Finally the NFL Lockout is Over by Lloyd Vance

Both NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith were both all smiles on Monday July 25th.  After 135 Days, the NFL Lockout is finally over and America’s Most Popular Game can leave the courtroom and return to the field

Today, NFL player representatives and the league’s owners signed a collective-bargaining agreement (CBA) to end a lockout that had started in March shortly after the Packers’ Super Bowl victory and threatened to harm part of  — if not all of the — 2011 season. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looked relieved while saying, “Football’s back!”.  Goodell added “(The new 10-year deal) is extraordinarily great for our game.”  Of course, fans had heard Goodell say similar words after the owners agreed (31-0) on Friday, but everything wasn’t done until the players had their say.  Finally an 11 AM conference call where the new deal was agreed to by the league’s players really did bring back football to a starving public, who wouldn’t know what to do without “America’s Passion”.

Terms were not immediately specified, however NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith — still need to re-certify the organization, but that is topic for another day — also seemed to beaming just as much as Goodell.  Smith said of the new deal, which included a legacy fund for retiree, safety issues, and much more.  “We managed to talk about things that make football better and safer.”

According to the NFL, some of the highlights in the agreement included:

  • New rookie compensation system with a salary cap of $142.4 million per club in 2011 
  •  Additional retirement benefits
  • The limiting of practice times and full-contact practices.
  • Clubs receiving actual stadium investment and up to 1.5% of revenue each year.
  • Medical plan for life for players, under the owners’ plan.
  • Enhanced injury protection benefit of 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 his injury.

Colts’ center and player representative Jeff Saturday, who was at the forefront of the negotiations said, “The lockout has been a roller coaster for the fans.  With dialogue, things began to happen and …now instead of these meeting rooms, I get to be in football meeting rooms (at training camp).”

Now, the attention of everyone in NFL Universe from the players to team GM’s to the  media to Fantasy Football players will now return to the league’s quickened calendar.  Training Camps will shortly open (probably Wednesday) and Free Agency will also begin at a furious pace.

So now everyone can put away all the legal talk and focus on getting ready for September 8th in Green Bay, Wisconsin when the season offically kicks off with the Super Bowl Champion Packers taking on the New Orleans Saints.

NFL CBA Negotiations to Continue Past Deadline

The respective sides of in the NFL’s Labor Battle (Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith) have agreed to extend Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations past the March 3rd, 11:59 PM Deadline

All anyone needs to do is go back and do some research from the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike – the last labor strife in the league which led to the owners playing “regular season” games with replacement players – to see the damage that labor unrest caused to the league and it’s fans.  There is no doubt that the NFL is the “Golden Goose” of sports with a model that produced approximately $9 Billion in revenues for 2009 and an unprecedented almost 25 years of uninterrupted play. 

The two sides involved, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA DeMaurice Smith, have been in talks since the start of the 2011 season, but there has been little movement.  There are so many negotiating issues around the NFL’s new CBA with the tip of the iceberg including:

Revenues — NFL owners are saying players are taking 60% of revenues, Smith is saying the owners want an 18% rollback on player revenues in the new CBA and the NFLPA is insisting that the league open the books. 

An owners’ proposed 18-game regular season schedule — Mostly supported by the owners, there are already many veteran players talking about long-term risks.  The NFLPA and it’s players are commissioning reports to see about the long-term health/injury risks from playing an 18-game regular season – 16 game schedule since 1978.  Let me go on record that I completely agree with getting rid of 1 or 2 preseason games.  But you know the players will definitely need extra incentives to approve more games. Patriots QB Tom Brady recently said of the 18-game proposal, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.”

Retirement Benefits — Led by a very loud contingent of former players, including HOF Joe DeLamiellure, NFL retirees want to be heard regarding health benefits and pensions.  Every current NFL player better be thinking about life after football as the average NFL career is 3 to 4 years and a player that has accrued 3 years of play receives only 5 years of health benefits after their retirement.

A Rookie Wage Scale – Something has to be done to make sure that “proven” NFL players are getting larger pieces of the pie than unproven rookies.  All anyone needs to do is look at the $39M that JaMarcus Russell basically stole from the Raiders.  This year, first overall pick, the Rams QB Sam Bradford, is expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.

FIGURE IT OUT GUYS as NFL fans don’t want to see a season lost, because a bunch of Billionaires and Millionaires cannot agree.

 BTW:  Anyone worried about seeing NFL replacement games, like during the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike, you don’t have worry as the current CBA does not allow the owners to play “Scab” games.

