Friday new$ and note$

CBA progress…or not

Hope floated on Wednesday with news that the NFL and the NFLPA were meeting for two days, following up their vow of intensity after the Super Bowl to reach a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) by the expiration of the existing one on March 4. Hopes were dashed, however, after cancellation of Thursday’s meeting. The reason for the scrapping of the second day is unclear, though not a good sign. Reports have suggested the owners walked out of the session in frustration, although those reports are coming from the players' side. There will be increasing effort to show the fans and media that one side is trying to get a deal done more than the other; in the end that is all superflous.

I may be alone here, but I am still optimistic a deal can be done here: three weeks is an eternity in the negotiating process. I still choose not to believe the gloom and doom, despite how much pessimism there bay be.

One reason for hope is the bargaining session last Saturday. With scores of players and owners in Dallas for the Super Bowl, the opportunity was used for high-powered and potentially effective people from both sides to participate in the bargaining.

Previously, the large-group bargaining between the two sides was done with substantially the same people in the room. The NFL’s negotiating team has been led by outside counsel Bob Batterman (referred to by the union as the “lockout lawyer”), senior executives Jeff Pash and Eric Grubman, Giants owner John Mara and Packers president Mark Murphy. The NFLPA’s team has been outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler (a longtime pebble in the shoe of the NFL and NBA), in-house counsel Richard Berthelsen and player leaders such as Kevin Mawae, Pete Kendall, Domonique Foxworth and Scott Fujita.

Jerry RichardsonICONRichardson's views are strong.

On Saturday, present were two owners representing the opposite ends of their spectrum: the optimistic Robert Kraft and the pessimistic Jerry Richardson. Both men are highly respected among the membership; it will be interesting to track which other owners are lining up behind their views. Richardson is seen as perhaps the most hawkish NFL owner in this dispute.

On the players’ side, two A-list heavyweights showed up to the session on Saturday. Drew Brees has been active in leadership of the NFLPA and came along with Peyton Manning. Manning, not previously involved in any bargaining, is scheduled to become a free agent, pending the negotiation of the Franchise tag application between the two sides.

The presence of Brees and Manning gives at least the appearance of weight and muscle to the player’s position. Added bulk comes from two other “it” players in the NFL, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, both alternate player reps for their teams.

Having these players active in the union can only help and certainly cannot hurt their cause. Moreover, their activity will quiet and quell any comments coming out of splinter players or groups such as the Antonio Cromartie outburst a couple of weeks ago.

After cancellation of yesterday’s session, I’m not sure if there was tangible progress, but the timing and location of the Super Bowl meeting created an opportunity to involve key actors in this drama. And that opportunity was not wasted..I think.

Treasure to trash begins

The annual ritual of “treasure to trash” has begun for 2011. The phrase is one I use often when a team changes course on a player once thought to be a major contributor to their fortunes relatively soon after that time. It usually occurs when a player was inked as a free agent, often a splashy signing that filled a short-term need at the expense of developing long-term talent. As the Super Bowl champion Packers are showing, the “draft and develop” formula is becoming a proven model of success rather than the quick-fix mentality of big free agent signings.

Shaun Rogers was acquired by the Browns from the Lions in 2008 and immediately rewarded with a six-year, $42 million contract with $23 million in the first three years. Having been paid that $23 million, Rogers has now been cast aside from the team that was so happy to acquire and reward him three years ago.

Rogers now becomes a free agent able to sign with any team (he is visting the Redskins today), but only if he does so prior to March 3rd, the end of the current CBA.

On another note, also released by the Browns was a player named David Bowens, the feature character in one of my most memorable stories from working with the Packers.

Depositions coming in Dallas

We knew this was coming: litigation if coming in the matter of the displaced ticketholders from the Super Bowl in Dallas. Although the NFL and the Cowboys have worked hard to try to make the group whole from its unfortunate experience at the Super Bowl, we knew that this would not end well for the league or the team.

There appear to be several groups of people within the 2500 displaced people. 400 or so of them went to a clubhouse to watch. Others were spread to whatever spaces that could be found, sometimes without any explanation.

Some of the displaced seat holders were employee groups from both the Packers and the Steelers. When I was in the concourse before the game at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, I saw some old colleagues from the Packers administration being led around the stadium by an official. They looked confused, angry and bewildered.

Eventually the Packer group was given tickets to sit in a suite, but the suite was already full of people. Thus, they experienced watching their team win the Super Bowl while standing in the back of the suite or sitting either on the floor or in the aisles. Not exactly the memory they want to have of one of the best days of their professional lives.

Both of the groups of employees from the Steelers and Packers are being asked to document their experiences to the NFL so that proper retribution can be made.

I feel for both sides. The NFL and the Cowboys were staging a massive event with thousands of things that could have gone wrong, and a few did. However, they had years to prepare for every eventuality, and this one caught them surprisingly off-guard.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

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