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League may be setting up the union for a March 4 surprise

DeMarcus Smith

The NFL Players Association has been operating under the express assumption that the owners will implement a lockout at midnight on March 4, the moment the current labor agreement expires.  Last week, NFL outside labor lawyer Bob Batterman said that the union wants to force a lockout, so that the union may then unleash strategies aimed at forcing a deal via litigation and political pressure.

Last year, lawyer David Cornwell was the first to suggest that the NFL’s plan won’t be to launch a work stoppage.  Instead, Cornwell explained that the league will declare an impasse in the talks and impose on the players the terms of the last, best offer made by management.  The players, who have been accusing the NFL of trying to take football away from the fans, would then have to decide whether to accept the rules or to go on strike, which would amount to the players taking football away from the fans.

Before the NFL can implement its last, best, pre-impasse offer, there has to be an impasse.  And it’s starting to look like the owners will soon be able to declare that an impasse exists.

But the impasse, if it’s coming, won’t arise from a disagreement as to the substance of the talks.  It will arise from the persistent inability of the two sides to agree to engage in meaningful talks on the real issues that need to be resolved.

That’s possibly why NFL General Counsel Jeff Pash spent time at his Tuesday press conference, held in conjunction with the ownership meeting in Atlanta, to talk about the lack of meetings between the NFL and the union.

“The owners have the bit in their teeth,” Pash said.  “They want an agreement.”  He also explained that the owners “need to see a parallel commitment by our negotiating partner,” and that enough time remains to get a deal done by March 4 — if the union will work with the league on coming up with meeting dates.

“I’m like a high school kid,” Pash told reporters.  “I’m always ready for a date.”

The union fueled the potential argument that an impasse already has been reached via comments given on Tuesday night by NFLPA spokesman George Atallah to Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com.

What point is there sitting down beating ourselves over the head when they’re saying, ‘We want $1 billion [in player salaries] back,’ and when we ask why they say, ‘Because we said so’?” Atallah said.

In other words, there’s no point in meeting.  In other words, there’s an impasse.

Though much can happen between now and March 4, the league seems to be doing a nice job of laying the foundation to declare an impasse and to impose on March 4 the exact opposite of a lockout.

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36 Responses to “League may be setting up the union for a March 4 surprise”
  1. radrntn says: Jan 18, 2011 10:22 PM

    wow…pft actually makes sense

  2. realitypolice says: Jan 18, 2011 10:22 PM

    Wait a minute. Isn’t this why every team voted to authorize decertification?

    If they decertify the union, they become independent contractors and the league can’t impose new rules on the players en masse.

    At least that was my understanding. Am I wrong?

  3. andyprough says: Jan 18, 2011 10:23 PM

    The opposite of a lock-out? Are the owners going to stage a “sit-in”, and chain themselves to the goalposts of their stadiums? Like the hippies used to do at city hall?

  4. berniemadoffsides says: Jan 18, 2011 10:27 PM

    I love football. I’m on this site 24/7 and watch every single game, if possible. I gameplan for fantasy leagues in April. Again, I love this sport.

    That being said, I couldn’t care less if there’s no football next season. We’re talking about players who make millions, owners worth hundreds of millions (or more), and a league making BILLIONS AND BILLIONS. The majority of us normal folk are taking paycuts, getting laid off, or struggling to find work to support our families.

    To hell with this league if there’s a lockout. I’ll watch MLB and NHL…. and I hate them both.

  5. palinforpresidentofnorthkorea says: Jan 18, 2011 10:27 PM

    Careful Mike,

    If no NFL, then no PFT, eh?

  6. FinFan68 says: Jan 18, 2011 10:28 PM

    As long as the last best offer does not include the “enhanced” season crap, I’m all for it. If the union chooses to strike instead. then the owners would be allowed to hire “scabs” or “line crossers”…I would watch them play. It doesn’t really matter whose name is on the back of the jersies because we would cheer/complain either way. The “heroes” of yesterday have been replaced and so will the players of today…it is a question of timing and total (simultaneous) numbers.

  7. goldsteel says: Jan 18, 2011 10:32 PM

    My they’re all so clever. Both sides can take as long as they want. We love you but we don’t need you. Any of you. So beat each other of the heads with claymores till the end of the decade. It’s your money. It’s your business. You run it.

    Fire Goodell.

