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Winners, losers from the NFL lockout

Fans wait outside the NFL Players Association headquarters in Washington AP

We have broken down the deal.  Now let’s look at who escaped this lockout slog looking good, and who didn’t.

The Winners

Veteran NFL players: They missed an offseason of minicamps and practices, which should make it easier to fend off young players in camp this year.  More importantly, they will get a bigger slice of the salary cap pie.

Top rookies will make far less in this new CBA, and that money will go to veterans.  Getting NFL teams to agree to a very aggressive “salary cap floor” also guarantees NFL revenue will be spent back on the players.

For example, teams have to spend to 99% of the salary cap as a league this year.  The lowest any team can spend is 89% of the cap.  These are huge increases from previous floors that will guarantee small market teams spend aggressively.

Players you’ve never heard of: Minimum salaries of players will go up $50,000, which is a substantial increase.  Almost half the league has minimum salary contracts.  The players did right by their right by the rank and file.

Bank accounts of NFL owners: The NFLPA* was playing defense all along.  We essentially knew ahead of time the owners would leave this lockout with a larger share of total revenue, and that is the case.

The players made advances in other issues like safety and a salary cap floor, but ultimately the owners will now get a greater share of a rapidly growing revenue pool.  This can be a “win-win” deal, but there’s no debate the owners will get more money in this CBA than the one that came before it.

That was the entire idea behind the lockout.

Small market teams: Yes, they have to spend more to get to the salary cap floor.  They also will get more revenue sharing help from the top-earning teams in the league.

Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth: These two leaders from the NFLPA* earned a lot of respect.

Mediator Arthur Boylan: Sure, the biggest breakthrough happened when he was on vacation.  Boylan still kept the union and NFL moving forward during choppy waters.  He helped to finish the job mediator George Cohen could not.

A special thanks to …

Patriots owner Robert Kraft: No owner did more to bring the two sides together and compromise than Patriots owner Robert Kraft. That he did it against the backdrop of his wife’s battle with cancer makes his contributions all the more remarkable.

Colts center Jeff Saturday’s remarks after the agreement said it all.

Gets his own category

DeMaurice Smith: Fans may disagree, but we suspect history will show Smith did well by his players.  Let’s face it: The NFLPA* is always going to be an underdog in labor talks.  They have fewer resources and they were playing defense.

Smith took over a difficult situation and slowly earned the respect of his players and adversaries in ownership.  He didn’t give up that much and got plenty in return for financial concessions.  Most importantly, he helped get to the finish line without missing significant time in training camp or the preseason.

The lockout was caused by owner unhappiness at a time of unprecedented prosperity in the league. They locked the players out, which has to count for something.  Both sides were at fault for taking fans for granted throughout the process, and dragging this out longer than necessary.  That’s why Smith isn’t a “winner” but someone that earned respect.


The 18-game concept: It will eventually be a matter of debate again, but not for at least two years.  This was a big issue for the players, and they didn’t budge.

Roger Goodell: We think Goodell is a very good commissioner with the best interests of the game at heart. But there’s no denying he’s been beaten up over the last few months.  Player anger towards him became significant.  A perception grew that he couldn’t control his owners. (We’re not sure anyone could.)

Goodell’s efforts to end the lockout cannot be underestimated.  But this is a results business: Goodell presided over the longest work stoppage in league history.  In the long run, people will view the 2011 lockout as a speed bump for a wildly successful league.  In the short run, the NFL can’t have it both ways.

They have sold the concept to fans on NFL Network that the “season never ends.” It ended for five months this year, running the league’s biggest fans through an emotional ringer.

This lockout came primarily as a money grab at a time of unprecedented success for the league. Considering the economic climate the lockout took place in, Goodell takes a short-term hit.

Hardcore coaches: Practice contact will be reduced dramatically in the regular season. Offseason practices will also be cut down, with big fines for coaches who break the rules.

“The only thing the players didn’t get is someone else to play for them,” one source told PFT.

Highly-drafted rookies: This especially applies to top ten picks.  No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton is slated to get roughly $22 million over the next four years.  For comparison’s sake, last year’s top pick Sam Bradford got $50 million guaranteed and $72 million over his first six years.

