MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 17: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell arrives for court ordered mediation at the U.S. Courthouse on May 17, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the NFL lockout remains in place mediation was ordered after a hearing on an antitrust lawsuit filed by NFL players against the NFL owners after labor talks between the two broke down in March. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

NFL Lockout: Owners May Have An Eight Game Season Contingency Plan?

SB Nation Houston's ongoing coverage of the NFL Lockout.

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NFL Lockout: Are Owners Preparing For Eight Game Season?

In news that should come as a surprise to no one, the owners are reportedly well-prepared to let the NFL Lockout drag into the regular season, and have a contingency plan to play an eight-game season if necessary.

The shortening of the season would undoubtedly alienate the fans further, but at this point the fans just don’t have much to do with the business of sports, as much as they’d like to think they do. With TV contracts reaching staggering amounts of money, advertising deals left and right, and large suites with corporations, fans have become the wrong part of the 20-80 principle.

Thus, the robber barons will continue their quest for more money unopposed by any logical reason, and if that means they act short-sighted and forget that the fans are the reason any of those things are popular in the first place, so be it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has monitored these proceedings. The owners are all for themselves on this deal.

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NFL Lockout: Appeal Hearing To Begin Today

The owners and players will resume their Courtroom Football 2011 rivalry today as we reach the pivotal third quarter of action. The players jumped out ahead early with an injunction and a deep strike to the cash reserves of the owners via David Doty’s ruling that they can’t use pooled TV money, but the owners fought right back with a temporary stay of that injunction by a 2-1 margin to set up today’s hearing.

Andrew Brandt over at National Football Post has an excellent primer on today’s events. If you can stomach the idea of still caring who wins or loses, read on:

Likely Timeframe

Judge Nelson took exactly three weeks from the day of oral argument to rule on the preliminary injunction. We can expect to see a similar timeframe; expect a ruling in late June.

Prediction

Although it is extremely difficult to handicap this sort of proceeding, the language from the Court’s stay order – stating that they have “serious doubts” about Judge Nelson’s ability to block the lockout – does present an initial obstacle for the Players. Right now, the Owners appear to have the slight advantage, and need only maintain the status quo.

The Players, on the other hand, are tasked with swaying one judge to rule in their favor. The Players – in their legal brief – have made clear that if the Court sides with the Owners’ Norris-LaGuardia Act arguments, it contradicts 80 years of case law and also ignores the legislative purpose of the Act. This line of reasoning may persuade one judge.

We here at SB Nation Houston are pulling for the players. Not because we find their position more compelling (though we do) but because we’re taking the over on the original justices (1.5) ruling in favor of them. What? Don’t look at us like that, we need our gambling fix!

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NFL Lockout: Owners And Players Engage In No-Longer-So-Secret Meetings In Advance Of Appeal

The owners and players got together for some uber-secret sneaky meetings last night. It was thought that the owners were meeting there alone, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen confirmed that player representatives including DeMaurice Smith were on the ground as well. Per Doug Farrar of Yahoo!, the reason that the owners and players may be meeting now is an actual deadline that both of them may regret passing on:

You should pay special attention to the last sentence in the second paragraph. Allowing the case to be resolved “well before the scheduled beginning of the 2011 season” appears to be a not-so-veiled threat to both sides that is there isn’t progress by the next hearing, things could go a very different way.

The ruling allowing the lockout to continue was less a crushing win for the owners (after all, one judge dissented in a fairly vociferous fashion) and more a prevention of a scenario that could not be undone and would provide unfair advantage to one side — basically, if players were signed by teams without a new CBA and with a lawsuit still going, the players would have won without a specific ruling in their favor by virtue of law. It was a stopping tactic that could be just as easily lifted should the court deem that the owners used the ruling to cause a larger stalemate.

Hate to play the role of Negative Nancy here, but it sure seems like the sides haven’t spent enough time negotiating in good faith to actually come up with a compromise proposal just by meeting right before this important court date. I suppose we shall see. Should the two sides not be able to reach an agreement, the appeal of the injunction against the lockout will start being heard tomorrow.

For more on the NFL Lockout, please check out SB Nation’s NFL Lockout Stream.

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NFL Lockout: Houston Texans OT Eric Winston Reacts To Monday's Disappointing Setback For Players

It’s been two days since it was announced that a circuit court had ruled in favor of the owners appeal to have a temporary stay on the players injunction before the anti-trust suit brought against the owners is heard by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on June 3rd. The ruling was viewed as a significant win for the owners for obvious reasons, as the league remains shut down entirely until the appeals process plays itself out in a St. Louis courtroom next month.