  8. FinFan68 says: Jan 18, 2011 10:34 PM

    I have to agree with reality police’s take. I thought that was the whole point behind the in-season votes that were reported team-by-team. It is looking more and more likely a lockout, er…strike, er…work stoppage is coming and the two players involved are more concerned with fixing the blame than fixing the problem. To most fans a lockout or a strike means the same thing…no football. These clowns are just trying to make sure the other side absorbs the wrath of the fans. Kinda dumb considered they both get “hurt” that way.

  9. jstrizzle says: Jan 18, 2011 10:49 PM

    I am so happy to see all this time and brain power spent by both the league and the union to prepare for a lockout as opposed to solving the problem.

  10. scytherius says: Jan 18, 2011 10:51 PM

    To hell with the owners. I was with them during the last strike, but not this time. JJ and crew will do their damnedest to ruin the NFL. Terribly sad.

  11. worstwebsiteever says: Jan 18, 2011 10:58 PM

    ITT – Reality Police lives up to his name.

  12. pftmz says: Jan 18, 2011 11:00 PM

    Where does the consumer’s interest in this whole episode enter? Is any of this going to make it easier for teams to fill their stadiums?

  13. pantherguy52 says: Jan 18, 2011 11:05 PM

    Let me understand this correctly. If a lockout occurs and there is no agreement reached and there is no football for the season, does that mean at draft time next season the carolina panthers are selecting at #1 again? I like it…Luck would still be on his way here.

  14. hrmlss says: Jan 18, 2011 11:06 PM

    Ok, I’ll settle it you two groups of cry babies (owners + players)

    Players accept a 2% adjustment from the last deal.
    1% to a stadium fund, 1% to a fund for players retired before free agency to fund health insurance.

    17 regular games, all teams play 1 game in Mexico, Canada, England, Europe or Asia, per year, Bye week follows. 2 preseason games.

    IR is adjusted to 8 weeks. Rosters expanded to 60. Practice squads to 10.

    And most important, Rookie wage scale.

    And a ban on Jerry Jones face lifts.

  15. tomnickle says: Jan 18, 2011 11:06 PM

    There are big changes coming, mark my words. The sole reason these sides haven’t been able to hammer out some constructive discussions is that the league won’t open up the books for the players. Obviously money is the biggest issue, league revenues are the problem. So why would the owners refuse to open the books? One of two reasons, the Bills, Bengals, Buccaneers and Jaguars could be bleeding money and if the owners want the players to take a reduced share of league revenues, the players will want those teams in better markets to increase the bottom line for everyone. The only other reason that the owners wouldn’t want to open the books would be that every team or close to it are not only doing fine but thriving, and thus wouldn’t need a bigger portion of league revenues as part of a league that continues to grow and become more profitable. There obviously needs to be give and take, and neither side is willing to admit it right now, so, like every other potential lockout in sports, this thing will come down to the eleventh hour, they will get an agreement done in August after beginning negotiations somewhere around April or May. And the owners will win big.

  16. joyjoy69 says: Jan 18, 2011 11:12 PM

    … and then the players asked, “why did you take a billion dollars out of our pockets when you are making more now than ever before already.” The owners promptly smiled and said, “because we felt like it…”

    … and then the players take the offer because they couldn’t otherwise afford the $20 million dollar mortgage for the home now only worth $10 million on the crashed market. At this point, Jerry Jones looks at Al Davis and says, “I guess you were right Al, they did take the deal.” Al Davis smiles a toothless smile and groans, “Pay up Jimmy, the usual bet…” So, Jones promptly pulls out a one dollar bill and hands it to him.

  17. mayfieldroadboy says: Jan 18, 2011 11:16 PM

    If I own a company and I want to increase the number of days of operation and my current employees refuse to work on those days, I hire employees that will work on those days. If I own a company and my employees will not work for the wages I am willing to pay, then I hire new employees. If I own a company, it is not the business of my employees to know how much money I earn as long as I pay them the salaries for which they choose to work. And if I own a company that agrees to revenue sharing, then I will give my employees the revenues to which they are entitled. If I own a company…and that is the key: I own the company. I am responsible for all debts and all profits are mine. Unless my employees will share my debts, I don’t think I am required to share with them my profits.

  18. jjljr says: Jan 18, 2011 11:24 PM

    I love the NFL, but if it stops playing, I will learn to live without it. I thought I needed TNT and my local Regional Sports Network (Comcast Sportsnet), but when I lost my ability to get cable, I learned to live without the NBA or the NHL — and it really wasn’t that hard. If the NFL is dumb enough to have a work stoppage — when every team virtually prints cash 24/7/365 — I won’t miss them when they’re gone.