First-round picks outside the top-16 picks will take a hit, but it’s not as dramatic.  Players taken in rounds two-through-seven may actually benefit because of the minimum salary increase.

All 2011 rookies: It will be harder for quarterbacks like Newton or Minnesota’s Christian Ponder to win starting gigs and succeed in camp after missing the entire offseason.  This will especially hurt late-round picks and undrafted players that now seem more likely to be cut.

Undrafted players:  With the per-team signing bonus expenditure limited to $75,000 per team for undrafted players, these rookies will no longer be able to tell prospective teams to put their money where their mouths are.

Agents: They are taking a hair cut on fees for rookie contracts, which are already headed South.  Anti-holdout measures for rookies will also be taken, which takes away a leverage point for agents.

Carson Palmer and Donovan McNabb: Perhaps the Bengals could have traded Palmer before the 2011 draft. Now it appears he may spend the 2011 season at home because he refuses to play for Cincinnati.  The Bengals probably won’t entertain trading him until 2012.

McNabb would not still be a member of the Redskins if not for the lockout. With five highly drafted rookies getting taken, the market for him has been significantly diminished. His exorbitant bonus isn’t due until September, which means the Redskins may fruitlessly try to trade him for a while.  More jobs will be filled in the meantime.

Vincent Jackson: Fans won’t forget that Jackson was the last Brady antitrust plaintiff to give up on squeezing the NFL for more cash in exchange for his signature.  We don’t think it’s fair to call the players “greedy” throughout much of the process, but Jackson, Logan Mankins, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning took a P.R. hit by seeking extra benefits for attaching their name to the antitrust case.

NFL fans: The players and owners take us for granted because they can.  We just want football, and we support the league completely. It was an insane act of hubris for the NFL to threaten to take the game away when it was at its very peak. The league isn’t likely to pay for it.

Rich Eisen from NFL Network put it well: “Love all these fans saying now we missed nothing when my twitter feed has been filled for 4 months MFing everyone involved in this process.”

The more you love the game, the more these last five months have been difficult to swallow.

The lucky part: We won’t have to go through this again for at least another decade.

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Giants likely without two starting offensive linemen Sunday

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 20:   Justin Pugh #67 of the New York Giants in action against the Atlanta Falcons during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Giants started the week without left guard Justin Pugh and center Weston Richburg and it looks like they’ll remain without them through Sunday.

Pugh has been ruled out because of a concussion and will miss a second straight game as a result. Pugh was scratched in Week 10 against the Patriots and was placed in the league’s concussion protocol after continuing to experience symptoms of the brain injury through the team’s bye week.

Richburg sprained his ankle in that loss to New England and has been listed as doubtful to play against the Redskins after missing practice this week. John Jerry started in place of Pugh in Week 10 and Dallas Reynolds would be the replacement for Richburg.

Tight end Larry Donnell was ruled out with the neck injury that’s left him out of the last two games and linebacker Mark Herzlich is out with a quad injury. Cornerback Prince Amukamara is expected back from a pectoral injury for a game that could put the Giants in firm control of the NFC East with a win.

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Devonta Freeman one of three Falcons ruled out

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 22:  Devonta Freeman #24 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball during the first half against the Indianapolis Colts at the Georgia Dome on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons did the expected on Friday afternoon and ruled running back Devonta Freeman out for Sunday’s game against the Vikings.

Freeman has been out of practice all week with a concussion, making it no surprise that Tevin Coleman will get the start at running back at the Georgia Dome in a meeting between two teams vying for a playoff spot in the NFC. It will be Coleman’s third start of the year and first since his rib injury in Week Two opened the door for Freeman with the first team.

Freeman isn’t the only player that Atlanta ruled out on Friday. Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson won’t play due to a hamstring injury. Hankerson returned to the lineup last week after missing two other games for the same reason.

Kicker Matt Bryant rounds out the trio of players listed as out. Bryant hurt his quad in practice on Wednesday, forcing the team to sign the well-traveled Shayne Graham to the roster. Graham will play for his 10th NFL team when he takes the field with the Falcons on Sunday.