It’s been interesting to hear the reaction from both sides since then. In order to not further alienate frustrated fans, the rhetoric has not been too colorful. But players naturally have expressed their disappointment in the development. Who better on the Houston Texans roster to turn to for his reaction than offensive tackle Eric Winston, one of the league’s most well-spoken and candid interviews?

On Tuesday, Winston joined KILT in Houston to share his thoughts on Monday’s ruling, what it means to the players moving forward, if it changes the objectives and approach that the players will take moving forward, and other Lockout-related topics in a typically solid spot.

What does this week’s court decision regarding the lockout mean for players?:

“It’s not good for the players. That’s something that, if we wanted football immediately, we could’ve got it and we didn’t. … We could’ve been on the field probably within the next two days if that stay wasn’t granted. Now, I think for the long-term view, you’ve got to hope that the stay isn’t part of the overall 8th Circuit’s view of the appeal. You’ve got to hope that they were just basing it on the merit’s of the staying going. … We’re still holding out hope that the 8th Circuit will keep the opinion of Judge Nelson … and not overturn it.”

How would he judge a win or a loss for the players in this particular case?:

“I think we’ve always come in saying we don’t want anything more. … We’re happy with what we’ve got. We feel like 50-50 of all revenue is a pretty fair split in the job description and the sport we have. … Any way we can kind of keep that stick right there where it’s at is some sort of win. Obviously we’ve got to keep working on health issues.”

Does he feel like public opinion has turned on the players?:

“I don’t get any more of that, I just think people are mad at everything right now. They don’t want to hear it from either side; they’re tired of it. … The fans have a right to do whatever they want. If they want to prove their displeasure by going out and booing Goodell at the NFL Draft, then I think they should. If they have a displeasure about this by not showing up to some of the games, then that’s their right. If they want the ownership to know they’re upset about it by not renewing their season tickets, then I think they should probably do that, too. I think some fans, and I understand why, they feel helpless.”

(Transcription via SB Nation sister-site Sports Radio Interviews)

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NFL Lockout: Appeals Court Rules For Owners In 2-1 Decision

A victory was won today by the NFL over the players non-association, as by a 2-1 count, they have voted for a permanent stay of the lockout pending an appeal. Adam Schefter has one of the money quotes from the ruling, one that will not help the odds of football being played next year:

Money phrase: On page 11 of today’s ruling, judges wrote, "Our present view is that Judge Nelson’s interpretation is unlikely to prevail.”

If the players do win the appeal? Don’t think the NFL is out of trump cards just yet. Pro Football Talk brings up a possible league-wide lockdown, which would be one legal maneuver that would avoid the union/ownership dynamic entirely.

Some are still optimistic about the union’s side in the face of the ruling. Doug Farrar thinks that the players still have a lot to gain from June 3rd, and decertification was never actually brought up as a reason for the stay, per Gabe Feldman.

As the owners and players continue to trudge down the court road to see who wins the bargaining battle in the actual negotiations down the road, fans continue to suffer as free agency is thrown aside and the threat of missing games appears greater than ever.

For more on the NFL Lockout, check out SB Nation’s NFL Lockout stream.

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NFL Lockout: Appeals Court Grants Temporary Stay To Players Injunction

There were rumors all day that the NFL Lockout was back on as the Eighth District would likely grant the NFL a temporary stay. Late tonight, after ESPN had originally jumped the gun in reporting the story, Adam Schefter reported that the stay will be granted.

What does this mean for the players? Not much. It does mean that we won’t be seeing workouts anytime soon, and that those recently unlocked facilities will be relocked. Likely with double bolts this time.

It also means that the league year and free agency will likely not occur anytime soon. The appeals court will have to sort out what it feels about Judge Susan Nelson’s ruling from last week, where she granted the injunction, and see if they think she overstepped her bounds in any way. So for now, it looks like the NFL season is back in the same holding pattern it has been for the past six weeks or so, pending the result of the appeal.

For more on the NFL Lockout, check out SB Nation’s NFL Lockout StoryStream covering all the news coming out of the courts.

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NFL Lockout: Teams To Let Players Use Facilities Tomorrow, Maybe

A memo was spread around to all NFL teams today noting that the league will compel the teams to open the doors of their training facilities tomorrow, finally letting NFL players use them. This may mark the beginning of the end of the NFL Lockout. Maybe.

See, the problem is that the Eighth Circuit Court may still grant the NFL a stay on appeal, and if that happens, then the lockout is still completely on and this memo will be quickly lost to the sands of times.

So we’re in a position where the NFL appears to be acquiescing, except they’re not really going very far into opening the league yet. The memo does state that they’re working on a plan to open free agency and trades as well as determine the start of the league year, but the actual court order from Judge Susan Nelson compelled them to start the league year immediately.

So ultimately, we have more questions than answers right now. Just like the rest of this process. On the bright side, it seems like the NFL is actually on some sort of path to getting on the right side of legality. So that’s a plus.

