In 2006, the NFLPA drove a hard bargain with the NFL while negotiating a new labor deal. The NFL, focused on the dollars and cents of the situation, apparently whiffed on several key non-economic terms, the impact of which wasn’t noticed until after the ink dried.
Five years later, the tables were turned. The league had the upper hand financially, and with the pressure of preserving the shared pot of money that comes from the preseason, the two sides rushed to get a deal done in late July. The NFLPA, focused on the dollars and cents of the situation, apparently whiffed on several key non-economic terms.
And the impact is being noticed, now that the ink has dried.
From the agreement to expose eight players to fines and suspensions for violations of the personal conduct policy during the lockout to an agreement to submit to HGH testing, the arguably hasty decisions made by NFLPA leadership in the final days of the lockout are creating discomfort, to say the least, for the folks who run the union.
There’s now another issue.
As Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports recently reported, 11 players are facing discipline after testing positive for recreational drugs after showing up for training camp. Two unnamed player representatives told Cole that NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith promised that a “grace period” would apply after the finalization of a new labor deal. But when the players showed up, there was no grace period.
“I told De that this was a concern of a number of players after the lockout ended and he said, ‘I got you covered,’” one of the player reps told Cole. “I went back and told the players, ‘Look, whatever it is you’ve been doing, you need to stop and be ready, but that we would probably have a 30-day grace period before the league started testing.
“Then we get to camp and [the league is] testing us on Day 2. Guys are looking at me like I don’t know what I’m talking about. It was embarrassing. I called the union and I was told there were a lot of things that fell through the cracks at the last minute.”
With no drug testing during the lockout, a grace period became important not because players needed to wean themselves off hard drugs, but because metabolites of the most prevalent illegal substance used by NFL players — marijuana — remain in the system for up to a month.
Though a league source tells PFT that a deal between the NFL and the NFLPA that would likely preclude discipline of the 11 players (one of whom also faces a suspension) is close, the damage has already been done.
“[E]ver since we approved the agreement, it’s been one thing after another and we can’t get straight answers on a lot of stuff,” one of the player reps told Cole.
“It just seems that the ball got dropped on a lot of stuff because everybody was so concerned about the finances,” a player rep told Cole. “There was a lot of stuff that players cared about just as much as the finances and it got lost.”
With Smith up for re-election in March, that sentiment won’t help him get another contract to lead the union. And so, only a few months after resolving one of the greatest challenges of his career, the manner in which the lockout-ending CBA was finalized could spark an even greater challenge for Smith.
Based on Smith’s recent verbal assault on U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart, Smith apparently knows it. By re-creating the “us against them” vibe that existed before and during the lockout, Smith could defuse the internal strife and persuade the players that they need him to continue to carry the flag.