  19. erikw65 says: Jan 18, 2011 11:27 PM

    That cynical comment may have “fueled the potential argument that an impasse already has been reached” but don’t forget you just reported today that the “Union moved on revenue issue in December”

    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/01/18/union-moved-on-revenue-issue-in-december/

    So, if the union is willing to make concessions on revenue sharing, then there is a reason to meet, and there isn’t an impasse yet. Unless of course any concessions are merely going to be labelled “not enough” in a kneejerk fashion (which is probably what Atallah was talking about…) and which would lead one to believe that the Owners really WANT an impasse, so they can impose their LBO, knowing that the NFLPA can’t go on strike without looking awful and losing position.

  20. sdisme says: Jan 18, 2011 11:33 PM

    The owners might finally allow a second league to compete.

    The UFL may finally be able to do what the USFL could not pull off.

  21. hobartbaker says: Jan 18, 2011 11:42 PM

    You can’t fire me ’cause I quit!

  22. kazkal says: Jan 19, 2011 12:03 AM

    —To hell with the owners. I was with them during the last strike, but not this time. JJ and crew will do their damnedest to ruin the NFL. Terribly sad.—

    And it’s not the players? Players who are awarded millions of dollars for not even playing a down of football? they should be happy with what their getting we need the owners we don’t need the players..

    Like others said I could care less if it’s Palmer or my Dead Grandma sporting the 09 Jersey I’ll Supprt my team…Hell it may give us more of a chance to win…

  23. kazkal says: Jan 19, 2011 12:04 AM

    —The UFL may finally be able to do what the USFL could not pull off.—

    The UFL has to pay its players for last year first and it would still fail because it’s a 5? team league.

  24. carolinajimbo says: Jan 19, 2011 12:52 AM

    Yeah!…what mayfieldroadboy said. I am the OWNER. If you don’t want to work for my offered salary…go away.

  25. east96st says: Jan 19, 2011 1:46 AM

    mayfieldroadboy says: “If I own a company…and that is the key: I own the company.”

    That type of philosophy works well if you own a McDonalds. You can hire a chimp to do that job. Not so easy if you’re designing a new rocket engine. That job takes some skill and knowledge that everyday slobs just don’t have. Bottom line, your company will fail if you hire employees that aren’t capable of doing the job. Seeing how this past season makes a very strong case that there are not 32 NFL quality QBs in the USA, I’m thinking without the current highly skilled, and thus highly compensated, employees the NFL has now, the quality of the product will be so abysmal as to to be unwatchable. Last time they rolled out “replacements” football, it was horrendous. Seeing how the League is consistently setting new records for TV viewers, which would indicate millions of NEW fans, it would be an extremely poor business decision to roll out a sub par product and not expect to lose millions of your customers. I haven’t watched a single baseball game since the strike. MLB made a mistake – they thought I would miss it. I found out that I can live quite a happy life without baseball. Enjoy having the summers to myself and my family. The NFL would be foolish to allow so many new fans to discover that they can live quite a nice life without football. Some customers never come back. A real business owner knows that.

  26. SpartaChris says: Jan 19, 2011 1:55 AM

    realitypolice says:
    Jan 18, 2011 10:22 PM
    Wait a minute. Isn’t this why every team voted to authorize decertification?

    If they decertify the union, they become independent contractors and the league can’t impose new rules on the players en masse.

    At least that was my understanding. Am I wrong?
    ====================================
    You are correct. The NFLPA can then file an anti-trust suit against the NFL and claim that they cannot apply arbitrary rules across the board to all of the players. Each player will then have to be negotiated with separately.

    The owners can file a counter-suit and claim the decertification is a hoax. They can point to past decertification and reunion as an example.

  27. xpensivewinos says: Jan 19, 2011 4:25 AM

    I think the NFL has become so popular that it won’t be adversely impacted regardless of whose fault a work stoppage is.

    The NFL is like an incredibly hot ex-girlfriend who treats us like sh**, but we’re weak and we’ll always come back for more. The allure is simply too strong to pass up. Nothing can possibly take its place.

    Fans will be so relieved that football is back, it might somehow become even more popular. Any negative backlash or financial impact will be so miniscule in the grand scheme of things that it won’t even matter.

    Not to mention, you think a majority of players won’t mind “pulling a Favre”and showing up for work in late August????

    We will welcome football back with open arms and no questions asked. To believe any other scenario would be delusional.