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NFL Lockout: League In Clear Contempt Of Court

It’s been a busy 12 hours as Judge Susan Nelson turned down the NFL’s stay request, and since then, the NFL has changed absolutely nothing in their approach. They’ve obstinately refused to allow the players access to workout rooms and facilities, despite the fact that they were compelled to by the legal system. Now, it’s time for the medicine to start hitting the league, as per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the players have sent a letter demanding the league year to start, or risk being held in contempt of court.

It’s clear that the NFL is just going to accept the legal ramifications at this point, as they’re in too deep no matter that they do. But it’s startling to see how poorly planned and thought-out the NFL’s strategy was in this whole matter.

Late word, from Pro Football Talk’s live show has Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reporting that the Eighth District Circuit could rule on the NFL’s appeal before tonight’s draft, potentially causing the league to absolutely spiral into chaos. This story just gets more and more ludicrous as the day goes on.

And it all goes back to the NFL having no real backup plan for the legal system trumping their interests.

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NFL Lockout: Nelson Will Rule On Stay Wednesday

Judge Susan Nelson’s next ruling that will affect the NFL will take place on Wednesday, as the NFL’s request for a stay will be decided tomorrow. Nelson wanted to hear from the players, according to the Associated Press.

The players, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter, asked Nelson to force the owners to start the league year. So theres plenty of difference between what exactly could happen tomorrow. The owners will almost undoubtedly appeal that ruling, should it happen, to the Eight Circuit to immediately stay the injunction.

So realistically, while the timetable has definitely escalated, it’s unlikely that this will cause any real changes to happen prior to the NFL Draft. Texans players were ordered to stay away from their facilities by DeMeco Ryans, according to John McClain.

For more on the NFL Lockout, please check out SB Nation’s NFL lockout stream covering the entire thing from start to finish. Relive those magical memories the owners had of thinking they’d screw over the players!

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Chaotic Day Ahead For NFL In Wake Of Last Night's Injunction

The wake of Judge Susan Nelson’s granting of a temporary injunction has essentially plunged the entire NFL schedule into chaos. The real problem is that without a set of rules in place, there is no guiding principle behind what the NFL can and can’t do. Roger Goodell, shockingly, has taken to trying to find a new scapegoat by penning a Wall Street Journal column in which he argues that a union victory will destroy the game:

A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.

Boy, sounds like a bad thing, when you say it like that, doesn’t it? Maybe you shouldn’t have tried to break the union with the cooperation of your fellow fat cats and just tried to stay happy about making money in an era where everyone is losing it?

Unfortunately, the competitive balance issue is likely to be a big part of the NFL’s requests for a stay of the injunction, and Steph Stradley points out the pros and cons of that:

Ultimately, the NFL has become the most popular sport in America because the NFL and labor agreed on work rules that keep a relatively even playing field. This litigation is good for nobody but the lawyers working on it. Do we want the courts put in the position of being stewards of the game, or should the sides find a resolution that is win-win (or painful-painful as resolutions sometimes are)?

A negotiated settlement is hard at this point because of egos involved and losses already incurred by both sides. Sometimes litigation parties continue to put good money after bad because they committed to a particular litigation strategy and decide to follow it to the bitter end. Litigation often results in unintended, bad consequences.

That may just be what happens here: a weaker NFL brought about by a terrible decision to go for the throat of the players. If it is, the owners will have no one to blame but themselves.

On a more micro level, here are some answers to commonly asked questions:

Will players be able to report to team facilities today?

Yes. Although the NFL is not allowing players to use weight rooms or speak with coaches, players may return to the facility today. Some of the player representatives for the respective teams have told the players not to report. Eric Winston has said that he will go to the Texans’ facilities to pick up some cleats he’d left behind.

Can teams trade players?

According to Adam Schefter, the NFL is not allowing trades to happen yet. The NFLPA says that trades can happen. Neither side will actually know until the litigation continues, but it looks like the answer is no for now, and probably will remain no through the NFL Draft.

Stay tuned, as we will break more news as it comes in. SB Naiton’s NFL lockout stream is the best place to get the latest news on what is happening today.

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NFL Lockout Ends With Injunction, At Least Temporarily

In a ruling that was expected and finally came down late today, judge Susan Nelson has ruled in favor of the players, granting an injunction that will end the lockout. The big news here is not that the injunction was granted, as that was expected for awhile, but just how it happened. There was no stay, meaning the NFL will have to rush to the eighth district appellate court for an immediate stay or institute rules for free agency. If that happened, they would likely go back to the 2010 rules, when the league played without a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The owners and players should have statements in the very near future. In the meantime, one can look at the language of Nelson’s ruling and see that it’s very clear she wanted this case and wanted to emphatically reject the owners. Doug Farrar of Yahoo! noted just how comprehensive the history is in the document. She also noted that irreparable harm was being done to the players and that the National Labor Relations Board has no jurisdiction going forward. Read the whole ruling here.

