Terrelle Pryor Gets His First Lesson on Life in the NFL by Lloyd Vance

 

Welcome to the big leagues! Former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor will be allowed in the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft with one big caveat

On August 18th, the National Football League did the right and wrong thing to potential prospect QB Terrelle Pryor.  The world’s most powerful league did find it in their heart to letOhioState’s wayward Buckeye into the 2011 NFL Supplemental Draft, but at the same time showed their unilateral influence by instituting a precedent setting 5-game suspension to Pryor at the start of his NFL career.

The league in a dual statement announced that this year’s Supplemental Draft would be moved from its originally scheduled date of August 17th to Monday August 22nd and that indeed finally Pryor would be allowed to participate.  The news was welcomed around NFL Universe that the former prep All-American turned public enemy number one inColumbus,Ohio would get his chance at redemption.  But overwhelming their was a groundswell movement by fans and media that were saying, “What the hell is Roger Goodell and the NFL doing” by instituting a 5-game suspension –without pay by the way – for transgression that happened before Pryor has even signed a league contract.

For sure much like the cases of former NFL bad boys Pacman Jones and Micheal Vick the NFLPA was sure to get involved.  But once again armed with a brand-newCBA, NFL Commissioner Roger “Hang’em High” Goodell was back.  During the league’s 136-day lockout many wondered if the still existing NFL Personal Conduct policy with Goodell as the Judge and Jury would be back in full effect.  Well it didn’t take long as the Commish once again made a player “beg” to step on the field before relenting with another of his controversial caveats. 

The league informed teams that Pryor “made decisions that undermine the integrity of the eligibility rules for the NFL draft.” Among those actions, the league said, were the hiring of an agent in violation of NCAA rules and a failure to cooperate with the investigation that cost then-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel his job. The NCAA committee on infractions is working to determine the school’s final penalties.

With no other “viable” alternatives other than the minor league CFL or UFL, Pryor like so many other players caught in Goodell’s player misconduct has to eat crow and accept the decision. “We accept that voluntarily,” Pryor’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus recently said.  The loquacious agent added, “It’s a small price to pay for him to have a chance to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL.”   Many are saying that if Pryor had decided to fight the league’s suspension that there was a distinct possibility that he would have been ruled ineligible all together – see Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams circa the 2006 NFL Draft – a lengthy career-delaying court battle would have ensued.

In the end, as a family supporter I understand Pryor have to accept his medicine to support his family, but I don’t have to like it.  The league can say that Goodell consulted NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith all they want, but how can the NFL just decide to retroactively apply a suspension based on “College” transgressions.  What is next the league suspending Dolphins RB Reggie Bush for the mess that he caused atUSCor the many former University of Miami Hurricanes in the league that were just found out to be on the take in the Shapiro Scandal.  League spokesman Greg Aiello even tweeted you can’t break the rules as Pryor did “and get a free pass into the NFL.”

As I stated in my last article on the Pryor / Supplemental Draft situation, “Give me a break, the NFL has way too many other problems than to worry about cleaning up the NCAA’s mess involving a fallen quarterback”.  Pryor like so many other supplemental draft eligible players of the past has made a mistake as a young college athlete and now wants to move-on to the NFL.  But now Pandora’s box has been opened and the league better hope the NCAA’s nex bad boy castoff is coming over clean – Hey BTW, I just heard that potential 2012 first overall pick Stanford QB Andrew Luck was caught cheating at hide-and-seek in the 3rd grade..I’m just saying.

Bills safety George Wilson, an NFLPA representative said of the situation, “I don’t understand, my question is, with thisMiamiprobe, are those players who took those gifts, are those guys — guys that violated NCAA regulations — are they subject to his discipline as well? Is it retroactive? This opens up a big can of worms”. Wilsonadded, “You can’t pick and choose when you want to apply, when you don’t want to apply, who you stick it to, who you don’t stick it to. It needs to be clearly defined. I don’t agree with it. But we have to see how he chooses to proceed as well as the union. It’s just setting a whole totally different precedent.”

Next Pryor will have a pro day for all 32 NFL teams Saturday inPittsburgh, where he’ll workout in drills similar to the NFL Scouting Combine. I know come Monday that some team is going to give him a chance to be the next “Brad Smith” or whomever in the NFL that Pryor will become.  But this process to me, quite frankly stinks.

So now we move-on with Pryor even tweeting, “God bless and thanks for support! Time to have a little fun!”  But to tell you the truth I don’t like it one bit.

Good luck Terrelle, as you already understand that being in NFL sometimes means you have to understand “who” is in charge.

 

 

 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).  You can reach Lloyd on Twitter @lloydvance_NFL

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.

