though poor fan conduct is really an individual team/stadium issue, the NFL will now provide guidelines and a helping hand.  The NFL will work teams to ensure that every fan enjoys games responsibly.  I am sure there will not be a “jail” in each stadium as was the case in Philadelphia’s old Veteran’s Stadium.  But look for a more family friendly environment.  Goodell said of fan conduct, “First of all, it’s very possible, and likely, that people can come to a game and enjoy alcoholic beverages or beer and do it very responsibly. What we don’t want is there to be abusive behavior. That includes foul language; that includes disrupting other people who are there to enjoy the game. We’re just saying, come and enjoy yourself, but don’t ruin it for others”.  BTW: Watch out for Commissioner Goodell at stadiums as he attended a game in Foxborough last year incognito with his 13-year-old niece.

Surprise, Surprise the NFL says enough with Spygate – Commissioner Roger Goodell announced to the media that the league has no plans to conduct an independent investigation of the Patriots’ videotaping procedures at this time (Shocker). The NFL teams and commissioner both believe that the league’s investigation was thorough enough and that no new information was gained from the Matt Walsh interview. Goodell when asked if he had plans to talk with Senator Arlen Specter about spygate, gave the terse answer of “Nope”.  I know opposing teams’ fans will also be glad to hear that the Pats got a pass on scalping Super Bowl tickets and allowing a player to practice while on injured reserve with Goodell saying “No” when asked about any actions for these offenses.

More international players – Even though the defunct NFL Europa was a rousing flop and there have been little internationally trained players in the NFL, there was a move to help get more players from abroad.  The NFL agreed to expand the league’s International Practice Squad Program – did anyone know this program is in its fifth year – to 16 players joining the NFL practice squads.

Could the final week of pre-season games be in jeopardy, oh darn – With fans everywhere screaming about playing full price for players that will be cut the next day, the NFL is considering adding a 17th regular-season game in place of the fourth preseason game.  The move would obviously help the “cash-strapped” owners coffers as regular season revenues (parking, game day promotions, television money, etc) are paramount.  Commissioner Goodell said of the proposition, “We actually are looking at”.  Strangely after meeting with the owners, Goodell came out talking about the “journey” in the NFL offseason and seemed to forget about just getting rid of the meaningless 4th week of pre-season games…. Stay tuned.

NFL looking for ways to recoup signing bonuses – With all eyes on the upcoming appeal to the Michael Vick signing bonus case – the jailed former Falcons quarterback was allowed to keep $16.5 Million dollars of his previously paid $20 Million dollar signing bonus, with the NFL appealing – the league may be looking to make changes in the CBA for this issue.  Goodell said, “It’s probably highlighted in a large part by the Michael Vick issue. There are other cases such as Ashley Lelie and others. In the Michael Vick case, he’s not able to play football and as such he got a significant signing bonus and we are not able to recover that. That’s money that could be going to players who are playing the game right now. So we think that there are some adjustments there that need to be made that are beneficial to the veteran players, frankly”.

 Will there be a team in L.A anytime soon?? – During the meetings the new ownership group of the St. Louis Rams denied a report that the team was going back to Los Angeles.  I am sure the NFL drools as it looks at the large television market just waiting to be filled.  With the Colts getting their new stadium this year, you can cross them off the list leaving the Saints, Vikings, Bills, Rams, and Jaguars as possible target for the West Coast.   Goodell said of the idea of a team in L.A amidst the owners opting out, “Uncertainty is never a great thing. So you have that and it could affect the potential for us to get a team in Los Angeles. It could affect the potential for additional revenue streams through television. It can have that impact. I hope it won’t. I hope that we’ll be able to reach that agreement. But there is that potential”.

NFL to honor a couple special golden anniversaries in 2008 – The 50th anniversary of the ’58 Championship Game (“The Best Game Ever” as some say with the Baltimore Colts producing a 23-17 overtime thrilling win over the New York Giants before a historic national television audience) and the 50th anniversary of the AFL (the innovative rival football league that made the NFL an ‘institution’ with their historic merger in 1969).

Proposal by Competition Committee regarding anti-tampering rule (i.e. free agency head start rule) – Goodell said, “We did discuss that. The Competition Committee has met on that a couple of times. We’ll continue to discuss that. As you know, that’s really not an issue in the next several months. We’ll raise it again by October. We need to do some additional work on that”.

