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League won’t lift lockout based only on an agreement in principle

NFL Holds Annual Meetings Amid Lockout Getty Images

Tuesday’s flurry of news and nuggets regarding the labor situation included plenty of broad-brush red meat for casual fans.  Unfortunately, a decent amount of nuanced and esoteric details may have gotten lost in the process.

Here’s the most important one we’ve seen, so far.

In comments that, as best we can tell, were noticed only by Clark Judge of CBSSports.com and Howard Balzer of 101sports.com and The Sports Exchange, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash made it clear that the lockout won’t end with the negotiation of an agreement in principle.  Instead, the doors will be unlocked only after the proverbial i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.

“We would have to make sure the documents were fully drafted and approved, then both parties would have to ratify the agreement,” Pash said, per Judge.  “We would have to do it, and the players would have to do it.  There is some litigation that has to be dealt with, and so we would have to go before the various courts, and that would obviously [have to happen] on a quickened basis, as the court would hear us and have those lawsuits disposed of and resolved.  Then we could open up. . . .

“If both sides are going to commit to certain positions and clubs are going to be signing players, large sums of money are going to be changing hands and players are going to commit to multi-year agreements, you would want to have this confirmed — not just in a general way but down to some fairly specific details.  [Because the doors would be opened] you’re not going to want to close them again for either side.”

We listed last week the steps that would be required to take the deal from handshake to grave, and we opined at the time that all of the steps couldn’t be accomplished before the season starts, based in part on my own experiences with the settlement of class actions.  Even if the parties can somehow expedite the process, it’s going to take a lot of work to turn things around in time for the first two teams who head to camp on July 22 — the Bears and Rams — to have a fair shake at signing free agents and/or their rookies.

The message to all parties?  Get to work.  Come early.  Stay late.  Meet every day.  Order food in.  Brew coffee.

Tell the lawyers to start drawing up the papers.  Alert the judges and arrange for hearing times.  If there’s any chance of the lockout being lifted by the middle of July, the foundation for finalizing the deal needs to be put in place now.

It also would help to have an agreement in principle.  We’ve previously predicted that the parties will get to the handshake stage by June 30.  Given everything that needs to happen from that point forward, June 30 could be too late.

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40 Responses to “League won’t lift lockout based only on an agreement in principle”
  1. upperdecker19 says: Jun 22, 2011 12:46 PM

    But season ticket holders will have to agree in principal to pay for missed preseason games.

  2. lickenkittens says: Jun 22, 2011 12:47 PM

    I think this is posturing to get the players to hurry up and agree to terms. There’s no way the owners are gonna willfully miss presseason game revenue.

  3. trbowman says: Jun 22, 2011 12:48 PM

    This is a depressing post.

  4. jerrydesaulniers says: Jun 22, 2011 12:52 PM

    Once the handshake has been made I hope they open free agency and let the coaches start talking to players in the open.

  5. Kaz says: Jun 22, 2011 12:53 PM

    Well hopes of this being done in the next two weeks (or before/around July 15th) seems to be over. Anytime you have to deal with the courts nothing is “quick” when you deal with the court system…. F/A is going to be a disaster, and half the rookies will not be in camp if there is no wage scale that starts this year. What a disaster.

  6. ac0117 says: Jun 22, 2011 12:55 PM

    makes sense but ugh

  7. ftblfan9 says: Jun 22, 2011 12:56 PM

    Taking a stance that enables you to eventually concede something without conceding anything. Nonsense, any of the referenced contracts and bonuses could be subject to full resolution of the cba.

  8. SpartaChris says: Jun 22, 2011 12:58 PM

    Well yeah, I wouldn’t lift the lockout until it’s official either. An “Agreement in principle,” isn’t an “Agreement,” until it’s signed, sealed and delivered.

  9. gregjennings85 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:01 PM

    The Emperor’s New Clothes, eh. Got it.

  10. waitingguilty says: Jun 22, 2011 1:02 PM

    Ridiculous, fear mongering post. There are many steps between “Agreement in Principal” and having EVRYTHING settled vis-a-vis all the lawsuits. Why don’t you see that?

