NFL attempting to sabotage NFLPA event

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Let me tell you a story about sabotage. It goes like this.

The NFL is holding the draft later this month. The NFLPA, in direct competition, is holding its own series of events in which the rookies meet past and present NFL greats including names like Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk and Warren Moon.

There's just one problem and that's where the sabotage comes in.

Multiple sources tell CBSSports.com that team scouts, personnel men and assistant coaches are informing agents that their draftees should stay away from the NFLPA event.

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The effort to ask the rookies to boycott the former union's draft events has infuriated several agents who spoke on the condition of anonymity to CBSSports.com out of fear of reprisal from the league.

One thing in particular has angered agents as well as members of the trade association. One of the lead draft analysts for NFL.com, which is league-owned, has contacted multiple draft prospects and told them not to attend the NFLPA event.

The analyst has called prospects, in some cases, six and seven times, telling them that if they attended the NFLPA event they would not be allowed to attend the NFL Draft and walk on stage with commissioner Roger Goodell.

An NFL spokesman said he was unaware of such accusations and added that players are allowed to make whatever decision they'd like regarding the draft.

Agents believe this is a coordinated effort by the league to undermine the NFLPA event and is a direct response to the NFLPA once threatening to withhold rookies from the draft.

This latest dispute further demonstrates the bitterness between the two sides. Both see the draft as a vital public relations moment and it appears the NFL is doing whatever it takes to get the advantage.

The players and owners begin mediation likely this week to end the lockout and perhaps get a new collective bargaining agreement. If no agreement is reached and the battle heads to court the draft will be one of the last football events for months.

This entire lockout fight has been nasty but this has made it even nastier. Perhaps most interesting is that the trade association's draft plans don't conflict with the league's. The NFLPA's events will happen several days prior to the draft.

The NFLPA announced the rookie group of players who are scheduled to attend its functions includes: Prince Amukamara (Nebraska), Marvin Austin (North Carolina), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa), Marcell Dareus (Alabama), Nick Fairley (Auburn), Blaine Gabbert (Missouri), A.J. Green (Georgia), Mark Ingram (Alabama), Julio Jones (Alabama), Cameron Jordan (Cal), Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Corey Liuget (Illinois), Von Miller (Texas A&M), Rahim Moore (UCLA), Cam Newton (Auburn), Patrick Peterson (LSU), Robert Quinn (North Carolina), Aldon Smith (Missouri), Daniel Thomas (Kansas State), and J.J. Watt (Wisconsin).

Other veterans scheduled to attend include Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice and Sam Bradford.

How nasty will this draft battle get?

It can't get much uglier now with the league allegedly trying to discourage players from attending the NFLPA event.

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