– The NFLPA has formally filed for decertification, dissolving the players’ union. “They are now free to file an antitrust suit, if they so choose,” said NFL Network legal analyst Gary Roberts. The suit would happen if the owners were lock out the players, which appears likely. For one last time Friday, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith asked the owners to “open the books” and show their financial records in exchange for an extension to discussions–the owners are not opening the books, so the players will take matters to court. It’s still likely that there will be football in 2011, but the players want to get the best possible collective bargaining agreement–nonetheless, this is the first work stoppage since 1987.
The NFL then released this statement:
The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had “decertified” and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.
The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).
The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.
At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.
The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.
In addition, the NFL players’ lawsuit in a U.S. district court is seeking declaration that the NFL draft violates antitrust laws. Von Miller is a plaintiff in the suit, which could potentially hurt his draft stock. The draft is just one of the many things the players’ suit challenges–also including the franchise tag, the owners’ forthcoming lockout, and probably RFA tenders. For a while, it seemed that the NFL Draft was the only thing confirmed for the 2011 offseason, but now, that appears in jeopardy too.
Below is a summary of the NFL proposal:
1. We more than split the economic difference between us, increasing our proposed cap for 2011 significantly and accepting the Union’s proposed cap number for 2014 ($161M per club).
2. An entry level compensation system based on the Union’s “rookie cap” proposal, rather than the wage scale proposed by the clubs. Under the NFL proposal, players drafted in rounds 2-7 would be paid the same or more than they are paid today. Savings from the first round would be reallocated to veteran players and benefits.
3. A guarantee of up to $1M of a player’s salary for the contract year after his injury – the first time that the clubs have offered a standard multi-year injury guarantee.
4. Immediate implementation of changes to promote player health and safety by: a) Reducing the off-season program by five weeks, reducing OTAs from 14 to 10, and limiting on-field practice time and contact; b) Limiting full-contact practices in the preseason and regular season; and c) Increasing number of days off for players.
5. Commit that any change to an 18-game season will be made only by agreement and that the 2011 and 2012 seasons will be played under the current 16-game format.
6. Owner funding of $82M in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2000 former players by nearly 60%.
7. Offer current players the opportunity to remain in the player medical plan for life.
8. Third party arbitration for appeals in the drug and steroid programs.
9. Improvements in the Mackey plan, disability plan, and degree completion bonus program.
10. A per-club cash minimum spend of 90% of the salary cap over three seasons.
– According to the Denver Post, “several teams” insist Clemson’ DE Da’Quan Bowers’ knee surgery was more serious than he has claimed. Sometimes teams attempt to sabotage elite prospects’ draft stock to try and get them to slip down the draft, but there’s been a ton of speculation that Bowers’ operation was more than just a routine scope. ESPN’s Todd McShay broke it on a March 1 report, just after the NFL Combine. Bowers needs a big April 1 Pro Day in order to re-solidify his stock.
– NFL Network’s Mike Mayock believes that Florida State’ QB Christian Ponder could “sneak into the first round” after an impressive offseason. Ponder was the MVP of the Senior Bowl, then was widely considered the best passer in Scouting Combine drills. We have Ponder mocked to the Jaguars at No. 16 overall, so we don’t find it surprising that he might ultimately be a mid to late first-round pick. Worth noting: Wes Bunting of the National Football Post has Ponder ranked as the No. 1 overall quarterback in the draft.
– TCU’ QB Andy Dalton reportedly completed 49-of-52 passes at the Horned Frogs’ Friday Pro Day. According to FOX Sports’ Adam Caplan, two of the incompletions were drops. NFL.com’s Gil Brandt says Dalton “really lit it up,” and called him a “likely” 2nd-round pick despite a mostly underwhelming offseason to this point.
– The Undertaker (torn rotator cuff) is still rehabilitating the injury after it was surgically repaired late last year. He’s been working aggressively in hopes that he won’t be severely limited for his match against Triple H at WrestleMania XXVII. The damage from his latest injury was bad enough that it is expected to confine his mobility in the long-term. While there has been much speculation that his in-ring career is coming to an end, multiple WWE sources believe that he could at least appear at WrestleMania events for years to come as long as he keeps himself in shape, is able to perform his signature maneuvers, and can work around his physical limitations.
– Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro said 2B Chase Utley (knee) is making some minor progress, but the team will continue to take a cautious approach with him. Amaro referred to the progress as “baby steps” and said that he didn’t know “if it’s good news or not good news. It’s just news.” He said that Utley hasn’t seen any outside doctors about his knee and no visits are scheduled, which sounds like good news. Utley is still unable to perform fielding drills but has been able to do rehab exercises he hasn’t done before. He’s likely to begin the year on the DL.
– Canadiens’ D Brent Sopel (broken left hand) is out indefinitely. He has two goals and five assists in 64 games this season between the Habs and Thrashers.
– There is a “significant push” with the Timberwolves’ organization to replace head coach Kurt Rambis, though no decision will be made until after the season, according to CBS. Bucks’ assistant Kelvin Sampson is among the favourites to replace Rambis, if he is replaced this summer, as the Wolves want a more energetic coach to orchestrate the team. The Wolves have gone 31-117 since Rambis took over.