    Once the CBA is agreed upon and ratified the lockout will be lifted. The court dealings will be settled over the next year or so based on the CBA terms.

    You are quite a little drama queen aren’t you?

  11. panther74 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:03 PM

    soooooooo ready for this crap to be over with!

  12. vtsquirm says: Jun 22, 2011 1:05 PM

    i don’t see how they are going to get everything done before training camp is “supposed” to start. they may have training camp & free agency starting at the same time which would be a nightmare. Anyhow, things are looking more promising than they were 3 months ago.

  13. effthenfl says: Jun 22, 2011 1:06 PM

    Its already effed up. The NFL better hope there isn’t a run of injuries due to lack of conditioning / camps. Ugh this season is tainted already, I hate them for letting it get to this point.

  14. pmars64 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:07 PM

    Can somebody please smack that ugly mug on Jeff Pash’s face? Anytime his name shows up, hope dries up fast.

    I agree, too, that this sounds like posturing. As the negotiations progress, the owners may actually lose more than the players if they don’t end the lock-out before an agreement is signed, sealed, and delivered.

  15. wcpatsfan says: Jun 22, 2011 1:08 PM

    why not lift the lockout?

    does the league think the players are just trying to fool them into letting down their guard?

    seems to me it would be in the best interrest of everybody to have the players in shape and ready to play

    plus it would show good faith… and might encourage people to start buying tickets, and satelite game packages, ect.

    it wouldn’t hurt their image if they eased up a bit

  16. micronin127 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:12 PM

    I really wish that the NFL would fire Jeff Pash and that the NFLPA* would fire Jeff Kessler.

    Can we get an agreement in principle for each side to fire a lawyer named Jeff?

    These two are pit bull litigators who don’t really want to type up an agreement and settle a case, they still want a fight.

  17. dccowboy says: Jun 22, 2011 1:12 PM

    Umm, DUH?

    That’s akin to trying to put the toothpaste back into the tube.

    Actually the players shouldn’t be willing to go back to work without everything signed, sealed, and delivered either. It would be easy for the Owners to renege on some part of the ‘Agreement in Principal’ after the players are all back at work and expecting a check just as easily as it would be for the players to renege.

  18. smacklayer says: Jun 22, 2011 1:13 PM

    An agreement in principle is not an agreement. I didn’t get my house when I bought it base on an agreement in principle. I had fork over the cashier’s check and sign the docs before I got the keys.

  19. stampede101 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:16 PM

    Get the deal done…and soon so I can collect on my free wings!

  20. realitypolice says: Jun 22, 2011 1:18 PM

    Here’s how you can tell if something is true or untrue in this dispute:

    Did a lawyer from one side or the other say it?

    Untrue.

    As ftblfan9 put it, there is no reason league business couldn’t start upon agreement in principle- all contracts would simply need to include a clause saying that official execution of the contract would occur pending finalization of the CBA.

    Pash is simply doing what he can to push the lawyers back to forefront of the discussions, where they are more comfortable.

  21. daveomcd says: Jun 22, 2011 1:19 PM

    Would it really have been so hard to have done this earlier this year?

  22. 8drinkminimum says: Jun 22, 2011 1:19 PM

    A prudent businessman would want complete signoff before moving forward.

    You don’t end the lockout based on a lick and a promise.

  23. realitypolice says: Jun 22, 2011 1:23 PM

    smacklayer says:
    Jun 22, 2011 1:13 PM
    An agreement in principle is not an agreement. I didn’t get my house when I bought it base on an agreement in principle. I had fork over the cashier’s check and sign the docs before I got the keys.
    ======================

    Many times there are clauses put in real estate contracts that allow a buyer access to a home or property prior to the closing of the deal. As long as it is spelled out in writing, it is perfectly allowable. In fact, it’s not even that uncommon. (My wife is a real estate para-legal, you don’t want to argue with me on this)

    The exact same thing could be done here. A simple clause in all player contracts stating that the contract is based upon finalization of the CBA by X date- probably whenever the first game check would be due.