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Nick Mangold probable, but Darrelle Revis won’t play

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 12:  IK Enemkpali #75 of the Buffalo Bills and Nick Mangold #74 of the New York Jets shake hands during the coin toss prior to the game at MetLife Stadium on November 12, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The writing on the wall all week has been that Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis would miss Sunday’s game against the Dolphins after suffering a concussion against the Texans in Week 11.

Any lingering doubt was snuffed out on Friday afternoon when coach Todd Bowles officially ruled Revis out for the game. Revis hasn’t practiced all week, so he’ll remain questionable for Week 13 until there’s some progress on his path through the concussion protocol.

There is better news elsewhere on the injury front. Center Nick Mangold practiced for the second straight day on Friday and has been listed as probable after needing stitches to repair a cut on his right hand last weekend. The Jets struggled to move the ball when Mangold missed a game earlier this season with a neck injury and the same happened when he was hurt early in last week’s loss, which makes his presence a welcome one for the offense.

Defensive end Sheldon Richardson is also probable after missing last week with a hamstring injury. With Revis out of the picture, the defense could use a renewed pass rushing effort from Richardson and his mates on the defensive line.

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Ron Rivera: If you’re talking about 16-0, you’re not focused on the details

on November 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Getty Images

The Panthers improved to 11-0 in Dallas on Thursday afternoon and every game that ends without a loss increases the chatter about whether they can run the table in the regular season.

Coach Ron Rivera isn’t really into the topic at this point, however. Rivera fielded a variety of questions related to his team’s unblemished record on Friday, including queries about whether he’s planning to rest starters in the final weeks of the season and whether the Panthers could benefit from a loss before the postseason. Rivera made it clear that he’s thinking about next week and not five weeks from now.

“If you’re talking about 16-0 seasons, you’re not focusing on the details you need to pay attention to,” Rivera said, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press.

Rivera added that he thinks the team has yet to play their best for a complete game, which may not be the same opinion held by defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. Edwards said Friday that “it’s going to take us not playing our best for someone to beat us.”

The remaining schedule features games at the Saints, a home-and-home with the Falcons sandwiched around a road date with the Giants and a home finale against the Buccaneers. There’s certainly the possibility of a loss or two if the Panthers don’t play up to snuff, but the reasons to expect one are just as certainly dwindling as the Panthers continue to roll through the competition.

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Jamie Collins returns to practice after missing three weeks

San Diego Chargers Vs. New England Patriots At Qualcomm Stadium Getty Images

Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins has missed the last three games, but returned to the practice field Friday after dealing with an undisclosed illness.

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, Collins has been back at the stadium this week after getting treatment for what was described as “a contagious illness.” There’s been little word on what the illness is, other than it’s not MRSA.

Having missed so much practice time, it’s unlikely Collins would be ready to play Sunday night against the Broncos.

Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola was also on the field, practicing for the second straight day. He sprained his knee last week, but could be ready if he’s working back-to-back days.

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Kyle Williams may be headed to IR, Mario Williams out this week

Johnny Manziel, Kyle Williams AP

The Bills are going to have to shuffle their defensive front, and it appears one key part won’t be coming back at all.

Via Mike Rodak of, Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams’ knee isn’t getting better, and coach Rex Ryan said he’s probably headed to injured reserve.

Williams was injured in Week Six, but Ryan said he hasn’t responded to treatment, making it likely he wouldn’t return this season. That’s a blow to their run defense, which hasn’t been the same without the veteran.

Defensive end Mario Williams is also going to be out this week against the Chiefs, after injuring his foot Monday against the Patriots. Williams has struggled this season, with just 3.0 sacks after hitting double digits the previous three seasons. Ryan said it didn’t appear that Mario Williams’ injury was season-ending.

There is good news for the Bills, as quarterback Tyrod Taylor is probable, after getting some time off this week to rest his shoulder.

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Devonta Freeman absent from practice again

Devonta Freeman, Dontae Johnson AP

Devonta Freeman is not at Falcons practice again Friday, a sign that he won’t be cleared in time to play Sunday vs. the Vikings.

Freeman suffered a concussion early in last week’s loss to the Colts. Rookie Tevin Coleman would be the starter if Freeman can’t play Sunday.

