Posted on: June 27, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: June 27, 2011 3:38 pm

Report: Players met with attorneys in Minnesota

Posted by Will Brinson

Peripheral labor developments, including a report that the NFL is already negotiating a new, as-yet-not-created television package, over the past weeks have been quite positive.

So it's a bit odd to hear that various NFL players "met Monday with their attorneys in Minneapolis."

Per the Associated Press a "person familiar with the situation says the players' side met on its own, without owners."

Any sense of a problem with this particular meeting is directly tied to the term "lawyers," which, for NFL fans, has mostly meant bad news throughout the course of the offseason.

But in this case, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which this is too terrifying, if only because meeting with attorneys before handling any negotiations is usually a pretty wise thing to do.

Additionally, it's hard to fathom that any sort of regression occurred over the weekend to force the players back into the huddle with their attorneys.

Although we won't know the real reason for the meetings until negotiations featuring Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith commence again this week. Hopefully, it's also shown as a positive development.

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 12:27 pm

Report: League shopping new eight-game TV package

Posted by Will Brinson

There have been many signs that point to positive momentum from the NFL and the players for new football over the past week or so.

But this may be the best part yet: The NFL is reportedly shopping a new eight-game, Thursday night package to the television networks.

"Sources said the league currently has the rights to take enough games from CBS and Fox’s Sunday afternoon schedules to fill the new eight-game package and does not have to wait for those contracts to expire after the 2013 season," Daniel Kaplan and John Ourand wrote in today's Sports Business Journal.

So, as we know, at some point there will be 16 games played on Thursdays; it's more football in the national spotlight, and it's a vehicle to really crank up the presence of the NFL Network, which the league owns.

And under this scenario, eight games would air on the NFL Network and eight games would be shopped to an additional and/or current service provider. But who's that gonna be?

Well, Ourand and Kaplan report that Turner and Comcast "have emerged as the most serious bidders for such a package." Comcast would want to put the games on Versus -- therefore giving people a reason to find out what channel number it is and maybe later on watch hockey -- while Turner would obviously love to beef up the sports presence of TBS, TNT and truth.

"There’s going to be another package because when this [labor] deal finally happens, somebody is going to have to pay for it,” an unidentified network executive told SBJ. “Part of it is going to be paid by a new NFL package.” Additionally, Kaplan and Ourand note that ESPN is close to locking in a deal that will guarantee them possession of Monday Night Football for another decade-plus, at a the not-so-low cost of $1.8 billion per year.

This is particularly important because it sets the stage for a hefty price tag on the Thursday-night package. You can expect the league to demand well north of $500 million for the eight games that will be shown in primetime.

And while there's a great argument that Thursday night games don't draw as many viewers as Monday night games, those early week contests haven't been broadcast on nationally available cable yet.

A couple of compelling matchups on the right channel could immediately change the way the world looks at Thursday night NFL football, and net someone a pretty good revenue stream for the next few years.

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Posted on: June 27, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: June 27, 2011 12:20 pm

Sides split on rookie wage scale issue?

Posted by Will Brinson

The lockout isn't over, and there's absolutely no guarantee that there willl be a new CBA any time soon. But it sure does feel as if everyone's moving along on the same path toward football in 2011, doesn't it?

So, hey, some cold water: The deal ain't done yet. And one of the issues that just popped up early last week was how to handle implementing some sort of rookie wage scale.

Per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, the owners and the players broached the issue for the first time last Thursday, and "it proved to be a difficult issue to navigate."

Apparently, while the players are fine with reducing the amount of money that goes to high draft picks, they want those same draft picks to get to free agency quicker, via a four- or five-year track, instead of six.

And, of course, there's the issue of how to take the money that was getting pumped into the highly paid rookies and redirect it to veterans. Neither of these issues will be easy for the two sides to find common ground, primarily because it's such new territory.

The good news, however, is this: Though the rookie wage scale was just recently talked about and though there are some differences for the two sides right now, it's a fairly small drop in the bigger bucket.

If the players and owners can each find a respective "happy place" for the revenue sharing issue, the wage scale will likely fall into place shortly before a new CBA is locked down.

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Posted on: June 24, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: June 24, 2011 2:44 pm

NFL could expand training camp rosters to 90

Posted by Will Brinson

Though plenty of general managers and coaches around the NFL threw their support behind the owners, it's pretty obvious that the men who run the day-to-day operations around the league aren't thrilled with how difficult it is to actually do that amid a lockout.

So here's some good news for coaches, GMs and would-be NFL rosterees: the league is reportedly considering an expansion of camp rosters from 80 to 90 players prior to the 2011 season.

"I don't know anyone in my position who wouldn't support it," one general manager told Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network. "We'd love to be able to bring 90 in (for training camp). And from the players' side, it's more opportunities for them."

The logic here is pretty simple: training, teaching and evaluation has gone down the tubes thanks to the lockout, and adding bodies will increase the ability of teams to see who they're interested in.

It would also benefit the players, as an extra 300-some players would gain an opportunity to make a regular-season NFL roster.

And the fans would win as well, because it would, hopefully, mean less injuries during training camp and preseason games.

Really, the only downside might be for owners, who would see an increase in payroll thanks to the beefed-up rosters. Considering the financial concession the players already appear to be making in order to crank up progress, though, that doesn't really feel like too much to ask, even for the stingiest of owners.

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Category: NFL
Posted on: June 23, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 6:57 pm

Smith, Goodell statements: 'We're working hard'

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL meetings from Thursday wrapped up this afternoon and, somewhat surprisingly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith appeared together, shook hands, and talked to the press about what went down.