 Playoff Re-Seeding and Expanding Roster were not discussed at the meetings.

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for Taking It to the House – NFL Insider Blog, BIGPLAY Football, and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

NFL Rookies to Visit Hall of Fame

Hopefully NFL Rookies will learn “how” special the legacy of the NFL is by learning about legends like Jim Thorpe when they visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame this off-season

 

(Philadelphia, Pa) — This off-season, the NFL has instituted a great idea in my opinion by having rookies from all 32 NFL teams visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.  The rookie tours will be headed by team’s player development director and will include speakers representing former NFL players, Pro Football Hall of Fame personnel and others.  The move is an expansion on the annual orientation program that should give rookies a greater appreciation of the NFL. 

I know with agents, video games, NFL Network, SportsCenter, sports talk radio and every other outlet pulling at them, NFL players maybe stuck in “now” and may not know about the history of the game.  But hopefully by immersing themselves in the NFL’s over 88-year storied history — players and coaches like Jim Thorpe, Fritz Pollard, Red Grange, Jim Brown, George Halas, George Taliaferro, Earl Campbell and many other legends — the rookies will understand that the game is greater than themselves. There is even talk of moving the entire Rookie Symposium to Canton and the NFL is exploring the feasibility. 

Surprisingly the rookies visit to the PHOF is the brainchild of noted Philadelphia Eagles’ favorite opposing player and Dallas Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin, a 2007 Hall of Fame Inductee.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently talked about the conversation he had with the NFL legend that led to the idea.  The Commish said “It’s actually an idea that Michael Irvin gave me at the Hall of Fame last year and as you know he made what I thought was one of the most emotional and powerful speeches when he was inducted”, “We talked about the power of the Hall of the Fame.  We talked about the power of the players who played the game and the coaches that coached the game”.

I love the entire idea, because the Pro Football Fame is the place where I like to say, “The legends come to rest”.  Every year when I cover the hall of fame inductions, I try to see a little bit more, but there is so much history that a month locked in the hallowed building wouldn’t be enough.

 

Here’s hoping that the rookies through their tours understand that they are new keepers of the NFL flame.  

Team visit dates for the Pro Football Hall of Fame are below:

Oakland                                                              May 28

Arizona, Denver, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay           May 30

Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, New England       May 31

Pittsburgh                                                           June 2

Carolina, Chicago, Detroit                                  June 6

St. Louis, Tennessee                                           June 7

Atlanta, Miami                                                    June 9

New York Jets                                                     June 11

Dallas, Green Bay, Philadelphia                           June 13

San Diego                                                           June 14

Kansas City                                                         June 16

Cleveland, Houston, New Orleans, NY Giants     June 18

Seattle                                                                June 19

San Francisco, Minnesota                                   June 23

Indianapolis, Washington   Hall of Fame weekend (Aug 2-3)

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for BIGPLAY Football and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

 

Hair Takes a Back Seat

(Philadelphia, Pa) — For the second NFL Meeting in a row and hopefully for good, the issue of whether a player’s hair can cover their name plate was tabled as everyone saw the unfathomable amount of time needed to debate this issue.  Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he needed more time to talk with more concerned parties (NFLPA, Players, etc) before trying to tackle this issue.

You could sense at these set of NFL meetings that hair wasn’t even on the radar when the CBA, a rookie salary cap, and many other more important issues were on the table.  Maybe now the Kansas City Chiefs and their head coach Herman Edwards, who surprisingly opened this “can of worms” can concentrate on improving the Chiefs’ 4-12 team.  However I am hearing rumblings that the Chiefs still want this topic discussed as a uniform issue sort of like towels hanging from a player’s belt.

Conservative Colts head coach Tony Dungy said of the issue, “I think there is room for personal expression, but when you listen to Herm [Edwards] and the Kansas City guys, it is kind of a uniform thing”.  He added “You look around and the name is covered, and part of the number is covered. We have to figure out how to address that. Hopefully there is a way to do it and get the best of both worlds.”