More to come as it breaks, of course. Check out SB Nation’s NFL Lockout stream for more news.

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NFL Lockout: Mediation Pushed Back As Aura Of Uncertainty Takes Over

Judge Arthur Boylan ended mediation between the owners and players yesterday, leaving the NFL Lockout talk in limbo for a bit. The sides will resume mediation on May 16th, almost a month from now, and long after the NFL Draft is over.

In the meantime, two court verdicts could come down before that happens. Judge David Doty, who ruled for the players in a case of television money, will get to rule on just how punishing that is for the owners. Judge Susan Nelson, who is overseeing the entire case in Minneapolis, could also make a ruling based on what she’s heard so far. Based on her on-record comments, such a ruling would likely be in favor of the players, but even if she did make a ruling, it would likely go straight to the court of appeals.

In other words: hope you like baseball season, because this issue isn’t going away any time soon.

For more lockout talk, please check out SB Nation’s lockout stream.

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NFL Lockout: Early Jurisdiction Seems To Favor Players

The players and owners had their first post-NFL Lockout court meeting yesterday in the hallowed recesses of Minnesota District Court. Judge Susan Nelson, who heard the case, delivered quite a few zingers to the owners that may make them more eager to get a settlement going.

Regarding the issue of financial harm, Nelson was quoted as saying that the players seemed to have a good case, and she then asked both sides why they were not still in discussions.

Nelson did say that no matter the circumstances, she's having a difficult time with the concept of a lockout being legal after a decertification, which may mean that she's attending to the issues at hand more than the "sham decertification" argument. Nelson specifically asked the NFL's counsel why they're not in negotiations instead of, as Bedard put it, in the courtroom "not paying the players."

Boom! Roasted. NFL lead counsel David Boies spent most of the day in the crosshairs of Nelson, who admonished him on quite a few occasions.

The main takeaway from all of this? That this likely won't be ending any time soon. Judge Nelson said she would likely need two weeks to hear the case, a date that could be chaotic for the NFL. Should she deliver an injunction that would block the lockout, free agency could start just before the draft on April 28th.

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NFL Lockout: More Snickering About Fan Protests

Fandom in sports is a one-way street. Just because you care passionately about something doesn’t necessarily mean it cares back, as sports fans have learned time and time again. In the NFL Lockout, there are no winners, but the fans are the only side with no real voice in the matter. Fan protest groups wind up looking comical, and according to Yahoo!’s Michael Silver, are good for a chuckle among the real organizations fighting for your money.

Yes, I know, Derek Anderson – it’s not funny. I realize that I shouldn’t be goofing on the notion of fan dissatisfaction, given the fact that consumers’ appetite for all things NFL helps justify my professional existence too.

Yet against my better judgment, and until proven otherwise, I’m laughing at the lot of you, with a volume level that would make Dr. Evil proud. Rest assured, I have lots of company.

And why wouldn’t they be? Every fan-led protest is just an admission of love in disguise. If fans are out there rallying for a voice at the table, they’re surely not going to stop caring about the NFL when it comes back on. Until this lockout reaches a point where fans start losing games, this all amounts to small potatoes.

But Silver’s column speaks to a more professional question of the psyche: why do passionate football fans put up with all this nonsense? Why would anyone care so much about a system that they have so little say in? Until those questions are answered thoughtfully, fans will continue to have no say in things while players and owners take their money right to the bank.

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NFL Lockout: Will Retired Player Anti-Trust Suit Be Successful End Around?

Yahoo! Sport’s Dan Wetzel is reporting on a new anti-trust lawsuit filed by retired players today against the NFL. The gist of it is that by using this year’s college kids and players who weren’t represented by the NFLPA during the last bargaining session, and thus can’t be faulted for it’s decertification.

Eller vs. NFL would then deprive the owners of one of their main counterarguments in the proceedings: that the union willingly decertified itself precisely in order to chase their anti-trust lawsuit. Without the same motivations, these players would have a clearer case in court. Or at least that’s how it goes hypothetically.

The NFL, Hausfeld said, would have to work out a deal with the NFLPA or risk taking on an antitrust case without its top counterarguments. If the league were to lose, it would risk the basic structures of its business – the salary cap, the draft, free agency and so forth. It would be better off agreeing to a deal.

Stay tuned, because this is an issue that could be a gamechanger in the process.

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NFL Lockout: Talk Of HGH Testing In New CBA Is Another Public Relations Win For Owners

Right now, there's a "calm before the next storm" of barbs sure to come after a Minnesota court holds a hearing for the anti-trust suit the (former) NFLPA has filed against the NFL, set for April 6.

