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Thread: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

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    Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Dissecting the NFL's labor impasse

    BY JIM THOMAS • Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2011 8:00 am

    Just under three weeks remain before the NFL's labor agreement expires. Most fans have little interest in the squabble between a bunch of millionaires (players) and a bunch of billionaires (owners). They just want football. But if there's no deal before March 4, there will be no football. At least no offseason football, beginning with the start of the free agency and trading period.

    So what's keeping the sides apart? Why hasn't a deal gotten done? With the clock ticking, the Post-Dispatch looks at these issues and more.

    Q: Why has the collective bargaining agreement reached its current impasse?

    A: At its most basic element, it's all about how much of the revenue pie is allotted to players and what forms of revenue are included in that pie. The owners feel they made a bad deal in March 2006 when they extended the collective bargaining agreement and made some changes in the way revenue is shared. Then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue was about to retire, and some feel the extension was rushed so that Tagliabue could leave the NFL with one more feather in his cap — labor peace. In any event, the players got a larger share of revenue, and smaller-market teams in particular felt the squeeze. In May 2008, NFL owners voted unanimously to opt out of the extension two years early — or following the 2010 season.

    Q: Why has there been so little progress made toward a new deal since that owners vote in 2008?

    A: It usually takes a deadline to increase the sense of urgency in any form of negotiation. And there really has been no deadline until now. Not even an uncapped year and more restrictive free agency terms in 2010 got things moving.

    More specifically, the NFL Players Association claims the NFL has not made all of its financial data available. Unless it has a clear picture of how teams are being squeezed financially, the players union says it can't make a prudent decision on what's being asked of it by club owners. The league counters by saying the players union has more than enough financial data to negotiate.

    Q: Why specifically do the owners want a new deal?

    A: More and more teams are privately funding new stadium construction, or financing large parts of stadium construction, something that wasn't the case 15 or 20 years ago. So the boom in stadium construction throughout the league has led to hundreds of millions of dollars in debt from financing, as well as increased costs for operating expenses, maintenance and capital improvements.

    On another level, however, the players are almost innocent bystanders. The way the current deal is structured, the smaller-market, lower-revenue teams — such as the Rams — are hard-pressed to keep up with the big boys such as Dallas, Washington and New England. Those big-market teams have been able to make a killing on non-shared revenue, such as luxury suites, stadium naming rights and corporate sponsorship — money that isn't shared with other teams and therefore doesn't go into the pool used to establish the salary cap. The result? The amount of money that smaller-market teams are paying for labor costs is a much larger share of their overall revenue.

    Q: What do owners want from the players?

    A: Owners want to exclude an additional $1 billion a year from the pool of revenue used to calculate the salary cap to help them deal with rising costs. (The owners already are getting $1 billion a year off the top.) The players union says the net effect of an additional $1 billion going to the teams would be an 18 percent pay cut per player.

    Q: What are the players asking for?

    A: The players like the current deal.

    Q: Is the 18-game regular-season schedule part of the negotiations?

    A: Yes. Team owners say the 18-game schedule would be more responsive to fans that don't like paying full price for preseason games. In addition, an 18-game schedule would result in more revenue, which would help grow the game and result in money for the players. The players association has come out strongly against an 18-game season on the grounds that it will lead to more injuries and shorten careers. However, neither side has indicated that an 18-game schedule is a deal-breaker in the overall negotiations.

    Q: Are there any other main issues in the negotiations?

    A: The owners would like to see a rookie wage scale imposed in the next CBA, which would lower the amount of money paid to unproven prospects before they even play an NFL game. The players association isn't opposed to the idea, but wants any money the teams save on rookie contracts to go to former players and veteran players. But according to the players association, the league has rejected a union proposal on the topic.

    Q: What happens on March 4 without a new labor deal?

    A: The likely scenario is that the owners will lock out the players, and the players union will then consider decertifying. The net effect of such legal maneuvering would be a work stoppage. March 4 is the start of what the NFL calls its league year — the start of the free agency and trading period. If the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4, there will be no free agency, and no trades.

    Q: What happens to veteran players under contract if the labor agreement is allowed to expire?

    A: For starters, the players no longer will have company-paid health coverage. In addition, they are not allowed to take part in any activities at team facilities or with coaches. That means no offseason conditioning program, minicamps, OTAs, training camp, preseason games, etc., until there is a labor agreement.

    Q: Is March 4 an absolute "drop dead" date for a new agreement?

    A: Not necessarily. If enough progress is made, the start of the league year could be pushed back. In 2006, for example, it was delayed twice while the league and the players union worked out a deal. The net effect was that the start of the free agency and trading period was pushed back one week in '06 — from midnight (Eastern time) March 3 to midnight (Eastern time) March 10 of that year.

    Q: Will there be a draft?

    A: Yes. With or without a labor deal, the draft will take place over three days, April 28-30. A provision in the current CBA ensured that a draft would take place even in the event of a lockout/work stoppage. The only change is that during the draft, current NFL players cannot be part of trades without a new labor agreement. Trades that involve only draft picks can still be made.

    Q: When will players and owners start feeling the financial pinch of a work stoppage?