NFLPA Names Smith as New Executive Director

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NFLPA will now be led by D.C attorney DeMaurice Smith

The 2008 NFL Season was all about unpredictability and the trend continued this weekend in Hawaii as Washington, D.C. lawyer DeMaurice Smith, pulled a monumental upset by winning a secret ballot vote to replace the late Gene Upshaw as the NFL Players Association’s (NFLPA) new Executive Director.  Smith, a 45-year old partner at the law firm Patton Boggs, was a relative unknown going into the March 15th vote. But he beat out three higher-profile candidates including former NFLPA Presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong plus attorney David Cornwell in voting by player representatives from the NFL’s 32 franchises.  All along most NFL media, including myself, thought that the NFLPA membership’s vote would come down to Vincent or Armstrong as both former players each had extensive backing from a variety of quarreling NFL factions.  However after the player representatives heard from all four candidates – March 14th initial candidate presentations and March 15th closing remarks – they selected the fresh voiced D.C. based corporate attorney as their captain in the boardroom.  Buffalo Bills player representative and defensive back George Wilson recently said of the selection of Smith, “His energy is impressive and he was very prepared in a way that you could see why he has been such a successful attorney”.

The selection of Smith now means that NFL players will call a non-player their lead representative — the first since Ed Garvey left office in 1983 — just like the three other major sports’ player associations. Hopefully Smith is up to the challenge of righting an organization that was once deemed “the weakest union in modern sports”, because there is a litany of landmine issues that the NFLPA will face in the near future.  Legally charged issues include an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011 (the current CBA pays players nearly 60% of football revenues that exceed $6 billion per year according to the owners), a looming uncapped year in 2010, players benefits, retiree rights/benefits, an economy where everyone including the NFL is struggling, a possible rookie salary cap, player marketing, television contracts, player conduct and so much more there is not enough space to write them all down. However Smith, a frequent commentator on MSNBC’s Hardball, has said his new position is a “calling” which leads you to believe he is going to roll his sleeves up to tackle the many challenges facing the NFLPA. 

NFL players by voting-in Smith, who by his own admission has never been in an NFL lockerrooom, decided that their union should be more about the “unity” of players (past and present) while keeping an eye on the “business” side of football rather than politicking, mudslinging, and living in the past (See the Upshaw regime and the campaigns of Vincent and Armstrong). Much like current President Barrack Obama, who has reported ties to the new NFLPA Executive Director, Smith gave NFL players “Change They Could Believe In”. Smith recently said in an USA Today interview, “To say that (the NFLPA Executive Director job) is purely a labor and management play is to miss about six or seven dominant issues that make up the business of the NFL each and every day”.  The former University of Virginia Law School graduate has been on the frontlines of corporate business law for years, including working with current U.S Attorney General Eric Holder, so you know he will be right at home talking the “business” of football.  And let’s not fool ourselves, the National Football League is all about “big” billion dollar corporate business.  Now the players will have a litigious voice representing them at the table with billionaires like Jerry Jones, Pat Bowlen, and Jeffrey Lurie.

I don’t know about you, but I finding it refreshing that the new NFLPA head will be about handling “business” and representing his constituency rather than making back-door agreements that may not be for the good of the organization.  Wilson added, “He’s the man, it’s a new day in the ‘PA.’   So now the play-clock begins on the Smith Era of the NFLPA and it will be interesting to see if the new Executive Director has an amicable or disagreeable relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners he represents.  For now Smith is firmly at the helm of the NFLPA and he will need to stiff-arm the NFL’s many challenges that seem as mammoth as William “The Refrigerator” Perry to guide his players over the goal-line.

  

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

NFL Union Chief Gene Upshaw Dies

NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw Dies at 63 from cancer

(Philadelphia, Pa) — The National Football League (NFL) family includes players, coaches, owners, media, and everyone else that makes up “America’s Game”, sure from time to time family members may not see eye to eye on a lot of issues around the league, but one thing for sure is that “we are a family”.  That is why the devastating news that former Hall of Fame player and NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw had passed away Thursday morning at age 63 from pancreatic cancer shook the 89-year old league right down to its core.

Some may choose to remember Upshaw as a 16-year Hall of Fame guard (1967-1981) on the vaunted Oakland Raiders offensive line that helped produce two Super Bowl championships or as the tough leader of the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) since 1983.  But one thing is for sure the NFL’s heart is very heavy for the loss of a man that was a respected pioneer who lived and breathed the NFL.  Some could even argue that Upshaw deserves a place on the NFL’s Mount Rushmore with the likes of Pete Rozelle, Jim Thorpe, Bert Bell, Art Rooney, George Halas, and many others who’s impact went far beyond the playing field.