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – CBA Negotiations

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith are the principal figures in the ongoing NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations

The impending end of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) slated for March 2011 should be first and foremost in everyone’s minds associated with the NFL.  Right now the league is in the midst of its first “uncapped” season in 2010, but that will be a hill of beans, if there is an NFL owners’ lockout in 2011 – i.e. “No Football”. 

All anyone needs to do is go back and do some research from the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike – the last labor strife in the league which led to the owners playing “regular season” games with replacement players – to see the damage that labor unrest caused to the league and it’s fans.  There is no doubt that the NFL is the “Golden Goose” of sports with a model that produced approximately $9 Billion in revenues for 2009 and an unprecedented almost 25 years of uninterrupted play. 

The two sides involved, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA DeMaurice Smith, have begun talks but everything is very preliminary at this time.  There are so many negotiating issues around the NFL’s new CBA with the tip of the iceberg including:

Revenues — NFL owners are saying players are taking 60% of revenues, Smith is saying the owners want an 18% rollback on player revenues in the new CBA and the NFLPA is insisting that the league open the books. 

NFLPA talking about possible owner collusion — The owners are pointing to the 30% rule, but overall player salaries for 2010 are lower and it has been a very slow offseason for signing free agents / giving out big deals. Also owners will not say it, but they do not want to pay a signing bonus on new player deals which could potentially cover lost salary during a lockout – did you know the owners TV money for 2011 is guaranteed.  That is why future Hall of Famer and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is in the last year of his 2004 contract extension – 7 years, $99.2M with a $34.5M signing bonus (due $15.8M in 2010), has not received a new deal yet.  Manning and Patriots QB Tom Brady are expected to get new contracts with at least $50 million guaranteed. Is something up??? Recently on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike Show, DeMaurice Smith said, “You guys want me to say the collusion word, of course….Oh, wait a minute. There it goes.”

An owners’ proposed 18-game regular season schedule — Mostly supported by the owners, there are already many veteran players talking about long-term risks.  The NFLPA and it’s players are commissioning reports to see about the long-term health/injury risks from playing an 18-game regular season – 16 game schedule since 1978.  Let me go on record that I completely agree with getting rid of 1 or 2 preseason games.  But you know the players will definitely need extra incentives to approve more games. Patriots QB Tom Brady recently said of the 18-game proposal, “I’ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented. Look no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.”

Retirement Benefits — Led by a very loud contingent of former players, including HOF Joe DeLamiellure, NFL retirees want to be heard regarding health benefits and pensions.  Every current NFL player better be thinking about life after football as the average NFL career is 3 to 4 years and a player that has accrued 3 years of play receives only 5 years of health benefits after their retirement.

A possible Rookie Wage Scale – Something has to be done to make sure that “proven” NFL players are getting larger pieces of the pie than unproven rookies.  All anyone needs to do is look at the $39M that JaMarcus Russell basically stole from the Raiders.  This year, first overall pick, the Rams QB Sam Bradford, is expected to receive a contract greater than Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s – 6 years, $72M with $41.75M guaranteed.

Player Misconduct Administration — Goodell has a ton of leeway under the current CBA to administer justice as he sees fit and some member of the NFLPA want to look into the “legality” of some of the commissioner’s decisions.  Owners are also talking tough about going after bonuses already paid, if a player screws-up.

Drug Testing — NFL currently doesn’t test for the performing enhancing drug Human Growth Hormone (HGH) as it requires blood.  And the NFL also needs to think about testing for codeine (i.e. the “Sizzurp”) after the recent events with the Packers DL Johnny Jolly and former Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell.

Roger Goodell recently said of the CBA negotiations, “There will be an agreement at some point…Everyone would like it sooner rather than later, whether it’s the players, the owners or the fans.  It’s important for us all to get more productive dialogue. Sometimes, these things don’t happen until you get a little closer to the end (of the CBA). That’s just the reality.”

DeMaurice Smith also has been on the offensive lately too.  He recently said on ESPN Radio about the on-going CBA negotiations, “As you guys know, we haven’t been shy about being aggressive in protecting players’ rights. If we have to be aggressive to enforce the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can bet that we will.”

FIGURE IT OUT GUYS as NFL fans don’t want to see a season lost, because a bunch of Billionaires and Millionaires cannot agree.