  28. shrike58 says: Jan 19, 2011 6:51 AM

    I just love these people who view the owners as some sort of gods that need to be worshipped with an arbitrary right to screw over their employees.

    Still, I have two words for the players and the owners: binding arbitration.

    Also, every owner who is operating in a stadium paid for out of the public till gave up their rights to be a free agent awhile back.

  29. jc1958coo says: Jan 19, 2011 7:45 AM

    the problem is when an owner like al davis gives
    jamarcus russell 50 mil and then he doesn’t produce it’s the players fault!! he drafts them, hires the coach fires the coach, hires a new one, fires the new one!!! thats all the players fault !!!!

  30. armchairgm9 says: Jan 19, 2011 8:29 AM

    The NFLPA is going to congress and creating a big PR buzz and commotion about how they’re trying to prevent a lockout. All the while, the owners and NFL are just saying they want an actual chance to sit down and negotiate but the PA won’t even attempt to talk with them.

    You tell me who sounds like the “good” guys here?

  31. bobbyhoying says: Jan 19, 2011 9:06 AM

    So if this happens in March the guys with lots of money from big fat contracts don’t show up for mini camp while they guys at the minimum are screwed or cross a pickett line and incur the wrath of their team-mates? Didn’t we see this play before? As I recall the last one gave us those exciting games with replacement players.

  32. bgarrett41 says: Jan 19, 2011 9:38 AM

    @joyjoy69

    maybe the best post ever on this site. so true.

  33. mayfieldroadboy says: Jan 19, 2011 9:44 AM

    @east96st
    I own a company and I hire the best employees I can afford. Had I owned a Lutece-type restaurant, I would hire the best chef I could afford and still make money; had I owned a McDonald’s franchise, I could hire “chimps” as you called them, and still make money…even though it was not as wonderful as Lutece, it made money because most everyone wanted it. Not as exquisite as Lutece, but tasty and filling and cheap. These players are sculpted from their formative years all the way through college to play football. If they don’t want to accept what my business offers them, then their physical education has been for naught; they can go into some other field of endeavor. But the product I put on the field may (or may not) compete with the highly skilled players, my drive-thru manned by “chimps” as you called them survives because most people want it.

  34. FoozieGrooler says: Jan 19, 2011 10:12 AM

    “The owners have the bit in their teeth,” Pash said. “They want an agreement.”

    BS – just more legal wrangling.
    The owners HAVE an agreement, the one they signed off on last time around. But now they decided they don’t like it and they want a NEW one.

    aka “I changed my mind”

    The owners are 100% in the wrong here.

  35. boomerdt says: Jan 19, 2011 10:14 AM

    If the NFL does this – it will be one of the more brilliant business moves I’ve seen in a long time. Create a new business model, layout new salary terms, new ticket prices, and show how the league is trying to make player safety a necessity along with taking care of aging players (thus limiting current player salaries and giving owners a larger piece of the pie). Reference the poorer economy, the ability of state/local governments no longer able to fund stadiums, and a need to create a profit sharing to maintain the facilities of all NFL teams. How can the union say no? And if they do… it makes the union look like the money hungry bunch.

    Genius.

    Go NFL! I hope it works.

  36. east96st says: Jan 19, 2011 11:18 AM

    mayfieldroadboy says: “But the product I put on the field may (or may not) compete with the highly skilled players, my drive-thru manned by “chimps” as you called them survives because most people want it.”

    How did that work out for baseball? What was once, undeniably, the number one sport in America has been passed by the NFL. Yes, they are still making money, but not to the extent they once did. If your goal is to lose business and cut into your revenues, that’s a great plan. If your goal is stay number one and continue to grow at what is really a remarkable pace and expand internationally, then that’s an extraordinarily ignorant approach. Seeing how the NFL is currently shattering all it’s TV viewership records, and seeing how advertisers will pay a premium for the very rare program that brings in such viewers, the NFL is looking at history making prices for their next TV contracts – if they don’t blow it. Any work stoppage at this time would severely impact the coming TV contracts. The labor situation would have to be settled and then the NFL would have regain all that momentum that it lost and prove that the ratings can continue to grow. Using your example, if you’re about to sell Lutece for billions, then you would have to be absolute a** to fire your chef and bring in the guy from McDonalds. Especially in a bad economy when your chef was one of the few that still commanded top dollar from your clientele. Also, you seem to forget there’s a McDonalds just about everywhere. No need for me to spend dime one at yours.

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