While the NFL continues to (in my view, wrongly) paint themselves as the aggrieved party in this fight, the players haven't done much of anything.

The NFL may have quietly landed another solid body blow in the public relations fight this week when reports surfaced that the owners will want Human Growth Hormone testing as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Previously, HGH was a banned substance in the NFL, but there were no tests in place to detect it. 

Having made their desire to implement testing public, the owners have added another bargaining chip to their stack. I'm sure the owners are sincere in saying they want testing in place in order to preserve the integrity of the game, but far more important to them is the fact that they might now be able to pull it off the table in order to get the players to budge on a different issue.

If the players resist the desire to insert HGH testing publicly, it casts doubt in the eyes of many fans that the players are, for the most part, clean. Of course, we know that's not entirely accurate, but I must once again bring up the whole "perception is reality" issue. Most people are going to make a snap judgement that because players don't want HGH testing, it means they want to have the option to use it. It's similar to the often inaccurate assumption that if you refuse a lie-detector test, you've got something to hide. It's a shallow generalization. 

April 6 will only bring yet another date to wait for, and then another. Meanwhile, as players on the whole do nothing, the NFL P.R. machine is cranked up and rolling. Public opinion started overwhelmingly in favor of the players, but they've done nothing to maintain it. The owners have gained a little bit of ground with their P.R. assault, but of course by now, most are angry with both sides and just want it to be over. Count me in with that group, even if I do tend to side more with the players on most issues. 

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NFL Lockout: Will Congress Intervene Between Players And Owners?

As the lockout stretches into the end of it’s first week, they may start feeling some actual outside pressure from the United States government, even if it’s not directly from the president’s office. Representative John Conyers of Michigan has issued a statement saying that he will seek to have the NFL’s anti-trust exemption overturned

Obviously football fans don’t like this, but this is a much bigger issue than sports. The NFL is a $9 billion a year industry. If this lockout goes on, hundreds of thousands of workers may be laid off, and scores of local communities could be harmed economically.

As a result, later today, I will be introducing legislation to repeal the broadcast television antitrust exemption with regard to professional football.

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After Judge David Doty ruled in favor of the players in not letting the owners use TV money they had specifically apportioned out for themselves in the event of a lockout, the players were emboldened enough to not take the owners last few offers in mediations and carry on with their plan to dissolve the player’s union. The more important good sign for the players though, as Doug Farrar has previously pointed out, was the large number of inferences in Doty’s ruling that the NFL had acted in bad faith and was engaging in collusion.

It’s hard to say what is legitimate and what is real when it comes to Congressional interests over sports, but the threat of having anti-trust hearings brought against them can only weaken the owner’s position. The NFLPA may have failed in the early P.R. battle, as Chris Watkins reported on this weekend, but it’s pretty clear that they have most of the momentum in this feud right now. Should Congress actually step in, the NFL will be under immense pressure to cut a deal.

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NFL Owners Slap Players Around In First Round Of P.R. Battle

Perception is reality. For the vast majority of the population, this is a sad truth. You can blame it on New Media, shrinking short attention spans, or whatever you like. It's the way of the world.

The NFL and NFLPA's public spitting in wake of the breakdown of Friday's mediation has spawned round one of what is sure to be a long and intolerably repetitive public relations fight, aimed at getting sympathy and support from the fans whom they both claim to work for (groan). 

We've already heard this ad nauseam, in one form or another: "We're so sorry this is happening, NFL fans. The other guys really screwed this up for you, but we're confident that an agreement will be reached."

Let's examine and translate the first round of statements released by the NFL and the NFLPA:

Excerpts from NFL Statement:

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).

Whether this is true or not, it is expertly-written by the NFL to give the impression that they were very generous with their offer. It of course leaves out the fact that the "player compensation gap" was completely created by the owner side in the first place. The key part in this passage, though, is the information about retired players. That bit is designed specifically to drive a wedge between the current and retired players, and accuse the current players of some level of hypocrisy since they have talked for so long about getting better benefits for their predecessors (and for themselves once they retire).

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.

In other words "we care about the players health and safety! I mean, well we better at least do this since we're going to force the 18-game schedule down everyone's throat in 2013 at the latest!"

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.

Right, and what caused this "delay" in the first place? The owners wanting to take another billion off the top. The players weren't asking for more money, they were just asking to continue to get the same share of the pie they've been getting, regardless of the increasing size of the pie. That may sound like a pro-player statement, but it's not. It's just a fact of the case, from everything I've read.

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.

"We get to claim that we don't want this to go to litigation because we know we'll likely get our heads kicked in in court. Players, please come back to the negotiating table so the NFL can get a better deal than we will get in court."