  24. zerored78 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:30 PM

    This is stupid. There is absolutely no reason to keep the entire lockout in place. I can maybe understand not opening free agency, but you can give the players access to the film and training rooms.

  25. stealthscorpio says: Jun 22, 2011 1:34 PM

    Jeff Pash is the lawyer not the client…even if he is in house, he ain’t the boss…Pash works for Goddell, who works for the owners…while I would expect a lawyer to say that, the fact of the matter is an agreement in principle is all that is needed…the sooner the lockout is over, the sooner the owners get back to full time money printing…

  26. tumsman2 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:35 PM

    the lockout must remain until it’s OFFICIAL.

  27. SpartaChris says: Jun 22, 2011 1:37 PM

    zerored78 says:
    Jun 22, 2011 1:30 PM
    This is stupid. There is absolutely no reason to keep the entire lockout in place. I can maybe understand not opening free agency, but you can give the players access to the film and training rooms.
    ===================================
    It’s not stupid at all. It’s smart business, and frankly, the players should feel the same way.

    When you shop for a car, you don’t get to take it home simply by agreeing to the terms of purchase in principle, do you? No, of course not. You have to sign the papers and fork over the money before you can keep it.

    The same principle applies here. No signature, no deal. Pretty black and white, actually.

  28. mrjackson206 says: Jun 22, 2011 1:49 PM

    I agree with this article. The lockout shouldn’t end until everything is signed sealed, & delivered. Sure an agreement in principle is nice, but it is in no way official until those papers are signed.

    I’m sure the owners & players can come to an agreement in principle today or within the next few days, & that would be nice to hear but I’d much rather know when its all official & the lockout officially ends.

  29. eagiants says: Jun 22, 2011 1:52 PM

    What a pain. For once I’d like to see the optimistic news stick without posts like this following every single time.

  30. billybats says: Jun 22, 2011 2:04 PM

    “based in part on my own experiences with the settlement of class actions”

    Dude, you are way out of your league here. As a lawyer, you couldn’t shine the shoes of the lowest man on the deal totem pole. Stick to getting football info for your readers, and quit pretending that you have the competence to shepherd this process through to definitive documentation.

    I think that the league and the players have this one covered, they don’t need your “advice” on the logistics of getting this done.

  31. dailynorseman says: Jun 22, 2011 2:08 PM

    Just looking at the picture. . .when the hell did Gilbert Gottfried get involved in the NFL Labor talks?

  32. zinn22 says: Jun 22, 2011 2:21 PM

    It amazes me the owners have agreed to a 48% deal. This deal is very close to the proposal the players offered during mediation in March. The players starting offer was 50% of total gross revenues. The owners liked it so much their negotiation team walked out of the mediation. The owners then ridiculed the players offer in the press.

    I guess the players initial offer in March was not that bad after all. I wonder what has changed on the owner’s side other than the possibility of losing preseason revenue. It seems all the posturing by owners, the lockout and all the hubris was about nothing. This deal could have been done back in march if the owners were willing to negotiate then.

  33. tmac48 says: Jun 22, 2011 2:31 PM

    SpartaChris says: Jun 22, 2011 1:37 PM

    It’s not stupid at all. It’s smart business, and frankly, the players should feel the same way.

    When you shop for a car, you don’t get to take it home simply by agreeing to the terms of purchase in principle, do you? No, of course not. You have to sign the papers and fork over the money before you can keep it.

    The same principle applies here. No signature, no deal. Pretty black and white, actually.
    ====================================
    Except when you buy a car there’s not a ton of stuff that needs to take place by a certain date so that you can get your car and be able to drive it properly.
    This situation would be more like buying a car that has no wheels or doors and the engine needs to be assembled so that you can use it to go on vacation on a certain date. Once you agree to buy the car, wouldn’t want them to go ahead and start putting it together so that by the time you get them the money it’s ready to go? You wouldn’t want to miss your hotel reservation, would you?