I believe with the NFLPA, individual long hair players, and even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) speaking up that Commissioner Goodell and owners will finally choose to step away from this issue for good.  Trust me I know it hurts the “IBM” crew-cut esque NFL to have players express themselves and to see their sacred uniforms “tarnished” by long hair. But the hair issue is a fight that will leave the NFL with a black eye no matter the outcome. 

As I stated before, I really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist as long as the guy can bring the “wood” on the field.  I like that some guys choose to “rage against the machine” and thumb their nose at uniformity. 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for BIGPLAY Football and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

Dolphins ‘Sack’ Dancing Star Jason Taylor

Everyone learned on Thursday that DE Jason Taylor will not be in the Dolphins plans as the Parcells’ Gang sacked the potential Hollywood star

(Philadelphia, Pa) — As expected right after Jason Taylor finished his Dancing With the Stars’ career by finishing in second place behind Kristi Yamaguchi, the Parcells’ gang sacked his dreams of returning to the Dolphins.  Parcells’ mouthpiece head coach Tony Sparano said in a statement, Taylor isn’t expected to take part in any team activities through training camp.

It was obvious since Taylor, the only active NFL player to ever participate on the ABC hit show, decided to not ingratiate himself to the Dolphins’ new czar that he had a big bull’s eye on his back.  The budding Hollywood star said that he needed to be in Los Angeles rather than back in South Florida working out with teammates in “voluntary” OTA’s, which sent Parcells in a tizzy.  There was even a report that cantankerous old-school VP of Football Operations didn’t even look up to talk to Taylor at the Dolphins complex in his one and only attempt to communicate with the boss. 

The ‘Phins made no secret that the 33-year old Taylor was not part of their plans and that they were trying to find a way to jettison the six-time Pro Bowl player similarly to how they cut ties with his brother-in law linebacker Zach Thomas (now with the Dallas Cowboys).  However the Dolphins in painting themselves in a corner, did not receive a reasonable offer in their opinion on draft day for the veteran defensive end.  There were reported draft day talks with the Jacksonville Jaguars for Taylor, but the Dolphins pulled the plug  on the potential deal saying they wanted more than the rumored 3rd or 4th round future draft selection offered.

Sparano relaying a message from Parcells said, “I’m glad we know this. We’ve gotten the information, and that’s important”.   The first-year head coach added, “I know that Jason is not going to be in any minicamps, and I know that right now Jason is not going to be at training camp.  So that’s what we know. Jason’s a player under contract with the Miami Dolphins. He knows that. Both parties are well aware of the information. That’s all I’m going to say about it. … We need to discuss the current players on our team right now that have been busting their butt for nine weeks here.”

While Sparano implied that Taylor, a Pittsburgh native, initiated the latest development, everyone knows every move in this melodrama has Parcells’ fingerprints all over it.  The bottom line is both sides want a break and need to part ways.  The big issue is can the Dolphins salvage any value for the 11-year veteran after trashing him at every turn in this saga.  I believe most of the suitors for Taylor (rumored to be the Eagles, Patriots, Jaguars, Steelers, and Rams) definitely would love to have a guy that has produced 117 sacks, third among active players, in 172 NFL games.  However why trade a high pick for a guy that will mostly likely have to be release by his disgruntled team.

To his credit, Taylor is playing the situation correctly by staying away and not saying much.  Honestly who could blame him for not wanting to end his career with a 1-15 team that is clearly in rebuilding mode for the next 2 to 3 years.  Taylor, the next Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, said on Saturday about his desire to be on a contender, “I want to win, period”.  He added, “There are a lot of things out here going on, and a lot of opportunities coming up, but the plan is to play. Football is still my priority. I still have a passion to play football.”

This is going to be a bumpy ride, so buckle your seatbelt as everyone knows Parcells and his underlings do not acquiesce to players.  The Dolphins will probably posture for awhile, but in the end the 2006 NFL defensive player of year has played his last game in the orange and sea green of the Dolphins.  Of course Taylor could just pull a “Tiki Barber” and walk-off into the showbiz sunset, but he clearly has more in the tank in my opinion.

Look for Taylor to continue to be at the ‘Phins mercy before Parcells cuts ties with him, probably in a “Randy Moss Get Out of Town” trade around the middle of training camp.  As the saga continues look for the Dolphins to lower their expectations and accept a fourth round or higher pick from a non-divisional rival.