We have great respect for the fans. We have great respect for our players. We have great respect for the game and the tradition of the NFL. We will do everything that we reasonably can to ensure that everyone's attention returns to the football field as soon as possible.

"We respect everyone. See how respectful we are? We are the good guys!"

Now, the entire NFLPA statement:

The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.

The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.

That's it? Okay. Here are statements made to the press by DeMaurice Smith

The player side's early reactions to Friday's breakdown have been terse. The NFL side is launching a full PR campaign, and round one CLEARLY went to the NFL (despite the level of truth in their statement). The NFL is pushing the notion that they wanted to keep talking, but the players angrily walked away when they were "closer" to making a deal. 

Closer than what? If I go outside and walk five miles west from my Houston home, I'm closer to Los Angeles. Perception. The NFL knows the game.

The players, feeling like they will win in court, really had no reason to avoid litigation. They push the phrase "Let Us Play," but how sincere is it? Of course they have every right to demand every last dollar coming their way (especially when the NFL is asking them to take pay cuts), but the player PR machine is still stuck in the blocks, while the NFL is off to the races. 

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NFL Officially Locks Out Players, Bluffs Called On Both Sides

After some initial speculation by NFL observers that the league would add another spin to this whole mess by opting to not lock the players out, the expected outcome of yesterday's NFLPA decertification came down late last night. The NFL has officially locked the players out.

So the big question on every NFL fan's mind is, what's next? 

Both sides have now had their chance to grandstand. NFL general counsel Jeff Pash made an impassioned statement yesterday (that link also includes retorts from NFLPA outside counsel Jim Quinn). Pash insisted that the NFL made several concessions, and that they were willing to meet in the middle on the wide financial gap.

While those statements may very well be true, it's important to keep in mind that the NFL Owners were the ones to create this gap in the first place, when they asked for an additional billion dollars. Essentially the NFL is claiming they are the ones who tried to "bridge the gap" with their offers yesterday, while leaving out the fact that they are the ones who demolished the original bridge in the first place.

For the years leading up to present events, the players threatened to decertify the NFLPA. They have now done that. The league, in response to those threats, has always promised they would then lock the players out. They have now done that.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of room for hope for a quick resolution, but as former NFL player Ross Tucker put so well on his Twitter page, "...decertification is toothpaste that actually can be put back into the tube. At any time."

Now that both sides have called each other's bluff, perhaps after a break from the recent heavy negotiations, they can get back in the room and bang this thing out. The popular assumption is that the players will have a distinct advantage in the courtroom. This, of course, is the reason for the league's popular "the players always wanted litigation" refrain. 

Both sides may want to see how the early "rounds" go in the courtroom before returning to the negotiating table. However, if the players gain early victories, they would frankly have no reason to go back to the table unless they are serious about wanting to play football more than they are serious about getting every dollar.

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NFL Shares Summary Report Of Rejected Proposal To NFLPA

I imagine that the NFLPA might take umbrage with how the following information is packaged, but here is the official summary of proposal published and distributed by the NFL’s communications department.

SUMMARY OF 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 ($161 million 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 $1 million 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;

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 $82 million in 2011-12 to support additional benefits to former players, which would increase retirement benefits for more than 2000 former players by nearly 60 percent.

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 percent of the salary cap over three seasons.

Also, it goes without saying that there is a lot more nuance and complicated factors that would still have to be hashed out by both sides even if they were on the same page about the proposals listed above.

Stay tuned for more labor news and discussion both here and at Battle Red Blog.

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NFL Lockout: Players Union Officially Decertifies

Per Chris Mortensen of ESPN.com, the NFL Players Association has officially decertified themselves in a Minneapolis court room. The move brings an end to a week of extended talks after Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL could not use TV money to tide themselves over in the event of a lockout.

The NFLPA and NFL had originally set an earlier deadline in the proceedings, but NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith made a public relations-friendly offer to the owners at the last minute: that the NFLPA would extend talks if the NFL handed over ten years of financial data. It was an extremely unlikely play, which means that the NFLPA clearly believes it will have the upper hand in the court system.

The NFLPA will likely seek to file in front of Judge Doty again as they seek an injunction that would force the NFL season to start. Welcome to NFL Court TV, folks. We’ll have more on the story as it happens, but in the meantime, prepare for the NFL Draft and a whole lot of litigation. Time to find our 21st century Johnnie Cochran.

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NFL Lockout: Owners Asked To Open Books, Is A Rookie Scale In The Works?

Two pretty solid Yahoo! Sports reports came out today about what is actually going on at the negotiating table between the NFL owners and the NFLPA today, and both of them look like bad news for the players.