The 6-4 Falcons have lost three straight and are trying to stay in the NFC wildcard race.

Freeman is fifth in the NFL with 764 rushing yards and leads all runners with 9 touchdowns.

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Jerry Jones: Tony Romo won’t need surgery but is out for season

Tony Romo, Jerry Jones AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has confirmed what was widely expected: Tony Romo is out for the season.

Jones said this morning on 105.3 The Fan that Romo will not play again until 2016.

If there’s any good news from the Cowboys’ perspective, it’s that Romo has a hairline fracture in his clavicle and will not need surgery. It appears that Romo’s clavicle injury isn’t as severe this time around as the Week Three clavicle injury that forced him to miss seven games this season.

But that’s of small consolation. The Cowboys, who got off to a promising 2-0 start, saw their season derailed by Romo’s first injury, and saw any faint hope of a playoff run ended by Romo’s second injury.

Now the Cowboys just have to wait until next year. And Jones has to see if he can find a better backup quarterback than Matt Cassel, so that if Romo gets hurt again in 2016, it won’t mean the Cowboys’ season is over.

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Black Friday PFT Live features Kuechly, Tate, Chris Johnson, Troy Brown

Luke Kuechly, Kurt Coleman, Jason Witten AP

It’s Black Friday, a term that originated within the retail industry as an expression of the stress and dread the workers experience on the biggest shopping day of the year. Thanks to a little Chamber of Commerce P.R. spit-and-polish, it’s now sold to the public as a good thing — the day on which businesses go from being in the red to being in the black.

Which overlooks the reality that any business that spends nearly 11 months of the year in the red isn’t going to stay in business much longer.

As the sports talk radio business goes, Black Friday is one of the best days of the year, with three high-profile NFL games to dissect and another 13 to go in a weekend with plenty of postseason implications. Starting at 12:00 p.m. ET, PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio will devote three hours to the NFL action that was and that soon will be, with visits from Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Lions receiver Golden Tate, Cardinals running back Chris Johnson, and former Patriots great Troy Brown.

So join us via Sirius 213, XM 202,, the easy-to-use NBC Sports Radio app, and any of the many terrestrial affiliates throughout the country.

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Bengals activate Cedric Ogbuehi, place Darqueze Dennard on IR

Darqueze Dennard AP

The Bengals swapped one first-rounder’s roster spot for another Friday.

The team announced that cornerback Darqueze Dennard was placed on season-ending injured reserve, and that tackle Cedric Ogbuehi had been activated from the reserve/non-football injury list.

Dennard suffered a shoulder injury last Sunday against the Cardinals, and he’ll need surgery to repair the damage. Their 2014 first-round pick, Dennard was making his first career start, and leaves them thin in the secondary.

Ogbuehi, their 2015 first-rounder, started practicing earlier this month, as he recovers from the torn ACL late in his final college season.

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Revis missing from practice again Friday

Darrelle Revis AP

The Jets took to the practice field without cornerback Darrelle Revis again Friday, a signal that Revis is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Dolphins.

Revis suffered a concussion during last week’s loss to the Texans.

The Jets have lost four of five to slip to 5-5.

Earlier this week, Jets coach Todd Bowles said it would be “a bonus” if the team had Revis available. His absence from Friday’s practice might confirm that bonus isn’t coming.

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Jay Gruden: It’s a one-game season

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 25: Head coach Jay Gruden of the Washington Redskins looks on prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedExField on October 25, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

At 4-6, the Redskins are on the outside looking in at the playoff race in the NFC and they know that there’s only one way to change that positioning.

They need to end a five-game losing streak to the Giants when they host their NFC East rivals on Sunday afternoon. Redskins players say that the team’s coaches have been drilling the importance of this week’s game during practice all week and coach Jay Gruden isn’t downplaying the significance in his public comments either.

“It’s a one-game season,” Gruden said, via “If we have any desire at all to play 17, 18 or 19 games we have to take care of business Sunday. That’s the most important thing. We’ve got to get their best effort physically and mentally. It’s got to be their best focus of the season, not far, not even close. I think the guys are revved up.”

