The wish list is long for both sides, and until they come to an agreement on a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) everyone suffers, including the fans. The March 3 deadline at midnight EST will send a rippling effect of anxiety for all, and the pressure of the ever-ticking clock continues to go tick, tick, tick. There will be loss of revenue, starting with $120 million that day and $1 billion if it reaches September.
In my mind, a lockout is certain; how long it lasts is the million-dollar question for the NFL, NFLPA, lawyers and agents involved in this process. Let me touch upon some of the major issues and possible deal breakers.
Off Season workouts – Delayed or Canceled
NFL Draft – April 28, 29, 30
OTAs – Delayed or Canceled
Mini Camps – Delayed or Canceled
Training Camp – Delayed
Bottom line is TFR (Total Football Revenue) – The owners don’t want the players to have 57.5 percent of the DGR (Designated Gross Revenue) – what they want back from the players is 18 percent or $2.4 billion in credits, an amount they believe mirrors economic progress. The players are standing tall and want the same 57.5 percent of the total revenue. They see that the NFL has prospered with major yearly increases, sharing $8 billion. The NFLPA says the cart is not broken and that the NFL is not on economic life support. Keep in mind the TFR is up and beyond player salaries or current contracts.
Several owners are striving for a new stadium. Jed York, president and owner of the San Francisco 49ers, was quoted as saying, “We pushed back the target opening date one year to 2015,” implying his colleagues cannot secure financing from the NFL without a CBA in place.
“Our stadium is a perfect example,” York said. “You’re looking at increased revenue for a lot of players. There’s a risk to building a new stadium. How is some of the risk shared with the players? I think that’s one of the major concerns.”
Again, the true argument is DGR. The owners are asking that the total money brought in via television and gate receipts be split with the players after all of the 32 owners’ operating costs (coaches, trainers, executives, facilities, maintenance, etc.) are paid. Bottom line: more profits for the owners.
18-game schedule – This would be a ridiculous detriment to the health of the players, despite the proposal to increase the active roster and practice-squad size, expand game-day actives, post-career/retired benefits, new and increased pension and offseason contact drills. In this violent game, there are going to be injuries. I understand that grown men are using their bodies as weapons in an extremely violent manner, putting a demand on the product: the player.
Rookie Cap – A cap for rookies that will limit the outrageous signing bonuses in the past. Sam Bradford’s guaranteed $50 million won’t ever happen again. This doesn’t upset the NFL or the NFLPA, but it does the agents.
Salary Cap – The cap must be in play with the new CBA. A yearly increase like the prior agreement is the key to controlling an even playing field for all 32 teams. A cap keeps the New York Yankees from developing in the NFL.
Bonus Retraction – Players receive a signing bonus with every contract. Most large signing bonuses are given when signing their big deal although some have them prorated into the future depending on contractual language. If a player gets involved in criminal activity or is suspended, the owners want a process for retrieving a portion of the bonus money.
Retired Players – The old-time players who helped make the game what it is today are broke, have major medical issues (brain trauma and related diseases) and missed the large television contract era and the mega contracts. Funding and medical programs are needed with contributions from both sides to take care of these players. George Martin (director of the alumni association) and Mike Ditka with the Gridiron Greats are combining efforts to make sure the old-time players are getting benefits.
Injury Protection – The NFL wants the players to protect themselves from head to toe. Today the league has sideline reps that hand out fines to players that are not properly dressed (socks, jerseys tucked, etc). But the NFL is battling the NFLPA on making it mandatory for players to wear thigh, knee and hip pads, and other protective equipment.
Franchise Tag – Rules and regulations as the new CBA is formed. Five hundred players hit free agency in 2011. This will be a major sticking point.
New Drug Testing Program – Develop a new process by an independent laboratory. HGH is one of the requested testing developments wanted by the NFL, in search of a clean league. Of course, steroids and all street drugs will remain on the list of banned substances.
Post-career Medical Coverage – The NFLPA is concerned and is gaining leverage when an 18-game season is mentioned. Long-term injuries and additional in-season injuries due to a longer season are major concerns of the players. Fighting for post-career coverage is a key sticking point.
Outsiders affected by the lockout are the new coaches. They are at a disadvantage if the labor dispute lasts past the draft (end of April) and into training camp. They would have the inability to implement their offense, defense and special teams, build continuity with coaches and players, and install their programs. On NFL staffs that are returning, head coaches and coordinators will pick up where they left off, despite some new wrinkles.
Both sides can see the light in the tunnel, and they believe a major trainwreck is coming. As coach Brian Billick stated in his book, “More than a Game,” “Everyone associated with the NFL has way too much to lose in this greedy game of chicken.” For me, I think this lockout will and could turn out to be a long bloody battle. Fixing something that is not broken doesn’t make any sense.