Well, not specifically what went down or anything, but both leaders issued similar-sounding statements about the various negotiations that have occured over the past few days.

"You obviously know we met over the last couple of days," Goodell said following the not-so-secret meetings. "We are under court order as far as what we can discuss so our comments will be brief. But obviously we’re all working hard. The players and owners were here over the last two days.

"De and I were here for the entire meetings also. And it’s complicated and it’s complex, but we're working hard and we understand the fans' frustration. But I think both of us feel strongly that we’re going to continue to work hard at it."

The key parts there, of course, are "working hard" and "fans' frustration," so it's no surprise that Smith echoed a similar sentiment.

"Someone asked me whether I was optimistic. I think we're both optimistic when we have the right people in the room. We know we're talking about the right issues and that we're working hard to get it done," Smith said. "It is extremely complicated, it requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but we're committed to getting something done and we’re going to keep working at it.

"Just to wrap up, we're working hard, we understand the fans' frustration, I know our players' frustration. We're going to keep working hard and try to make sure we get a deal done."

Oddly, fans' frustration is probably reasonably low right now, despite the lockout finally hitting it's 100th (!) day.

After all, while there may not be many other sports on television to distract from the lack of football, there's a sense among many people that the two sides are close to acheiving what seemed impossible just a few short weeks ago: striking a deal and getting the season rolling by the middle of July.

While that's obviously not the ideal scenario (that would involve no lockout and a "normal" league year, natch), it's still a far better outcome than what seemed possible a month ago.

That's progress, and progress always helps to ease frustration a little bit.

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Posted on: June 23, 2011 6:16 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 6:29 pm

Owners want right of first refusal free agents?

Posted by Will Brinson

It's beginning to seem likely -- or at least reports make it seem likely -- that players with four years of service time who were previously restricted free agents (RFAs) will, if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is reached, become unrestricted free agents (UFAs).

If this happens, there will be an additional 500 or so people added to a free-agent class that will suddenly be bursting with talent. Unless the owners are able to convince the players to give them several "right-of-first-refusal" options on UFAs.

Which is what they're trying to do, according to Chris Mortensen, who told Howard Balzer of 101 ESPN Radio in St. Louis that "owners are asking that teams be able to have three or four right-of-first-refusals this year on UFAs."

What this would mean is that while guys like DeAngelo Williams of the Panthers would be able to negotiate with other teams, their original teams would have the right to match the highest offer those players got on the open market.

But it would also let teams determine the market ... without actually having to make an offer to their players.

Such speculation is probably fruitless, however, because there's little chance that the players would agree to creating these de facto franchise tags that might limit a large number of players' ability to cash in on their unrestricted free agent status.

Plus, if owners didn't see a reversion to free agency rules that existed before 2010 -- when a new CBA was negotiated -- happening from the get-go, it's hard to fathom what they were expecting to see.

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Posted on: June 6, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 7:15 pm

NFL season ticket sales now down from last year

Posted by Will Brinson

Late in May, we inked a story about the increase in NFL season-ticket sales relative to this time last year.

Well, the league has reversed course, according to Daniel Kaplan of Sports Business Journal. The NFL is now reporting that sales are behind the pace at the same time in 2010.

Yes, it seems like odd timing, considering the league's report that sales were up came just seven days ago. However, Kaplan notes that the timing of the report could make sense; the NFL's data during the previous report was thru May 7. Now the data is current through the end of May.

What makes this a bit bizarre is the fact that it took 24 days to generate the data thru May 7, and yet the current data took less than seven days to generate.

It's also entirely possible that the NFL felt the news about the ticket sales was off-base with their current state of financial affairs (after all, Roger Goodell openly lamented the state of the NFL's business) and wanted a more current assessment.

Kaplan notes as well that the league informed him "suite and club seat renewals [are] at a crawl."

The flummoxing state of affairs from the first report -- after all, there isn't any guaranteed football for next year -- was only really explainable by tickets going on sale earlier than previous years as well as earlier deadlines for getting tickets applications in.

This new report makes much more sense, even if the timing of the various pieces of released information is a bit odd.

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Posted on: May 31, 2011 11:04 am
Edited on: May 31, 2011 11:23 am

NFL somehow ahead of 2010's ticket sales pace?

Posted by Will Brinson

There's one thing we're sure of: NFL fans are less happy right now than they were a year ago.

Or maybe the fans are unhappy -- but they aren't going away. Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reports that the "NFL [is] ahead of last year's pace for season ticket sales despite the lockout."

Kaplan also reports that the league is considering "changes to blackout policy."

Let's address the ticket sales issue first. Because, frankly, that seems absolutely impossible, given that there is no promise of football in 2011.

Of course, it's always easier to sell tickets when you a) start selling them sooner and b) provide an earlier cutoff for season-ticket holders to renew; I believe the NFL used both practices this offseason.

This news is surprising given that Roger Goodell recently took to the podium and pointed out that business across the NFL is down, and that the league is absolutely seeing the impact of the lockout on season-ticket sales.

This is the likely logic for the phrase "on pace." It's good news for some clubs if their sales are exceeding the sales from this point last year. And even if it's good news for the league as a whole,  some teams must be suffering a negative impact.

What will really matter is where these numbers are in August, when the season is about to -- or, should I say supposed to -- start.

Because if there's no football, there's no amount of sold tickets that will justify the problem facing the NFL.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com