 BTW:  Anyone worried about seeing NFL replacement games, like during the 1987 NFL Players’ Strike, you don’t have worry as the current CBA does not allow the owners to play “Scab” games.

Other 2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories

  • New York Jets winning the NFL offseason and can they reach the Super Bowl heights many are predicting for them
  • Position Battles (Carolina Panthers QBs, Philadelphia Eagles Safeties, Dallas Cowboys WR’s, NY Giants DE’s, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WRs, Arizona Cardinals QBs, Buffalo Bills QBs, etc)
  • T.O, Flozell Adams and other free agents still looking for jobs
  • Coaches on the hot seat trying to stay alive (Panthers John Fox, Texans Gary Kubiak, Jaguars Jack DelRio, Bears Lovie Smith, Broncos Josh McDaniels, and Browns Eric Mangini)
  • QB Donovan McNabb changing teams inside the NFC East
  • Brett Favre’s “Possible” Retirement / Return
  • Slow rate of rookie first rounder signings
  • Future Hall of Famers Peyton Manning and Tom Brady getting new deals or not
  • The Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons, and San Francisco 49ers being popular picks as NFL’s surprise team of 2010

 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Pre-Training Camp Top Stories – Player Misconduct

Leading up to 2010 NFL Training Camps there have been too many stories of player misconduct.  Recently Green Bay Packers DL Johnny Jolly (pictured) was suspended for the season by the league for drug charges

Hard to believe 3 years after NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell instituted a Player Conduct policy that gave him much latitude in its application, we are still talking about players putting themselves in bad situations.  Sure the majority of the NFL’s over 1500 players are good up-standing types, but since the Super Bowl ended in February there has been a steady stream of player misconduct that has fans, media, and league officials concerned about a pattern. 

And to make matters worse, now the players involved seem to be more “high profile”.  No longer is everyone talking about the misdeeds of a 2nd string nickelback (i.e. Adam “Pacman” Jones), now quarterbacks who are the league and franchise’s faces are producing negative front-page news too, that may have implications going into the 2010 NFL season. 

Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick (a shooting occurring after his 30th B-Day Party), Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger (Bar hopping gone array in Milledgeville, GA), Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young (misdemeanor assault citation after allegedly punching a guy in a strip club for an upside down hook’em Horns sign), Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms (arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City), former Oakland Raiders QB / 2008 NFL Draft first overall pick JaMarcus Russell (arrested for illegal possession of Codeine to allegedly produce a drink called “The Sizzurp”) and too many others. 

The situation that Roethlisberger got himself into was most distressing to Goodell and everyone else as he is the marquee player of one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises.  Though eventually the authorities in Georgia decided to not press charges for sexual assault against Big Ben, the salacious details and accusations, including the showing of taped interviews with the alleged victim, will follow Roethlisberger, the Steelers and NFL for a long time. 

The former 2-time Super Bowl winning quarterback has been suspended for the first 6 games of the 2010 Season, but it is looking like his early summer good behavior could have his suspension lowered to 4 games instead.  However good behavior by Roethlisberger and the NFL’s other bad boys withstanding, it will be interesting in CBA negotiations if NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith wants to call Goodell and his sometimes heavy-handed administration of the Player Conduct Policy to task.  Because you know the league will counter with tales of how disorderly players have taken signing bonuses and other guaranteed money and not lived-up to their end of the bargain.

Hopefully the final days before training camps begin (Cleveland Browns rookies report on July 23rd) will be free of player misconduct as fans and media should be looking forward to the action on the gridiron rather than NFL players on the police blotter.

2010 Player Misconduct Suspensions

  • Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger, 6-game suspension (Player Conduct – two sexually related incidents) — Out until at least Week 8 vs. New Orleans, but could be shortened to 4-games based on league review
  • San Diego Chargers WR Vincent Jackson, 3-game suspension (Player Conduct – Multiple DUIs) — Out until Week 4 vs. Arizona
  • Atlanta Falcons OT Quinn Ojinnaka, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Domestic Violence) — Out until Week 2 vs. Arizona
  • Seattle Seahawks LB Leroy Hill, 1-game suspension (Player Conduct – Drug Charge) — Out until Week 2 at Denver (also their could be an additional suspension coming for Player Conduct – Domestic Violence)
  • Green Bay Packers DE Johnny Jolly, indefinite suspension with the minimum for all of the 2010 season (Player Conduct – Drug Charge)
  • Free Agent WR Plaxico Burress, indefinite suspension (gun charges) that will end once he is released from prison