    A: If players want to continue their health care, they must pay for it themselves during a work stoppage. Also, any players due roster bonuses won't get them during a work stoppage. The relatively small stipends that players get for participation in offseason conditioning, OTAs, minicamps, training camps, etc., obviously stop if those events don't take place. But in terms of their main salary, players don't receive that until the regular season begins. Their base pay, or base salary, is split over 17 weeks — the 16 game weeks plus the bye week. That's why some observers feel the March 4 expiration of the CBA isn't a hard enough deadline, and that players won't be too concerned until July when it becomes apparent that their regular-season paychecks may be in jeopardy.

    As for the owners, they claim that if a work stoppage wipes out the preseason, there will be $1 billion in lost revenue. They are concerned that many season-ticket holders will hold off on purchasing season tickets until there is a new labor deal, and if there is any kind of extended walkout, that some season-ticket holders simply won't renew.

    In terms of sponsorship money, New England Patriots owners Robert Kraft says he knows of two national companies that will walk away from the NFL if there is a work stoppage.

    Q: Have the players and owners taken steps to prepare for a work stoppage?

    A: The players association has encouraged its players for quite some time to save their money. It also increased dues and put that money in a lockout fund.

    As for the teams, as part of the last round of network television deals, the league gets a guaranteed payment of about $5 billion in 2011 even if there is a lockout. It's believed that some clubs have lockout clauses in the contracts of coaches and executives that give clubs the right to reduce compensation if there is a lockout.

    Q: When was the last work stoppage or strike in the NFL?

    A: Nearly a quarter of a century ago, in 1987. For a while, teams used replacement players while the regular players were on strike. Even with the replacement games, the season consisted of only 15 games — or one less than normal


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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Ok I've got a question. The part where it says players can't meet with Coaches: Who's stopping them? Is there some sort of CBA-Lockout Police group monitoring these things? If McDaniels drives to Bradfords house on a Sunday, is there some sort of penalty. Will anyone actually care? It just seems dumb that a team would handicap its self like this when its pretty vital to the team they get this stuff down.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Quote Originally Posted by AtlantaRamFan View Post
    Ok I've got a question. The part where it says players can't meet with Coaches: Who's stopping them? Is there some sort of CBA-Lockout Police group monitoring these things? If McDaniels drives to Bradfords house on a Sunday, is there some sort of penalty. Will anyone actually care? It just seems dumb that a team would handicap its self like this when its pretty vital to the team they get this stuff down.
    Great question .. I've wondered the same thing. If a coach and a group of eager players want to get together at a local park or school field, can they be fined or worse? If so it would seem owners would be cutting off their collective noses to spite their face .. Anyone know the answer to this? Perhaps this would be a good question for Gordo or Jim Thomas during one of their chat sessions ..

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    The title of this article is kind of misleading. If the article is correct, then the small market teams are already suffering, and whatever concessions the union might make will actually help them stay competitive by reducing labor expenses and allowing them to use the freed-up funds to cover overhead.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Sam bradford has already said he will be working with the recievers this offseason so that helps.
    chucknbob likes this.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Good read. Thanks for the posting.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    As Goldenfleece correctly noted, the title of the article has little to do with its content.

    A lockout will hurt every team to some degree or another. In the Rams' case, it will make it harder to get the new offense installed. But the Rams are hardly the only team in that situaion. Several teams have new HCs, not mention coordinators, who might not have access to their players for a while. Others, including, quite possibly, every team in the Rams' division, will have to acclimate to new QBs.

    The potential lockout is not a Rams problem, its an NFL problem.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    The title of this article is kind of misleading. If the article is correct, then the small market teams are already suffering, and whatever concessions the union might make will actually help them stay competitive by reducing labor expenses and allowing them to use the freed-up funds to cover overhead.
    yep. Also they aren't at a significant competitive disadvantage on the field, they are at a competitive disadvantage in the profits department. The salary pool is the same for all teams so the Rams aren't at a competitive disadvantage unless they sacrifice salary cap to maintain the same profit figures. I don't think anyone is under the impression the Rams are trying to keep up with the Redskins in total profits.

    Where it could be an issue is that the Redskins could provide a much more luxurious work environment and possibly attract players that the Rams can't. Better workout facilities, practice, locker room.... might attract certain players someone like Green Bay can't possibly compete with. I think that's already a reality though comparing the quality of life a guy might perceive in Green Bay versus Manhattan or South Beach.

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    Re: Jim Thomas: NFL's Labor impasse will hurt small market teams like the Rams ..

    As with any union, people that cross a picket line are considered "scabs". Short term, scabs would not be popular with their fellow players. After a labor deal is reached, most people would forget quickly.

    In the past, there have been players that have crossed the picket line. If I remember right, Tony Dorsett was an outspoken player against the owners. After a number of weeks, he crossed the picket line - stunning his fellow players. It is thought that the Cowboys somehow had additional leverage over Dorsett - thus prompting his defection.

    Quote Originally Posted by AtlantaRamFan View Post
    Ok I've got a question. The part where it says players can't meet with Coaches: Who's stopping them? Is there some sort of CBA-Lockout Police group monitoring these things? If McDaniels drives to Bradfords house on a Sunday, is there some sort of penalty. Will anyone actually care? It just seems dumb that a team would handicap its self like this when its pretty vital to the team they get this stuff down.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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