Posted on: May 25, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: May 26, 2011 6:26 am

Goodell: Lockout 'clearly had an impact' on fans

Posted by Will Brinson

The NFL wrapped its spring owners meetings in Indianapolis on Wednesday, and afterward, as is customary, Roger Goodell took the stage to talk about rule changes, the state of football and this lockout thing.

Though Goodell sidestepped a couple of issues -- the window needed for free agency, most notably -- he was refreshingly candid about the damage done by the lockout

"I think it's clearly had an impact on our fans," Goodell said. "You can see that in the various metrics that we have -- whether it's ratings or for traffic on NFL.com. We see that.

"And that is a reflection on the uncertainty and frustration of our fans. And we all understand that. There are also financial consequences because of that, but clearly -- if we're not successful, that's clearly to come."

Asked as a follow-up if the lockout had affected season-ticket sales, Goodell didn't hesitate to point out that the respective clubs were all suffering when it came to locking down ticket sales.

"It clearly has an impact [on season ticket sales]," Goodell said. "Fans want certainty. I don't think you can ever underestimate -- fans are still going through challenges, just in the general economy. And those challenges continue to impact on their decisions. And rightfully so.
Owners Meetings/Labor News

And that's something they have to balance when they want to put down money for a season ticket or a club seat or whatever else. And so we have to keep that in mind. The ownership has been reminded of that during the past couple of days, and they don't need reminding, because they're on the front line."

Most interesting was Goodell's response to a request for "specific data" about the impact of the lockout. He seemed absolutely amenable to providing the requested information, if only because it clearly showed the problems that the lockout is causing around the league, from the standpoint of keeping fans interested and generating revenue.

"It's a noticeable change," Goodell said. "I think you guys are aware of it -- our ratings were down in the draft for example. Roughly four million people -- that's a noticeable decrease ... about a 10 percent decrease as I recall."

While no fans want to hear about the revenue that the league, its teams and the players are currently losing, it is a significant point of interest, because money that gets thrown out the window during a labor impasse directly correlates to the difficulty in finding an agreement down the road.

"The longer it goes the more damage is done to the game and the more revenue's down and that means less money that can be divided between the parties," Goodell said.

Owners were presented the full range of plans for opening weekend, from the first game on Thursday night at Lambeau Field to commemorations of the Sept. 11 attacks on the first full Sunday of games. Those dates are not in jeopardy yet, but the longer the impasse, the more in danger they would become, particularly with the league's marketing partners, sponsors and advertisers who must commit dollars to those events well in advance.

"We're not at an Armageddon date," Eric Grubman, executive vice president of business operations for the NFL, told the Associated Press. "We're not staring that in the face this week."

But like any event looming on the horizon, the theoretically non-existent drop-dead date isn't actually that far off. But, apparently, it won't impact the way Goodell and the NFL head into the next season.

"We're approaching 2011," Goodell added, "as we would any other season."

The Associated Press contributed to this report. For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsnfl on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.
Posted on: May 24, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 10:35 am

NFL Shop raises jersey prices $5 amid lockout

Posted by Will Brinson

It seems like a terrible time to raise the cost of jerseys at NFLShop.com -- by a whopping five dollars apiece. Yet that's exactly what is happening although a lockout is firmly in place with no current guarantee of football in 2011.

The NFL insists the price hike is a result of the "normal course of business."

I called NFLShop.com after seeing a report on JoeBucsFan.com (via Pro Football Talk) that the NFL has increased the costs of replica jerseys from $79.99 to $84.99. After providing my name and employer, I was immediately put on hold and transferred to a supervisor.

"Well, the only thing we can say about any price increases are a part of normal course of business and a result of the cost of goods increasing, sir," the supervisor told CBSSports.com.

Since that didn't equate to confirmation, I felt a follow-up question was appropriate. I asked:  "But can you confirm the increase in $5 per jersey?"  

"Yes, sir, but any price increases are part of a normal course of business," she replied.

As to the issue of selling jerseys for unsigned rookies (as you can see Cam Newton jerseys are on "advance sale!" for $84.99), the supervisor said that she "wouldn't be able to answer that" question.
NFL Labor

Obviously, the timing on the increase in costs for jerseys is poor (and that may be an understatement).

But, it's entirely possible that the cost of jersey-making is going through the roof right now, which would rationally explain the need to raise costs of jerseys by $5 under the "normal course of business."

However, representatives for both the NBA.com and MLB.com confirmed to CBSSports.com that neither of their respective stores had raised prices in the last month and neither had plans to raise prices any time in the near future.

Certainly, jersey-making, while not homogenous across all sports, should follow some sort of trend. It seems that the NBA and MLB should also be feeling any increase in costs. However, if those teams are feeling cost increases they certainly are not passing them on to fans -- and that is what makes the NFL's move so problematic in a lockout-ridden offseason.