*** It should also be noted that when a player serves a suspension, he does not get paid and misses out on game checks.

Other possible misconduct violations

  • Miami Dolphins DE Phillip Merling – Domestic Violence
  • Cleveland Browns DT Shaun Rodgers – Carrrying a weapon into the airport
  • Atlanta Falcons DT Jonathan Babineaux – Drug Chrages
  • Cincinnati Bengals RB Cedric Benson – Assault
  • Tennessee Titans QB Vince Young – Citation for Assault
  • Philadelphia Eagles backup QB Michael Vick — Possible probation violation from a shooting that occurred after his 30th B-Day Party
  • Tennessee Titans back-up QB Chris Simms — Arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of marijuana in New York City
  • Free Agent QB JaMarcus Russell – Drug Charges

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

The Surprising Football and Wine Connection

Former head coach Dick Vermeil is one of the leaders of the new connection between pro football and the wine industry

For years the NFL has been known for quarterback sacks, halftime snacks, and of course the league’s beverage of choice, BEER.  But hold-up for a minute, a more sophisticated movement is afoot around the league and it has to do with combining football with the cultured beverage, Wine.

That’s right… the big tough guys of the NFL are apparently entering the realm of the wine and cheese crowd.  In a great piece by columnist Joshua Green from The Atlantic, he tells the story that the league’s wine crowd has grown further than tough-love former head coach Dick Vermeil starting his Vermeil Wines from Napa Valley.

Other retired NFL players Joe Montana, Drew Bledsloe and Rick Mirer also are active in the industry as wine-makers. Even the J-E-T-S are commemorating the opening of their new stadium with a wine.  However when talking wine and the NFL, the “key” word for players and coaches is “Retired” as the league will not allow current players and coaches to be associated in endorsing alcohol products. 

After a rash of NFL related alcohol related incidents, league commissioner, Roger Goodell, decided in 2008 that alcohol was a No-No for endorsement – funny that this edict did not reach some of the boorish alcohol-fueled fans that pack NFL stadiums or the many big beer company football ad buyers.

It is too bad that the NFL does not allow “active” personnel to be alcohol related endorsers – remember the great “Tastes Great…Less Filling” ads from the ‘70s with NFL players like LC Greenwood and Bubba Smith.  But I digress… the commissioner’s stance has forced current NFL star and budding wine aficionado, Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, to “quietly” be part of the wine crowd. 

The current NFL Defensive Player of the Year has a budding wine label TwentyFour – after his jersey number – that is getting attention in wine circles.  Unfortunately Woodson has been told by the league that he cannot promote his label while still being an active player – that means he cannot even comment on one his wines.

So let’s keeping score here — domestic violence, illegal guns, and wine-making are all against league policy…ok I was just checking.  However even though the league offices have quieted Woodson’s wine activities for now — which I don’t agree with the commissioner’s “Large Net” policy – I am calling on all NFL fans to put a good bottle of wine out too for their next halftime spread.

BTW:  I have to give a “Hat Tip” to good friend Bryan Kolesar of The Brew Lounge for enlightening me to the growing wine movement in the NFL…funny that a ‘craft beer guy’ likes wine too.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2010 NFL Draft Preview by Lloyd Vance

photo by David Kindervater

Radio City Music Hall will be electric for the start of the 2010 NFL Draft at 7:30 PM on April 22nd

Happy Draft Day!!! It will be Christmas in April as optimism and hope abound for all 32 NFL franchises and their fans as the 75th NFL Draft takes center stage on the sports calendar.  Sure the NBA playoffs, NHL playoffs, first month of baseball, and any number of sporting events are also occurring, but fans around the globe are most interested in the NFL Draft.  The new 3-day event, which will take place from the largest city in the United States at the venerable showbiz palace Radio City Music Hall, is so grandiose that it will be in “Prime Time” starting on Thursday for the first time. 

With all the hoopla around the NFL Draft, one has to wonder was there this much fanfare on February 8th, 1936.  That was the date the brainchild of league legend Bert Bell took flight as the first NFL Draft was held at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Philadelphia – A much quieter event where players like Tuffy Leemans were selected and didn’t know about it until receiving correspondence from the league.  The 1936 NFL draft was only a tiny ripple compared to the ocean’s worth of hype and expectation surrounding the 2010 NFL Draft. 