Michael Silver reports that the sticky wicket of the whole scenario is that the owners refuse to open their financial books. The NFLPA apparently is willing to bargain down on a few key issues, but is unwilling to go any further until the NFL either opens it’s books or lowers it demands.

This could very well be the sticking point that leads to a lockout. Sports owners, which operate in what are essentially cartels, have long been vehemently opposed to opening their books. The owners are trying to prove that they’re getting the short end of the stick in the current system, but refuse to show the real math, relying on only hypothetical examples. Should a lockout happen, followed by the NFLPA decertifying, followed by a lawsuit, the owners very well may be forced to open the books either way by order of a courtroom.

The owners would then seem to have a lot of incentive to bargain rather than allow their books to spill out, as even with creative bookkeeping it’s likely that they make much more than they claim. However, as of today, that’s not the case. It’s pretty apparent at this point that the players are winning the PR war, if only because they actually have a case rather than a good PR strategy. This will come down to another Friday deadline at the mediator’s office, and at the end of the day, probably the NFL and NFLPA will either move forward with the lockout or agree to another extension.

Jason Cole reports that the players and owners have agreed to a few lower parts of the bargaining table, most notably an agreement about the NFL Draft. A rookie wage scale will be instituted in place of the current system, according to Cole. The rookies will, in return, get out of their contracts a year earlier than they used to be able to.

It’s an interesting trade-off. The NFLPA is essentially sacrificing the salaries of the Top 15 picks or so in order to get more free agents out there. The consequences of this plan, should it come to fruition, would likely make draft picks even more valuable. Should restricted free agency survive as well, it would be free agency only in name. Additionally, injury attrition rates will likely cut down many players before they get a chance to hit free agency. I think the owners would clearly benefit from this compromise, but perhaps not as much as you might think.

Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post has a source refuting the idea that this has already been agreed upon, but I think it’s safe to say that this is clearly one idea that’s on the table at least.

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NFL Lockout: As Goodell & Smith Try To Save Face, Fans Continue To Wait

With Friday's extended CBA-talks deadline news, fans and league observers seemed to flip from unbearable gloom to optimism, almost overnight. It's hard not to get caught up in that hopeful excitement, especially since the Free Agent period has now been officially put on hold. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith have of course been tight-lipped over the course of the last week, a condition set upon by both sides as they entered more aggressive talks. Aside from the obvious issues that need to be hammered out, there's one other factor that could take this to another extension, or cause the entire thing to fall apart. The issue of saving face.

Appointed to his position by the NFL owners, Goodell's calm tough guy act in the media prior to the commencement of talks had worn thin. Goodell has been good for the league, implementing positive changes (for the most part), and being a strong face of the league since he took over for Paul Tagliabue in 2006. However, he will likely be remembered for how the current CBA strife shakes out.

Goodell has been walking a thin line on at least one important issue for a while now. No matter how he or proponents of the 18-game schedule try to spin it, it does not jibe with the ongoing player safety referendums that are constantly flying in the NFL. This one is especially interesting because it sets up a very direct battle between the league making more money, and the league protecting its greatest assets, the players. Goodell continues to propagate the falsehood that the fans are overwhelmingly in favor of an extended regular season, even in the face of polls that show that is not the case at all.

The 18-game season, however, is a virtual certainty at this point. There's just too much money to be made, and some would argue it's the natural evolution of a league that has already (in the modern era) gone from 12, to 14, to 16 games.

Goodell's main (only?) objective is to do right by the NFL owners, but this player safety vs. extended schedule issue is going to be a constant source of agitation between he and the players, at least until the league gets a few 18-game seasons under its collective belt.

DeMaurice Smith has a more difficult path to traverse. Smith shocked the NFL-world by rocketing past other more qualified candidates when he took over as NFLPA Executive Director. Reportedly, a large part of that stunning victory was his presentation on the current CBA issues, for which at the time the deadline was two years away. 

Smith certainly likes to project the "bulldog" image in his public appearances, and he as a lot of bark to back up now that he is in the ring with Goodell and the NFL owners. With his CBA plan of attack being such a huge part of why he was elected to his position in the first place, Smith isn't going to budge much on his plan unless he feels like the players have his back 100%. 

Overwhelming public opinion supports the players, or neither side at all in this conflict (only the owners seem to support the owners in this fight). That may seem like a valuable weapon for Smith to wield, but I must say that the owners, a bunch of guys who charge ridiculous amounts of money for meaningless preseason games and parking on top of ever-rising ticket prices, don't really give a rip about what the fans think as long as the stadiums are full.

That's not to say Smith has fan interest at heart. He has to hope that the inevitable caving-in by his side to most of what the owners want will be met from the players with a slap on the back and a "hey, they're the owners. They are ultimately going to win" attitude. 