  34. illwillthemick says: Jun 22, 2011 2:33 PM

    smh.. just.. get…. it… done!!! any time spent not gettin it done is a waste of everybodys time EVEN MINE!!!!

  35. SpartaChris says: Jun 22, 2011 2:59 PM

    tmac48 says:
    Jun 22, 2011 2:31 PM
    Except when you buy a car there’s not a ton of stuff that needs to take place by a certain date so that you can get your car and be able to drive it properly.
    This situation would be more like buying a car that has no wheels or doors and the engine needs to be assembled so that you can use it to go on vacation on a certain date. Once you agree to buy the car, wouldn’t want them to go ahead and start putting it together so that by the time you get them the money it’s ready to go? You wouldn’t want to miss your hotel reservation, would you?
    ===================================
    Of course I would prefer them to start assembling my car once we have a deal in principle, but what’s to protect them should I decide to back out at the last second?

    This is simply another smart move by the owners to expedite the process. There is simply no other way to view it.

  36. vetdana says: Jun 22, 2011 3:17 PM

    Come on people !! Have none of you ever been STUCK by an agreement in principle ? …a gentlemans agreement with a handshake ? ..ask Henry Ford and H Ferguson about agreements in principle ! Get it in writing or be prepared to be back in court !! besides…you have NFL teams spending millions on contracts that may have to be completely revised if any contract terms move away from the “agreement”. Teams have a tough time putting toothpaste back in the tube. I have been envolved in far too many “agreements in principle “that went up in smoke !

  37. CKL says: Jun 22, 2011 3:31 PM

    realitypolice says:
    Jun 22, 2011 1:23 PM

    Many times there are clauses put in real estate contracts that allow a buyer access to a home or property prior to the closing of the deal. As long as it is spelled out in writing, it is perfectly allowable. In fact, it’s not even that uncommon. (My wife is a real estate para-legal, you don’t want to argue with me on this)

    The exact same thing could be done here. A simple clause in all player contracts stating that the contract is based upon finalization of the CBA by X date- probably whenever the first game check would be due.
    _________________________________
    Very true, but in the case of real estate, no seller I have ever heard of would allow occupancy by a buyer without the buyer’s loan being approved first. And to me lifting the lockout without the whole deal being signed would be like a seller allowing a buyer full access to his home without any loan approval or a buyer trusting a seller to cut him a check for repairs agreed on in the deal instead of putting the money for that in escrow to be paid at the closing.
    While RE deals can get complex, they are still usually between just a single buyer and a single seller. Imagine the headaches involved with negotiating contract terms of multiple players per team and then the CBA doesn’t get signed or doesn’t get signed by the date the contract specifies, etc…now you have multiple null and void contracts and all these players in limbo again and neither they nor the teams are protected from any consequences of that.

    Much as I would love as a fan if they could get going ASAP after an agreement in principle I would rather they not take any chance no matter how slim (and I acknowledge that the idea what I say would actually happen is small) that anything could go wrong and kick this whole thing back to ill will between the parties.

  38. profans says: Jun 22, 2011 4:08 PM

    The NFL Fans Association is a website trying to unite all NFL fans around the world. It is a brand new non profit association dedicated to NFL fans right. It will be used to negotiate with the NFL concerning abuses of the NFL owners towards its fans. If there is no NFL football this year the sport bars will lose huge revenues, the fans will be frustrated and the NFL players and their families will suffer. We need a way to stop future lock outs and a combined effort of the NFL fans can do this. Would you please help in this effort by spreading the word about our association. You can see what this all about by going to profans.org. While there you can sign-up and leave a message. We need your help and you need our help.

  39. jkrc717 says: Jun 22, 2011 4:54 PM

    This is NOT like agreeing to buy a house or car.

    When they agree in principal, they sign a contract that they agreed to this deal that will be made.

  40. gregjennings85 says: Jun 22, 2011 6:07 PM

    gregjennings85:

    “The Emperor’s New Clothes, eh. Got it.”

    Was my last attempt to say anything to MF without it being deleted, FYI.

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