The whole thing is a “Can’t Miss Event” causing jersey-clad fans to line the streets of Manhattan for over 12 hours just for the chance to sit in the balcony of Radio City Music Hall with millions more watching on television.   However there is no need to worry about the NFL Draft television viewers as their extended 3-day couch time will include quality time with their favorite “draft guy” (NFL Network’s Mike Mayock or ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr).   As the seconds tick down on the clock, households in every NFL city will ponder questions like “Is my team trading up”, “Will they go for a need pick or the proverbial best player on the board”, “What are the stats on my team’s first round pick”, “Is that linebacker from my alma mater still available”, and many others. Continue reading

The NFL Suspends Roethlisberger for Six Games

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger received a 6-game suspension from the NFL for conduct detrimental to the league

After less than one week of thinking it over, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell decided it was time to give his decision regarding any suspension of troubled Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.  Goodell informed the Steelers and Roethlisberger that the star quarterback would be suspended for the first six games to start the 2010 NFL Season without pay for conduct detrimental to the NFL in violation of the league’s personal conduct policy. A six-game suspension would cost Big Ben $2.841M in base salary or $473,529 per game.

Much like when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was suspended to start the 2009 season, Roethlisberger’s suspension can be shortened — to 4 games — if he meets certain terms set forth by the NFL and the Steelers.  First and foremost, the league wants Big Ben to undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals then he must also hit others parameters set worth by the NFL and Steelers to even be considered for his suspension to be reviewed.

One of the biggest caveats that Goodell also placed on Roethlisberger is that Steelers’ star will not be able to attend any team off-season activity until he has completed the medical evaluation. The Commission said the rehabilitation of Big Ben was a two-step approach designed to hold him, “accountable for his conduct and provide him an opportunity to change his behaviour and establish himself as a responsible individual.”

I think after reading the Milledgeville 572-page investigative report, that Goodell and the Rooney Family were disgusted and had no other choice than to “justifiably” put Roethlisberger on the self for what appears to be habitual behavior.  In his letter to Roethlisberger, Goodell wrote “The personal conduct policy makes clear that I may impose discipline ‘even where the conduct does not result in conviction of a crime’ as, for example, where the conduct ‘imposes inherent danger to the safety and well being of another person’.

The understandably heated Goodell wrote further, “As the District Attorney concluded, the extensive investigatory record shows that you contributed to the irresponsible consumption of alcohol by purchasing (or facilitating the purchase of) alcoholic beverages for underage college students, at least some of whom were likely already intoxicated. There is no question that the excessive consumption of alcohol that evening put the students and yourself at risk. The personal-conduct policy also states that discipline is appropriate for conduct that ‘undermines or puts at risk the integrity and reputation of the NFL, NFL clubs, or NFL players.’ By any measure, your conduct satisfies that standard.”

Goodell closed his letter to Roethlisberger by writing, “Your conduct raises sufficient concerns that I believe effective intervention now is the best step for your personal and professional welfare…In your six years in the NFL, you have first thrilled and now disappointed a great many people. I urge you to take full advantage of this opportunity to get your life and career back on track.”

I fully support Goodell’s and the Steelers’ decision as Pittsburgh is one of the NFL’s cornerstone franchises and a large majority of their fanbase is angered by the actions of one of the stars from their two recent Super Bowl winning squads.  Much like Vick’s case, Goodell will personally be involved in the review of Roethlisberger’s progress. 

I really like the approach that Goodell and the Steelers took in Roethlisberger’s situation.  In the past the Commissioner set precedents with players like Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, and Michael Vick via the player misconduct policy, so he had to come down hard on Roethlisberger and he did.  Fortunately for Roethlisberger, the punishment comes without any charges from the legal community, but it is time for him to heed the words of the Georgia D.A that told him to “Grow Up”.

So where does everyone go from here.  Well… the Steelers are “listening” to offers for Big Ben going into the draft and they have also signed veteran Byron Leftwich through 2011.  Clearly there will need some fence-mending from Roethlisberger with the team and I believe the Steelers will give him, the proverbial, “One Last Strike”.  I don’t believe any team, not even the dysfunctional Oakland Raiders, is ready to take on Big Ben and the problems that he brings right now.  It would take a blockbuster deal for any team to bite and I don’t see that happening.

As for Roethlisberger, it is time for him to understand that playing in the NFL is not a right, but a privilege and if he doesn’t watch it, he can easily become a forgotten footnote – just ask Pacman Jones. 

We will see by September, if Big Ben decides that football is his first priority.  But this story or the salacious details around it are not going away anytime soon.

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and Sports Journey Network , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)