Meanwhile, we sit. And we wait. Neither side wants this to end up in a courtroom. They will get a deal done, whether it be at the end of the current extension, or the next extension, or the one after that. The future of the league is not in doubt, but the way business is done (and how football is played) will certainly be altered. 

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Great News On The NFL Labor Front: CBA Extended Seven More Days For Negotiations To Continue

What once seemed like an almost certainly now looks like it may be avoided. The dreaded 2011 NFL Lockout was avoided again on Friday as the NFL and the Players Association agreed to extend the Collective Bargaining Agreement for another full week. Adam Schefter confirmed the highly encouraging news not too long ago on Twitter.

It appears that the owners are finally getting serious about negotiating in good faith with the players following Tuesday’s ruling by a U.S. District Judge regarding the league’s contracts with television networks — arrangements that would have allowed them to get paid in 2011 even if there were no games played.

There is surely plenty of work left to be done by both sides when negotiations resume next Monday, but incredibly, all signs seemingly point to a new labor deal being reached and a lockout avoided.

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NFL Lockout: Deadline Extended As Owners, NFLPA Continue Negotiations

It may not mean that an agreement is right around the corner, but the NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to extend the current collective bargaining agreement for another 24 hours while negotiations continue. The CBA was set to expire at 11:59 pm this evening, but according to multiple reports, that deadline has been bumped back one day until the final minute of the week on Friday night.

Stay tuned here and around the SB Nation network for more CBA updates as they become available.

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NFL Lockout News: Extension Of Talks Now A 'Definite Possibility'

The deadline for the NFL and the player's union to come to an agreement about a new collective bargaining agreement. That is, unless the two sides decide to extend the window that they have to reach an agreement. In the past, that hasn't seemed like very much of a legitimate possibility. But now things are changing.

This is getting more interesting than most thought. Three sources: Extension of talks now a definite possibility.less than a minute ago via web

The real importance of this development comes when you read between the lines. There would be no reason for the two sides to extend the window that they have to negotiate unless they have reason to believe that they could reach an agreement in the new timeframe. Otherwise, there would be no reason for them to go through all the trouble of extending the time period. This is all speculation on my part, mind you, but it wouldn't make any sense for the two sides to go through all of that just to put on a show for the fans and the media. If the timeframe is extended, it makes a a new deal much more likely, in my opinion.

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NFL Lockout News: Will The NFL Player's Union Decertify Before The Lockout?

It is becoming increasingly clear that the NFL and the player's union will not be able to reach an agreement on a new CBA before the midnight deadline. A lockout is becoming more of a certainty with every hour that passes. So where do we go from here? The next step appears to be decertification from the player's union. But what does that mean exactly?

It's been reported that the NFLPA is leaning toward filing for decertification, which would effectively end themselves as an organized union. This would allow them to file for antitrust claims -- something unions are not allowed to do -- and file an injunction to stop the lockout. Essentially, this would potentially give them a leg up in the legal maneuvering we're going to see.

Why would they do it now, though, before the deadline?

First, there is a clause in the current CBA that says if they don't decertify now, they'll have to wait six more months. Decertification is one of the union's biggest weapons so there's no reason for them to wait until September to use it.

Second, it would potentially keep Judge David Doty under their jurisdiction, which is important because Doty has issued several player-friendly rulings over the years, including the latest TV contracts case.

Basically, the move would be all about leverage. If the union can sue the league, than it puts pressure on them to come to the table ready to, not only negotiate, but potentially compromise.

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NFL Lockout News: NFL And Player's Union Have 'Better Than Expected' Meeting On Wednesday

The labor negotiations between the NFL and the player's union haven't always been productive. In fact, most of the time the two sides leave the table without having accomplished very much at all. But on Wednesday, with just voer 24 hours to go until the CBA expires, the two sides seems to have made some progress. According to reports, a meeting between the two sides went "better than expected."

That said, Don Banks of SI.com tweeted that a source tells him Wednesday's meeting between the NFL and NFLPA -- which included several owners and active players -- went "better than expected". Unfortunately for fans who want football, this could just as easily mean, 'We were 100 miles apart and now we're just 99 miles apart.'

We don't know how much progress they made (especially considering that last line) but progress is progress. Even if the two sides don't come to an agreement by midnight tonight. They still have until September to make something happen before the NFL is forced to cancel any games.

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NFL Lockout News: NFL And Player's Union Meet In Washington As Lockout Looms

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the player's association expires at midnight tonight. If the two sides can't come to terms on a new agreement before then we are headed for a lockout. And who knows how long that could last.

The two sides have been meeting with a federal mediator for the last few weeks in Washington, D.C. but the progress they may or may not have made isn't readily available information.

For more information on the negotiations, and the implications of a potential lockout here at SB Nation. We'll also be updating this stream with all the latest available news as a lockout looms.

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