NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith Set Ground Work For New CBA Talks
Talks of a new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the players union are expected to begin next month, in an effort to avoid a lockout that could disrupt the 2011 season.
Jeff Pash, the NFL’s executive vice president and general counsel, said Tuesday at the NFL meetings he believes both the league and new NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith have laid the groundwork for these discussions to begin. Pash failed to elaborate on how long he projects these talks to last, adding that they would stay at it for as long as it takes.
NFL owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement last year, meaning there could be a labor-related stoppage if a new deal isn’t struck for the 2011 season. Combined with the global economic downturn and the chance of a longer NFL schedule, it seems possible talks between the league and union could be, at best, contentious.
“The right place to start is a place where the players understand why the owners opted out,” Smith said. “We all know that the players didn’t opt out of this deal. We do know the NFL generated in excess of $8 billion last year. We know that the average team has grown by 400 percent in 10 years. … What we don’t understand is what is wrong with the current deal when those facts exist.”
Smith reiterated Tuesday that he’d like to obtain more details on the league’s revenues, only to have commissioner Roger Goodell counter by saying the union knows details of the books “to the penny.”
Pash said the league has not set a deadline for a new deal to be struck, saying that would be counterproductive. “I think fans should be confident that we’re going to be single-minded in our focus on this as we possibly can,” Pash said. “I think it’s in everyone’s interest. We’ve had a very healthy partnership … it’s clearly in everyone’s interest to try to maintain that.”
The CBA isn’t the only issue the NFL will discuss with its players in the coming weeks and months. The prospect of more NFL games apparently is going to require more talking as well.
The NFL extended its television deals with Fox and CBS on Tuesday for two years through the 2013 season, and Goodell acknowledged those pacts allow for “flexibility” if the league added a 17th or 18th regular-season game. But it now seems likely no decision will be made until talks are held with the players.
“We have tried to look at this from every different perspective because you want to know the intended consequences and the unintended consequences,” Goodell said. “Whenever you’re dealing with the quality of the game, that’s a key factor.”
Smith said players need to be aware of what’s at stake for additional games. “The players understand the cost to their bodies,” he said. “The players understand how tough it is to get through a regular season. They understand how hard it is to try to stand up on a Monday morning. They understand why they need a day off on Tuesday. Their families understand when they get out of football and they have arthritis before they’re 40. They understand the cost.”