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Friday, March 04, 2011

It's official: We're in uncharted territory

A month ago, the Steelers were playing the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.

Now, who knows?

Free agency would have begun today had the owners decided not to tear up the old CBA and start negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

We should be talking about who's coming, who's going and what those moves mean in terms of next month's draft.

Instead, the entire league is in limbo.

It's likely that the league and players will continue to extend negotiations – and that's a good thing. It means that at least they're talking and things haven't gotten contentious enough that they no longer have anything to talk about.

But if it continues long enough that we start getting close to the draft at the end of April, things could get very interesting.

Usually, free agency opens up and teams draft according to who they lose and who they are able to sign.

This year, things could be different. Teams may have to draft and then hope that they're able to fill the holes.

Also, while teams will proceed with their draft plans as usual, it's the post-draft stuff that could get interesting.

With no new CBA in place, rookies won't be able to go through any mini-camps or other offseason workouts. They won't even be permitted to meet with coaches.

And undrafted rookies won't be permitted to sign with any team.

The longer that process goes on, the tougher it will be for rookies to make a contribution in 2011 and the more difficult it will become for undrafted rookies to make a roster.


adamg said...

I'm sure losing the court case over the TV revenue made the owners a lot more interested in continuing talks than they were before it.

Dale Lolley said...

You're probably right about that. Then again, many are going the route of laying off their support staff, or at the very least, trimming pay. That helps offset costs.

I don't think the Steelers will do that - they already have a staff that's about half of what most teams have.

adamg said...

Salaries saved by staff layoffs is chump change in the big picture. Not having $Bs of pure profit income won't be that easily overcome. I think we both know the owners were smugly counting on it to allow them to break the will of the union.

Normally, I wouldn't have much sympathy for millionaries fighting with billionaries over pieces of a very large pie, but I was stunned to learn that the NFL drops health insurance a mere 5 years after a player retires. Truly an unconscionable act given the toll pro football takes on a player's body.

Anonymous said...

The NFL is capitalism at its worst (and best!) The way the whole system works can not be looked at with the emotional "if it were me" approach.
Lets face it...if the rest of America operated like the NFL...this place would be hell.

Anonymous said...

America running under Obama is hell

marc said...

I am curious. when you retire, if you are not already, how many years of health insurance will your current employer provide?

also, i believe the current 5 years provided by the owners was "collectively bargained" and agreed to by the players.

should individuals in high risk jobs receive higher compensation and additional health benefits above and beyond the norm? sure. but i think NFL football players are already compensated more than average and receive better than average health insurance.

these football players are not being "tricked" into anything. this is the profession they choose and are fully aware of the potential consequences. if they are not wise enough to save money on the side to help offset potential future medical costs then that is their own problem, not the owners.

now i know these numbers aren't exact (i.e. suisham was added mid year), they are pretty accurate from another site: 32 of 58 paid players had a cap charge over $1 million. 23 of 58 had a base salary over $1 million. The base salary of the 10 lowest paid steelers is $320k.

please, don't anyone tell me these guys are left hanging in the wind when their playing days are over. they are paid handsomely for their services and should be more than capapble of meeting their needs. if they blow their money then can't afford medical care, that's their fault. no one else.

kyle said...


i know you were addressing adamg but still...I don't think anyone is sympathetic to current players crying poor. There are, however, many players from the era before giant salaries and unfettered free agency. When the NFL starts taking every reasonable measure to protect the health of their employees than I'll agree that they don't owe them post-retirement health care but as long as the helmets and pads are a result of the highest bidder and not the safest equipment I say the NFL could at least stroke a few checks.

marc said...

clearly, players from past eras deserve a certain level of care due to the lack of understanding during those times.

the nfl doesn't already attempt to give the players the best? i would venture to say the medical and training staffs for these teams is top notch. the players are receiving world class care around the clock. repair and rehabbing of injuries is fully covered by the teams. you and i don't get that kind of treatment from our employers.

as for the helmets, i may be wrong, but can't a player buy a different kind of helmet if they want? i seem to remember a wide receiver saying he tried a "concussion" proof helmet but it hurt just to wear it.

i don't think anyone would say the owners have been negligent on player health. could they do more - maybe - but i would argue that today's football player is as well equipped as any athlete in the world.

the players are out for a bigger slice of pie because they, like everyone else, sees the pie getting a whole lot bigger in the future. the owners - you know, the ones that pay all the expenses and run the company - don't want to hand more out because they shouldn't have too. remember, they OWN the company.

adamg said...

