NFL players and owners aren’t exactly seeing eye to eye (more specifically wallet to wallet) when it comes to the league’s new labor agreement that will need to be negotiated before a possible lockout ensues in 2011. NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith explained that players wish to extend the league’s current collective bargaining agreement, which expires in March of 2011, for six more years. NFL owners, however, are refusing. Under the current agreement, players retain approximately 60% of the league’s total revenue and are undoubtedly “fine” with that. Of course, owners and executives are not. Furthermore, a new rookie wage scale may be implemented, curbing the amount of money that new and inexperienced players could make when they first enter the league. Along with the financial issues being parleyed, other components of the CBA include mandatory HGH testing and the possibility of an 18-game season. Below is a breakdown of some of the issues discussed for the new CBA and who will likely come out the “victor” in each specific category.
Players strongly oppose HGH testing, while the league has become more and more vocal in the past few months about mandating it. Although the Players Association insists that there is no room for performance enhancing drugs in the league and that they would be open to fair and accurate testing, NFLPA President Kevin Mawae points out that the current available test “is not completely reliable” because it only has a 48-hour window of detection versus the 14 day test that is being developed. Seemingly counter-intuitive are claims by the U.S. Doping Agency, which insist that the current blood test is completely reliable. While a urine-based test has been the preferred method due to its simplicity to administer and deal with, it is believed to be several years away from complete development. It’s as clear as an empty syringe, that the players will deny the sanctity of the currently available test and just have to figure out a new argument a few years down the road when that urine test is generated.
18 Game Season
Players are vehemently opposing the lengthening of an already grueling 16 game regular season, plus the possibility of playoff games, while owners are reveling in the thought of it. Dropping two preseason games, which fans find just as boring as a 0-0 tie in soccer (football for our international readers) and adding two meaningful ones, equals more money for the NFL from television networks, more money for teams from ticket sales, and additional food and beverage consumption at games…and two more weeks to have something interesting to write about for SportsAgentBlog.com! What could be better? On the other hand, players make a good point when they argue the safety side of the issue. With only one week off for the season, the immense pressure that an NFL athlete’s body goes through is painstaking. Growing up in South Florida, I’ve heard countless times the horror stories of Miami Dolphins great Zach Thomas, who takes an hour and a half to get out of bed every morning just because his body is that damaged from 13 seasons in the league. Creating more games is just adding to the future pain. However, NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash insists that the league has taken this into account and is looking into how to handle “offseason workouts…practice regiments, roster sizes, injured reserve rules, a whole host of things that could be part of an overall restructuring of the football calendar to address the injury concerns.”
Winner: League (and fans!)
Rookie Wage Scale
This could be the toughest issue argued between players and the league, but interestingly enough, at the 2010 Annual Rookie Symposium in Carlsbad, California, not one player raised his hand when the floor was open for financial questions. I guess that’s what agents are for. The league wants to create a competitive balance, instituting lower salaries for rookies and a chance for teams to plan to build for the future, paying the proven veterans more money. However, players want to score as much cash as quickly as possible, fearing that first or second year career-ending injuries could leave them not only jobless, but poor. As of last Wednesday, the Players Association said that players would be open to taking $200 million out of the rookie wage pool and redistributing half to established veterans and the other half for retiree benefits. However, instead of the current four season requirement before players are eligible for unrestricted free agency (and most first round picks usually go for a fifth), the players want to shave one year off. I think coming to such a compromise is important, and what will eventually happen regarding this issue. Also, I’d like to point out that this could affect whether or not college players declare early for the NFL, and if they play as hard in college as they do now. Making money is the most important aspect of getting to the NFL, and preserving your career (especially if there are 18 game seasons) is how you make the most of it. If there is less money guaranteed when coming in as a rookie, there will be little incentive for guys to stick around in college and endure the wear and tear that they will see in the NFL. Leave school early and try to make it to the next salary level or stay in school and risk shortening your years as a professional….hmmmm. Goodell the other executives need to think about how school and education will be affected before making a rookie wage scale decision.
Winner: Both players and the league when a compromise is reached
The NFL and NFLPA will continue to go back and forth more times than heads in the stands at Wimbeldon. But Mike Ditka made an excellent point on ESPN radio regarding the possibility of a lockout and the CBA: “Don’t be greedy.” Players and owners must realize that one cannot exist without the other, and if they do not come to a compromise, there will be no football in 2011. Please, for the sake of die-hard fans and fantasy owners worldwide, do not let that happen.