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NFL Lockout still looming over upcoming season

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“Just when I thought they couldn’t they couldn’t get any stupider, they go and do something like this. . .”

That’s a quote from an aptly named movie for how I feel regarding both the confusing jargon surrounding the NFL labor dispute between players and owners, and the fact that the four-month lockout has yet to be ended, Dumb and Dumber.

A deal that would have ended the NFL lockout and allowed players to open training camps on Saturday was nearly done by the late Thursday.  It turns out the word nearly apparently means not very close at all.

After four months of negotiations, the NFL owners had finally come up with a proposal that would meet most of the demands of both sides.  The owners then voted on the proposal and, not surprisingly, it passed with sounding approval, a 31-0 vote in favor of the agreement.  The owners rejoiced at their feat of unity and, according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, gave NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and his negotiating team a standing ovation for their ability to work out a settlement.  The proposal was sent to the NFL Players Association representatives and an approving vote by the NFL players was expected by late Thursday night or early Friday morning.

“It’s been long and at times has been very, very difficult,” Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson told the media.  “We’re confident that the players and the teams have arrived at a good place.  We think we have a fair, balanced agreement.”

It turns out the owners’ proposal wasn’t quite as popular with the players as the owners originally thought.

According to SI.com, shortly after being informed of the details of the proposed deal and the owners’ unanimous vote, NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith sent an email to player representatives from each team.

“Issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open; other issues, such as workers’ compensation, economic issues and end of deal terms, remain unresolved.  There is no agreement between the NFL and the players at this time,” wrote Smith.

Player representatives such as George Wilson of the Buffalo Bills were angered by the proposal and echoed Smith’s sentiment, calling the owners’ vote “an attempt to break the spirits of our men and to fracture the solidarity that we’ve exemplified thus far.”

“Ultimately, the guys felt like this thing is being force-fed to us, that it’s being shoved down our throats,” Wilson told The Associated Press.  “And the way everything transpired Thursday evening, in a sense, was trying to add more pressure to the situation and force us to accept a deal without really being able to see all the details of what they voted on.”

Not surprisingly, the players decided that they would not vote on the owners’ proposal Thursday night there was no scheduled vote to take place today.

Although the owners’ proposal contains several terms that met the demands of players, most notably keeping the season at 16 games rather than extending it to 18 games, health insurance for life, significant changes to off-season workouts that would give players more days off and a generous 47 percent of the NFL’s revenue, player representatives argued that the contract also contained terms regarding such things as a supplemental revenue-sharing plan between owners, something the players claimed they had no part in during negotiations.

How the owners’ sharing of money amongst themselves has any effect on the players as long as they still get their percent of the pie, or why the players are now claiming the NFL is trying to shove an agreement down their throat, despite getting much of what they sought during negotiations, seems a bit confusing.  One thing that is clear? Both sides still don’t trust one another quite yet.

Here’s another thing made perfectly clear by the owners regarding their proposal: the players have until Wednesday to approve the deal or it will be taken off the table.  Should the players approve, teams may begin holding workouts at club facilities as early as Saturday and players’ contracts can be re-negotiated and teams can negotiate, but not sign free agents.  On Wednesday, the NFL season would officially begin with training camps and free-agency opening in full.

Obviously a deal is close to being done, possibly even by the end of the weekend.  At this point it seems like the only arguments left are over small details, and it’s hard to tell who will come out of these negotiations a winner.  Maybe the owners are trying to sneak stuff by the players, but at least they’re putting proposals on the table.

And I’m sorry George Wilson, but regarding your point of the owners’ forcing a deal down your throat: you should feel pressure to get a deal done.  It’s the fans who are paying your salaries, and it’s the fans that are missing out on football.  Take care of business. Because, to answer Harry’s question to Lloyd in that famous 90’s film starring Jim Carey, “you know what really chaps my ass?”

That the NFL lockout has yet to be resolved.

photos courtesy of RMTips, Keith Allison, and Andrew Malone via flickr

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