Marc, I am retired and I do have health insurance. The average career of an NFL player is less than 4 years, iirc. Whatever "big" money is handed out is usually in the form of a long NON-GUARANTEED contract and even that is a relatively recent occurance.

The NFL owners make billions of dollars every year and would have a fairly large insurance pool of former and current players. For the league not to cover their former employees
reflects poorly on them, imho.

kyle said...


No. the players can't just buy any helmet they want. there are "concussion" helmets and things they can try but only the ones made by, I believe, Reebok. Everything the NFL does involves an exclusive contract. That's why Mike Nolan used to get fined every Sunday for wearing a suit on the sidelines and not the contracted gear. NFL players are taken care of less than any other professional athletes. They have shorter careers, make less, generate astronomically higher revenues, and have the worst free agency. They're millionaires. A lot of them are very dumb with their money. A lot of investment bankers are very dumb with their money, it just doesn't get reported on ESPN. The labor dispute isn't about the players wanting a bigger slice; it's about the owners wanting to tip the scales back in their own favor. I think it should settle on a 50/50 split. but that's just me.

marc said...

do you pay for your health insurance? if not, without getting to personal, what industry does your former employer operate within?

the players still have the option for the concussion helmet. if they choose not to wear it, whose fault is that?

and regarding the money issue - i'm a financial planner and have many clients who earn six or seven figures a year. it's disgusting to me how these players blow thru money then cry they don't have health insurance after they retire. the lack of planning falls on them and only them.

and since when should the employees get the same slice of the pie as the owners? ridiculous.

kyle said...

The "concussion" helmet isn't tremendously effective. There is equipment that is much better but players aren't allowed to use it.

As far as money, I agree for every Charlie Batch who wisely invests and owns several businesses there seem to be 50 Pacman Jones but how someone spends their money is none of my business.

The players should get the same slice of pie as the owners because the owners get special anti-trust exemptions from the government. Carson Palmer, for instance, if the Bengals don't trade him he'll have to retire at least until his contract is up. Apart from non-competition clauses (which are nowhere near as binding as nfl player contracts) there is no precedent in the normal business world. Using non-athletic businesses as an example doesn't hold up.

marc said...

last i checked, palmer signed the contract too and received quite a bit of money for doing so. if he wants to break the contract, why should he be allowed to play for another team?

and all major sports have anti-trust exemption. for the very simple reason they are "major sports" where the barriers to entry are insanely high because of the cost. it would be impossible for baseball, football, basketball or hockey to operate under normal anti-trust rules because of the dynamics of the industry.

and the non-athletic world is a good example. i have a client who earns a $35,000 salary. but his commissions are seven figures. you see, he is paid based on performance. hmmm, novel idea. and if he walks on his contract, he has a non-compete in the industry anywhere in the U.S. for 5 years. and when he retires, he is responsible for his own healthcare.

and the whole healthcare issue from the players is bogus. they say they want better healthcare in retirement, but only because they don't want to PAY for it themselves. they want someone else to PAY for it.

the nfl is great because players don't dominate and control free agency and the flow of dollars. if they keep getting what they want, the nfl will end being like the nba. oooh, can't wait.

kyle said...

I typed a whole response and then clicked the wrong button and it was lost, so i'll boil down to my main points. If NFL owners want the luxuries of franchise tags, restricted free agency, and non-guaranteed contracts; and the advantages of anti-trust exemptions (which I know are the only way a professional sports league can operate)and public/private ventures for stadiums then they have to accept the restrictions of government meddling at times and they shouldn't whine about reinvesting half of the revenues back into the product - the players.

kyle said...

oh, and your client who earns money based on performance isn't a good example. Would you say Lamarr Woodley has been paid his market value for the last three years? And this year if they don't work out a deal he'll be franchised. If (please no) he's injured then he'll have been a super bowl winning, pro bowl selected, pivotal player for a championship team and will have made less over 4 years than most place kickers. The owners have all the advantages, splitting the revenues shouldn't be a sticking point.

adamg said...