 

 Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for BIGPLAY Football and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

 

 

 

 

 

NFL Opts Out of Collective Bargaining Agreement

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Owners cried about losing money as they opted out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement

(Philadelphia, PA) – At the 2008 Annual NFL Spring Meeting, NFL owners while crying broke over salaries that now encompass 60% of yearly revenues, exercised a clause (had until November 8, 2008 to do so) by a unanimous vote (32-0) to shorten the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). The vote means that the CBA that was originally signed in 1993 and was subsequently extended including the last time in 2006 will expire in 2011 instead of 2013. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when making the announcement, “We don’t need further time to analyze whether this is working or not working. It’s not working”.   The Commish added “It was the ownership’s view that it’s not a failure of the negotiations, it’s a failure of the deal.”

The move was highly anticipated by everyone associated with the NFL as costs have risen so substantially that the estimated debt for the league was surprisingly reported as a figure of 9 Billion dollars — The figure, which had never been public before, was disclosed in a letter that NFL outside general counsel Gregg Levy wrote in October 2007 to the NFLPA in response to the union’s questions about a league resolution to reduce team debt. 

When contacted about the NFL opting out of the CBA, NFLPA President Gene Upshaw sarcastically said “My response to (the opt out) was very simple: What a surprise”.  The two sides need to figure something out as the NFL has enjoyed labor piece since the ugly 1987 player’s strike.  The good news is that the current deal is in place for three more seasons, but the threat of an owner unfriendly uncapped season in 2010 ( cap is $116 Million in 2008 ) definitely has to scare the owners.

It is hard to believe that a league with an $8 Billion dollar a year television contract, weekly sold-out games in almost every market, and almost three to one number of fans in television ratings than any other professional league is having problems with money.  However the NFL is partly to blame for their big economic problem.

  • Payrolls have risen $30 million in the past two years raising the cap to the aforementioned $116 Million cap figure, with some teams (ex. Buffalo Bills) having trouble keeping up.  The rising cap is due to players knowing they have to get “upfront money” since all NFL contracts are non-guaranteed deals.  Plus astronomical rookie deals like this year’s number one overall pick Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Jake Long’s contract with over $30 Million in guaranteed money are causing salary issues.  However where are the J-E-T-S getting the money to spend $142 Million in free agency, especially on known slackers like offensive lineman Damien Woody and linebacker Calvin Pace.
  • NFL Network launched in November of 2003 has not grown as fast as predicted by the NFL’s suits and NFLN has been rumored to be losing money.  The network’s struggles are definitely linked to it’s bloody war with BIG Cable (Time Warner and Comcast).  The two sides are fighting over where the NFL’s baby should be placed on their systems and for what price.  The cable fight has cost the NFL Network an estimated $250 million a year in subscriber fees according to a Philadelphia Daily News article by Paul Domowitch and I won’t even get into the legal fees.
  • New stadiums/palaces at low-interest loan prices with little chance for revenues (ex. The Colts new Lucas Oil stadium was built at a cost of $700 Million).
  • The lasting effects of the defunct NFL Europa still reverberating as the NFL’s ugly stepchild lost a reported $30 million per season.
  • Plus can someone please tell me how the NFL can just sit back and watch (probably with smirk) as NFL Films, the greatest sports storyteller ever, had to layoff 21 employees.  According to the same aforementioned Philadelphia Daily News article other NFL media driven “highlight” outlets are considered more useful than the venerable company.  Give me a break !!!

The NFL has vowed that there will not be another stoppage like 1987 by saying that even without a new agreement there will be no “interruption of play for at least the next three seasons” through 2010.  Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen cavalierly said about the opt out, “Is this an issue that’s so pressing that we have to do it tomorrow? I mean, we obviously have three more seasons to play”.  He added, “So I’m sure we’ll be spending lots of time with the NFLPA.”

The two sides need to get something done by March 2009, which will be here before the NFLPA and NFL Owners know it.  So the heat should be turned up on both sides making the sometimes too chummy organizations get something going.

In the next couple of seasons it will be interesting to see if this issue is resolved or festers.  For the fans sake, the threat of tarnishing America’s Game due to labor unrest should get everyone moving.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer/Analyst for BIGPLAY Football and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)