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News » NFL's cries are just negotiating tactics

NFL's cries are just negotiating tactics

NFL's cries are just negotiating tactics
DANA POINT, Calif. - National Football League owners, who recently have been laying off, furloughing or buying out hundreds of mostly mid-level employees, gathered Sunday at a posh resort near the beach for their annual meeting, much of which will be devoted to discussions about the league's alleged financial distress.

Some distress.

The New York Jets and New York Giants are getting ready to move into a $1.6 billion stadium built in the New Jersey Meadowlands with considerable public financing. The Dallas Cowboys will move this fall into a new billion-dollar playpen. Most of the teams sold out all of their games last year. The NFL still gets television ratings others would kill for, and the network contracts have two years to run.

So with that as a backdrop, and the owners housed at a resort where room rates begin at $345 (and, we can assure you, NFL owners do not book the cheapest rooms), why should anyone take seriously the league's contention that it is facing a financial problem?

For sure, the NFL Players Association, the players' union, does not. It recently elected DeMaurice Smith as its new executive director, and he is continuing the union line that, if the current collective bargaining agreement and the salary cap it contains are allowed to lapse, it never will agree to another cap. The owners say the players already are getting too high a percentage of the income and not only want to retain the cap, but reduce the percentage of income on which it is based.

Despite the league's rosy history, club owners claim they are feeling the same pinch others feel in the economic recession. One owner, who asked not to be named, claims season-ticket renewals are off 7 to 8 percent around the league.

Nonetheless, the likelihood is that all those former employees — 150 removed from the league headquarters payroll, hundreds more from teams — are simply pawns in the larger struggle between the owners and the players. With CBA renewal talks just around the corner, consider the league's sudden austerity drive as a shot across the bow of the players for the pending negotiations.

Meanwhile, however, the players feel no pinch; Albert Haynesworth, a talented defensive tackle with a checkered résumé, recently got a $41 million guarantee from the Washington Redskins, who also gave a ridiculous contract to a cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, who was let go by the woebegone Oakland Raiders after less than a year — the same Raiders who have lost at least 11 games in six consecutive seasons.

The Jets, co-tenants of that palace rising in New Jersey, announced two-week furloughs for a significant number of their office employees right after they signed Bart Scott, a linebacker, to a $48 million deal, about half of it guaranteed.


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Player Trackers:

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Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but a few months ago, AIG, the disgraced insurance giant, held an executive retreat at the same hotel that's housing the NFL owners. The AIG meeting, which cost $443,344, came just a week after the company received an $85 billion government bailout.

It's clear that a lot of what the NFL is doing is posturing for the negotiations with the players, and even some on the inside acknowledge that.

"You lay people off when you're in survival mode," said a high-ranking executive with an NFL team. "I don't think the NFL is in survival mode."

The meeting, which runs through Wednesday, is not expected to generate much real news; the rules proposals, which dominate much of the time, are minor. Most of the owners' time will be spent discussing preparations for negotiations with the players and the possibility of expanding the season to 17 or 18 games, but there is scant chance of any significant decisions coming out of here.

Most significantly, perhaps, will be a vote on expanding the reach of instant replay to cover two situations that occurred last year:

  • The Jay Cutler fumble, incorrectly called an incomplete pass, that eventually cost San Diego a game at Denver. The Chargers recovered the fumble in the last minute of the game, but under the rules, it went back to Denver because an incomplete-pass ruling was not reviewable. Under the proposal, it would be.
  • Under another proposal, a fumble recovery would be subject to replay review even if officials had first ruled the ball out of bounds. Such a play occurred in the NFC Championship game and the officials got the call wrong, but it was not subject to review.
  • Perhaps surprisingly, the league has no plans to tinker with the overtime rules, in part because there is no consensus on a possible change. Ever since the kickoff was moved back from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line in 1994, the team getting the ball first in overtime has won an increasingly large percentage of the games because it gets good field position; prior to that, the outcomes were fairly even.

    The league does not want games decided by a coin toss, but the competition committee, which proposes rules changes, said the players were strong in their opposition to any change. The NFL never would adopt the goofy college rule, which is more of a shoot-out than a football game. But it also has resisted a simple fix of just moving the overtime kickoff back to the 35-yard line to restore the offense/defense balance that used to exist.

    Author:Fox Sports
    Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
    Added: March 23, 2009

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