On the field, Upshaw coming out of Texas A&M-Kingsville was selected in the first round of the 1967 draft with the 17th overall pick.  Some may have wondered if Oakland Raiders owner and architect Al Davis had picked an O-lineman too soon, but Upshaw (6’5, 255) soon vindicated the Raiders organization by starting in ’67 and not relinquishing his spot until his retirement in 1981, producing seven Pro Bowls and an five all-pro selections along the way.  Upshaw then joined his offensive line brother tackle Art Shell in 1968 and the pair were a stellar combination that kept quarterback Kenny Stabler clean and were instrumental in winning Super Bowls XI and XV — only player in NFL history to play in three Super Bowls in three different decades (60’s, 70’s and 80’s).  Shell, also a Hall of Famer, played next to Upshaw for 14 years with the men growing to be more like kin than teammates.  Shell said of the passing of his dear friend, “Today, our family and the entire football world is saddened and feels a great loss”.  Shell added, “Our friend Gene Upshaw was a dynamic leader on and off the field. Gene was a pioneer, one of the first African-American leaders of a major union. He was the equal of the owners in negotiations. He championed many causes, which made the league a better place.

Unlike most players who step away from the spotlight after their playing career, Upshaw broke from the quiet lineman mold by speaking up for players after being unanimously elected NFLPA executive director in June 1983.  It was in this role that the public grew to see Upshaw as he championed player’s causes of Free Agency, better playing conditions, compensation including revenue sharing, retirement, and labor negotiations.  It was in labor movement that I believe Upshaw distinguished himself — Part of CBA negotiations in 1977 (player), 1982 (player) and 1993 (Executive Director); plus was instrumental in CBA extensions in 1998, 2002 and 2006.  He helped the union revolutionalize the NFL by fighting for free agency by working through a player strike in 1987 where the NFL played four games with replacement players.  In the end, the players gained free agency and labor harmony has been a fixture within the NFL for the past 21 years.  Upshaw said about the fight for free agency, “It was the only alternative we had”.  He added, “The union is in place to protect the players, not the owners. If the union isn’t doing its job, it shouldn’t be there.” After being part of the team that brought NFL players to an entirely new compensation level, Upshaw was re-elected/extended by the NFLPA for seven straight terms including his last deal that was to have run through 2010 with the formerly broke NFLPA having $100 million in it’s coffers and another $100 million in assets according to union records.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said of Upshaw in a statement, “Gene Upshaw did everything with great dignity, pride, and conviction.  He was the rare individual who earned his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame both for his accomplishments on the field and for his leadership of the players off the field.  He fought hard for the players and always kept his focus on what was best for the game.  His leadership played a crucial role in taking the NFL and its players to new heights.  Gene’s tremendous love of the game also showed in his wide-ranging support of football at all levels.  It is a sad day for the NFL, but Gene’s positive impact and legacy will live on for decades to come.  All of us in the NFL reach out with our sympathy to Terri and the Upshaw family”.

His wife, Terri, and sons, Justin, Daniel and Eugene Jr, survive Upshaw. 

  

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House 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)

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)

 

Are We Talking About Hair ???

(Philadelphia, Pa) — Apparently the upcoming NFL Owners’ Meetings in West Palm, Florida will resemble many American households from the 1960’s as hair length and style take center stage.  The Kansas City Chiefs have put forth before the owners a proposed rule that would require players to wear their hair in a way (“tuck” it) so that it doesn’t obscure the name plate on the backs of their jerseys.

Sure they are saying that it is a safety issue and that they are not telling players to “cut” their hair due to CBA language that forbids such edicts –The NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA expressly prohibits the imposition of discipline based on facial hair or hair length… ACLU would be on the phone quicker than lightning. 

But you cannot tell me that the “Father Knows Best -esque” bureaucratic NFL does not want to rein players in that look unsightly in their opinion.  The NFL is running a VERY dangerous course by forcing player appearance, they already dictate everything with uniforms down to towel length and socks not being pulled up so apparently “hair” is the next step.  I will be interested to see what will happen if the rule passes and a respected veteran like Steelers safety Troy Troy Polamalu doesn’t want to “tuck” his hair.

I personally really don’t care how many tattoos a player has or if his hair is down to his waist.  The key matter in player evaluation is whether the guy can bring the “wood” on the field or not.  I like that some guys have the unusual “forget image” attitude that they are willing to express themselves in a sport where uniformity has gotten out of control.  Plus as Dolphins running back Ricky Williams learn if you play with long hair, it is okay for an opponent to use it against you.

It will take 24 positive votes from the 32 franchises for the measure to pass and if it does look for some fun “barber” fireworks come training camp time.