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Photo via NFL.com
Posted on: May 20, 2011 9:49 am

Goodell: 'No drop-dead date' for NFL season

Posted by Will Brinson

Roger Goodell's been on a telephone tour de force with NFL season-ticket holders, explaining what all of this lockout business means and answering questions from the people who just so happen to make this a multi-billion business.

His latest stop found him on a bunch of Pittsburgh phone lines and while the call went mostly the same, Goodell had an interesting answer, per Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, when it came down to the date on which the NFL needs to start to get a full season in.

"First, our objective is to have a full season, we scheduled a full season, we are planning for a full season and that's our intent," Goodell said. "If we're not capable of doing that we will play as many games as possible and want to finish with the Super Bowl."

Most importantly though, how many games will such a season necessitate?

"There is no drop-dead date," Goodell said.

So, theoretically, we could have a sudden-death, round-robin season starting in Week 14, where everyone plays their division rivals once and whoever's got the best record/tiebreaker record moves on to the playoffs, where they'll be crowned with a giant asterisk upon winning the Super Bowl.
NFL Labor

Now, Goodell kind of has to say this -- if he points out that there's a certain date in which the NFL season would be lost, that provides a hard target for the players to eye when it comes to absolutely finishing off the season.

Not that they want to finish it, but canceling a season would be pretty devastating to an owner or two who's already accepted accepted season-ticket money. Even if the fans get their money, plus one percent interest, back -- one has to think that each of the 31 individual NFL owners can procure a better interest rate over the course of a lost season that actually would equate to profit.

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Posted on: May 13, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 3:54 pm

GM: '1st ACL tear' to dampen voluntary workouts?

Posted by Will Brinson

Given the current labor climate, it's been pretty impressive to see NFL players in various cities rally around the leaders of their respective teams and start firing up some offseason workouts.

But it's easy to be optimistic when nothing's going wrong -- in a piece that ran Friday, Don Banks of Sports Illustrated talked to a GM who expressed concern about the future of these workouts once a major injury happens.

"Quite honestly, I'm waiting for the first ACL tear that happens and then we'll see if anyone talks about how great this whole workout program is for these young guys," the GM said. "I just think the potential downside outweighs the benefit. I know that's probably not conventional thinking, considering the Redskins won two championships off this kind of thing. [...]

NFL Labor

"Let someone lose their quarterback for eight months because he slipped and hurt something, be it a Drew Brees, a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning, then we'll see how fast these camps continue."

The unnamed GM is correct -- if someone who is a) extremely notable or b) angling for a new contract suffers a major injury during these workouts, they'll probably come to a quick halt.

And while freak injuries are a part of exercising (for anyone), it's worth noting that these voluntary workouts aren't exactly conducive to serious injury problems -- Brees noted that players "take a risk by being here" but also pointed out that there's "absolutely no contact."

And from the perspective of the players involved, it also helps to keep them together at a time when they appear to need unity more than ever.

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Posted on: May 10, 2011 11:31 pm

'NFLPR' files odd Motion in NFL lockout appeal

Posted by Will Brinson

Perhaps the most bizarre thing to come out of the lockout yet happened on Tuesday afternoon, when an "organization" named the National Football League Players' Reserve (NFLPR) filed a Motion to Intervene in the NFL's appeal with the 8th Circuit.

This is odd because no one really seems to know what the NFLPR is, although it's described in the filing as a "separate single entity nominative fair use organization whose reference and interests pertain to collegiate rookie football players entering the ranks" of the NFL.

This is strange because, insofar as anyone can tell, there are no collegiate rookie football players associated with this organization that no one knows about.

It's even more strange because, if you try to find out about the organization, the only things you'll really run into are a suggestion to Google "NFL PR" (like NFL public relations), NFL "Power Rankings" links and a link to NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy's Twitter page (@NFLPRGuy).

Things get even weirder, though, as this motion was filed by David R. Flood, President, National Football League Players' Reserve (as well as a US Army veteran apparently). Flood, who is representing the NFLPR pro se in this matter, could not be reached for comment.

There are some odd things in the case, but for the moment they probably don't matter too much, as most reports circulating indicate that this motion is frivolous at best and will likely be either a) ignored or b) dismissed. The only reason it warrants mentioning? Because it somehow became the weirdest thing to happen in this already weird NFL labor dispute.

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Posted on: May 9, 2011 4:04 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2011 4:06 pm

No lockout ruling coming Monday

Posted by Will Brinson

Here's what we know about the timing for a ruling from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on the current temporary stay that put the lockout back in place: it might or might not happen.

