Here are six notable quotes from statements, releases and formal and informal press conferences conducted by the NFL owners and their representatives, along with the official GLS stance on what was said.
1. “Part of me was glad they didn’t take it. I can’t believe they walked away from it.” — A high-level source with one NFL team, via ProFootballTalk.
Our take: Looking at the information below, it’s almost hard to believe they didn’t. This is why. Bargaining never had a chance.
2. “We offered today to split the difference and meet the union in the midpoint, with a player compensation number that would have been equivalent to player compensation in 2009 and above player compensation in 2010, and we offered to grow it from there over four years by $20 million a club, to the point where in 2014 the player compensation number was the union’s number. It was the number the union proposed to us and we accepted it. That wasn’t good enough.
“We offered to guarantee for the first time in the history of the league, more than one year of injury on player contracts. Apparently not good enough.
“We moved off of our wage scale, and we offered to do a rookie compensation system within the context of a hard rookie cap as the union had proposed which would preserve individual negotiations and maintain the role of agents in the process. Evidently not good enough.
“We offered, in fact we agreed to the union’s request for a cash team minimum for the first time in league history. We agreed to it at their number and their structure. Evidently not good enough.
“We told the union that for 2011 and 2012, we would play within the existing 16-game regular season format, and we committed to them, notwithstanding the rights we have in the current agreement, we would not change to 18 games without their consent. Evidently not good enough.
“At the same time, we agreed to implement wide ranging health and safety changes, reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing the practice time in the preseason, reducing the practice time and contract drills during the regular season and expanding the number of days off for players. Evidently not good enough.
“We offered to increase the benefits in a wide range for both current and retired players. Under the proposal we had tendered, retired players who left the league before 1993, would experience an increase in their retirement benefit of close to 60 percent and the union, which says it represents former players, walked away from that today.”
Our take: I know that was a long one, but it’s very important. I’ve yet to see the players deny that any of these offers were made.
3. “The union’s abandonment of bargaining has forced the clubs to take action they very much wanted to avoid. At the recommendation of the Management Council Executive Committee under the authority it has been delegated by the clubs, the league has informed the union that it is taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor law to impose a lockout of the union. The clubs are committed to continuing to negotiate until an agreement is reached, and will gladly continue to work with the FMCS.” — Part of an NFL statement released this morning.
Our take: This is the league attempting to claim that it wasn’t their intention to lock the players out, but that their hand was forced once the union decertified. This is a tactic to gain the support of fans and the media. I don’t buy for a second that the owners weren’t going to announce a lockout at midnight.
4. “Regrettably, the union’s leadership has walked out and is refusing to participate in collective bargaining. The union has insisted on a continuation of an unsustainable status quo rather than agreeing to reasonable adjustments that reflect new economic realities we all have experienced. The status quo would also mean no improvements for retired players, too much money to a handful of rookies, and no changes to improve our drug programs.” — More from the same statement.
Our take: The key point is that if the players want the status quo on finances and what piece of the pie they get, they won’t get any of the ancillary perks they’re in search of, either. It’s become obvious that the players don’t understand that bargaining is about giving and taking. A one-sided deal from 2006 needs to be corrected — everyone knows it, but the players refuse to budge.
5. “One thing that became painfully apparent to me during this period was that their objective was to go the litigation route. I think that they believe that that gives them the best leverage. I never really got the feeling during the past two weeks that they were serious about negotiating, and it’s unfortunate because that’s not what collective bargaining is all about. I think eventually we’ll be back at the table, but unfortunately now we’re going to have to go through this process now, where we’re in court.” — Giants co-owner John Mara.
Our take: I don’t know how the NFLPA can still dispute this. It’s obvious their plan all along was to decertify if they didn’t get a dream deal. If what the NFL claims it offered them (below) was legit, there was never any hope we’d avoid litigation.
6. “No constructive purpose would be served to requesting parties to continue mediation.” — Federal mediator George Cohen.
Our take: Technically, Cohen represents neither side. But this quote reveals a lot. Based on the fact the league had caved on over half a million dollars and several other major negotiating chips (such as the 18-game season), you’d assume that tons of progress was being made. So how is it that “no constructive purpose would be served” by keeping at it? I don’t want to put words in Cohen’s mouth, but I get the feeling he’s essentially saying that the NFLPA was not negotiating in good faith.
The NFL’s final proposal, according to them:
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;
b. 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.