It’s hard to argue with Gruden’s take. Dropping a second game to the Giants would leave the Redskins two games and a tiebreaker behind in a divisional race, leaving them in need of a lot of wins and a lot of luck to change the standings. Thanks to the Thanksgiving developments for the Cowboys and Eagles, a Giants win would also push Tom Coughlin’s team to the doorstep of a division title with five games left to play so you’d imagine that everyone will be revved up come kickoff.

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Sean Taylor died eight years ago today

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 02:  Fans of the Washington Redskins hold up signs honoring the late Sean Taylor prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills on December 2, 2007 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eight years ago today, Washington safety Sean Taylor died at the age of 24. He had been shot by intruders into his Miami home, where Taylor and his girlfriend and young daughter were sleeping.

Earlier this year, the fifth and final defendant accepted an 18-year prison term for his role in the crime. The shooter received a 60-year sentence, and the mastermind of the burglary that ended in Taylor’s death was sentenced to life behind bars.

The anniversary comes two days before Giants safety Landon Collins plays his first game on Taylor’s home field in Maryland.

“When I go out there and do warm-ups and stuff, I just want to look at the memory of him and his name up there,” Collins said, via Newsday. “It’s going to be fantastic and it’s going to be a dream come true to be on the field he played on.”

Idolized by Collins, Taylor was beloved by teammates like Clinton Portis and Santana Moss. If Taylor had lived, he likely would still be playing — and he probably would have already cemented his status as a Hall of Famer.

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Ravens activate Brent Urban from injured reserve

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 17:  Defensive end Brent Urban #96 of the Baltimore Ravens participates in the Baltimore Ravens Rookie Minicamp on May 17, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Ravens officially brought running back Justin Forsett’s season to an end on Friday.

Forsett broke his arm when Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald slammed him to the turf during last Sunday’s Ravens victory and the Ravens have now formally added him to injured reserve. Forsett ends the year with 641 yards and two touchdowns on 151 carries and another 153 yards on 31 catches. He’s signed for the next two seasons with base salaries of $3 million.

Forsett’s roster spot will be filled by defensive end Brent Urban, who was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return at the start of the regular season. Urban, a fourth-round pick in 2014, tore his biceps during training camp.

Coach John Harbaugh said earlier this week that Urban would be activated, but that he wasn’t sure if the lineman would be in the lineup for Monday’s game against the Browns.

“He’s done a really good job,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “He’s worked hard, he looks good. It’s going to be exciting to see him in real action at some point in time, and see how he does because he hasn’t played that much. But he’s practiced very well.”

Urban actually hasn’t played at all for the Ravens in the regular season. He missed all of 2014 with a knee injury so he’ll be making his NFL debut when he does get the nod from Harbaugh.

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Matt Cassel knows it’s time for him to step up for Cowboys

Matt Cassel AP

The Cowboys haven’t won a game Tony Romo hasn’t started this season and Matt Cassel has a personal six-game losing streak that goes back two teams ago.

And yet, he remains confident.

The veteran quarterback might have to fill in for Romo the rest of the season after a left shoulder injury knocked him out, as the Cowboys await test results today.

I have a lot of confidence in myself,” Cassel said, via Charean Williams of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I have a lot of confidence in this team. It’s about getting back to work.”

Any time would be a good time to start. Dallas was 0-7 during Romo’s first injury absence, and Cassel hasn’t won a start since the 2014 season-opener for the Vikings. But the Cowboys acquired him in a trade with the Bills because he was a better option than Brandon Weeden, who was subsequently cut and claimed by the Texans.

“That’s part of what you embrace when you become a quarterback is you’ve got to step in, and obviously Tony’s been a leader here for 13 years of his career, and now it’s time,” Cassel said. “If it’s that situation, then I have to step up and try fulfill that role in some way. Obviously, you don’t replace a guy like Tony Romo, but at the same time, you’ve got to be you, and hopefully the guys rally around you, and you move forward.”

The Cowboys are 6-16 without Romo since he took over the starting job in 2006, but they’re looking for any positive they can find.

“Obviously, Matt’s got some experience in our offense now and did a nice job when he got back in,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. Cassel did go 13-for-19 for 93 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but that was after the game was out of reach.

They’re also going to have to find a new backup, and may promote Kellen Moore from the practice squad.

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