Actually, we also know it ain't happening Monday, either. That's because, according to Clerk of Court Michael Gans -- via Judy Battista of the New York Times -- the judges involved in the panel that could decide the fate of the NFL are traveling today.

So that means we get to wait (again!) and try to guess whether or not the Court of Appeals will side with the NFL or the players.

The best guess, I think, is to expect the court to stick with the NFL on the issue of any stay leadinup to the June 3 appeal date.

Logically speaking, it makes little sense to cut things wide open around the league before the ruling. If that happened and the court turned over Judge Susan Richard Nelson's ruling, then the league would be forced to re-lockout the players just a few short weeks/months after having the original lockout removed.

NFL Labor

That would be a public relations nightmare, for sure, but it would also create a really bizarre set of circumstances. Would you want your team to sign Matt Hasselbeck to a three-year, multi-million dollar deal when you don't even know when he'll get his 2011 playbook, much les if he'll even play this season? I sure wouldn't.

Then there's the whole matter of figuring out exactly what set of rules the league will operate by -- anything too restrictive, and they risk running afoul of antitrust issues, and there's a serious loss of negotiating leverage if they make their rules too lax.

Which is why it's entirely possible that we're starting to hear the rumors of new free-agency rules and even the old, shut-the-NFL-down when we lose number.

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Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:20 am

Brees is paying for the Saints' extra workouts

Posted by Will Brinson

Yesterday, we brought you the news that Drew Brees and 37 other Saints were working out voluntarily to try and gain an edge for the 2011 season.

But there's an even more fascinating twist to the story: Brees is paying for the workouts. The former Super Bowl MVP is footing the bill for "most of the expenses," according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, including the Tulane staff to work the players out as well as lodging and insurance for some younger members of the team.

And he doesn't appear to concerned about the possibility that the bill for the workouts could approach "five figures" because of the lockout.

"Who knows," Brees said. "We'll see. But it's worth it."

Brees' leadership role is clearly having an effect on the players.

"When you have a leader like that on your team, it makes it easy for guys to rally around and understand what's available to us," right tackle Jon Stinchcomb said.

Stinchcomb's right -- as I said in the previous post about the Saints' workouts, it's pretty obvious that leadership is going to show itself with these offseason workouts through the way that various teams workout sans structure from the clubs.
NFL Labor

"I feel like the more organized you can be as a team and the more that you can communicate during this time ... I think the better off we'll be once the season does come around," Brees said.

He's right. But how many guys will actually (and literally) put their money where their mouth is in a situation like this? Answer: probably not many.

This is why Brees is a respected leader in the league, a Super-Bowl champion, and the most vocal of the named plaintiffs in the current antitrust suit against the NFL.

In a time when players are supposed to be saving money and worrying about their future, and when many of them are being derided by fans for fighting over a large sum of money, the example Brees is setting is almost bafflingly impressive.

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Posted on: May 3, 2011 2:35 pm

37 Saints join workouts organized by Brees

Posted by Will Brinson

With the once-lifted lockout now in place until the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals rules -- likely coming later this week -- players are back in limbo. But the would-be rudderless ship of one team, the New Orleans Saints, has some pretty good direction, with 37 players participating in voluntary workouts organized by quarterback Drew Brees.

"We would all be working out somewhere anyway, so why not do it together," Brees said. "I feel like this is putting us way ahead of other teams by having it so organized."

He's right -- it's pretty obvious that when it comes to the 2011 season, teams will probably be split into tiers when it comes to an advantage out of the starting gate.

There will be one tier of teams that worked out together, frequently, who will be ahead of everyone else. There's another tier of teams who remain "loosely organized" but don't have a firm workout plan in place. And there'll probably be a tier of teams that don't do a whole lot of organizing.

Yes, it seems safe to say that you can figure out which will be which based on a) leadership and b) organizational structure. (Think "Saints vs. Bengals," basically.)

That being said, if people aren't at these workouts won't be looked at in a bad way by the rest of the team.
NFL Labor

"I don't blame them if they're not here," said Brees, who is one of the plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against the NFL. "We have no injury protection (as we would) if we were at the facility.

"You take a risk by being here."

Indeed it is a risk -- anyone that suffered a season-ending injury practicing when the league is locked out won't be subject to a lot of the perks they'd have were this a "normal" year.

But at some point, it should be normal in the NFL again, and those players will want to have the biggest possible advantage ... without causing any long-term damage to the roster.

"This is about getting guys back in, getting guys in the flow," Brees said. "We'll escalate it at some point to routes.

"There will be absolutely no contact. The point is to get guys together as a team."

Don't sleep on one more unintended -- or perhaps not? -- effect of these workouts: by bringing the players on the Saints together, Brees is also ensuring that, in a time of labor strife and factions-in-waiting, his troops remain unified.

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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