Marc, I do pay part of my health insurance premiums. For a multi-billion dollar industry, it should provide, or at least offer, group health insurance to its former employees.

As for the not sharing revenue with the players, would you pay to watch the National Football Owners League? Didn't think so. Without the players, there's no league and no revenue. (The Packers are publicly owned so there's not even a need for private ownership of the franchises.)

Also keep in mind the 60/40 revenue split in favor of the players is AFTER the owners take 1B off the top for themselves.

marc said...

please don't ignore woodley's guaranteed signing bonus of $2.8 million before he even put on a steeler helmet. ask the jet's what happens when a high pick turns bust and how much money it costs, i.e. vernon gholston.

and franchised for at what, $10.2 million for a year. not bad. then a mega contract with $15+ million in guaranteed bonus money after that.

did woodley out perform his rookie deal - of course. and will he get paid for it - of course. and let's say he plays and gets hurt next year, that puts his 5 years of nfl ball to around $14 million. i think he can afford health care.

marc said...

without the owners there's no where for the players to play. the owners put up the money and pay the bills. owners take the majority of risk, always have and always will. that's why they should get majority of the profits.

the packers situation is unique and workable because of the small market size.

why do you feel the size of an industry means that industry should foot your health insurance bills? i asked what industry you were in before because highly unionized industries typically have health insurance partially if not fully covered by while the rest of working america picks it up on their own.

kyle said...

The reason retirement health care benefits are such a point of contention is the game destroys people. You'll find a lot of industries that provide at least partial health care coverage for retirees among high risk industries. You can say "well, nobody is twisting James Harrison's arm to play football." But I can say "Nobody twisted Jerry Jones' arm to buy the Cowboys."

NFL players aren't paid millions of dollars to hurt themselves; they're paid millions of dollars because that's the market for their services (for better or worse). Hurting themselves shouldn't be considered an attendant issue.

marc said...

and if james harrison intentionally ignores the training staff when he knows he has a concussion to stay in the game, who should end up paying for consequences of that down the road? the owners?

and, it's not as if the players don't have anything after retirement. they get 5 years free. somebody, anybody, please enlighten me to another profession that provides 5 years of free healthcare after retirement.

kyle said...

please enlighten me as to another profession where not being charged or convicted of a crime can get you suspended and fined.

kyle said...

Sorry. I wasn't trying to be snarky (maybe a little) but my point is players and owners in the NFL are not subject to things that most people in business are, they're also subject to many things that none of us are. The players' only real leverage is that they are among the few people who can adequately perform their job. I'm not going to compare NFL players to construction workers who were poisoned with asbestos but if your employees work in an hazardous environment you have to expect to compensate them (and not with signing bonuses).

adamg said...

Really don't understand why you're against an employer providing group health insurance to employees, especially one where a debilitating condition might not manifest itself until years after a player retires. As big an industry as the NFL is, they could probably self-insure.

marc said...

every industry in the U.S. that has provided group health insurance and pension benefits to retirees has gone thru major bankrupties. auto workers, steel workers, truckers, and now states. those costs are referred to as "legacy costs."

clearly, some injuries manifest themselves several years down the road. however, those types of injuries afflict players with longer playing careers who therefore earn more money. therefore, it would be logical for a player with a longer playing career than average to be aware of his potential problems and financially plan to cover his health insurance costs to minimize the financial impact. that's called risk management. people do it all the time. maybe someone should clue the nfl players in on that.

i just have no sympathy for an employee who wants a handout from their employer when they are already compensated incredibly well for their services.

joe said...

if there is a lockout or continued extensions, does anyone know if players can still be signed ? i'm guessing not, but don't know. if not we go into the draft not knowing if ike will be a steeler next season and needing two corners ?