NFL contract in sight … but not done yet


NFL: Friday’s notebook

Howard Fendrich/ Associated Press

Noting “progress has been made,” NFL owners and players wrapped up a round of intensive talks Friday without a full agreement to end the league’s four-month lockout, but determined to keep pushing over the weekend.

NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith expects to speak with commissioner Roger Goodell in the next couple days while the two sides’ legal and financial teams continue working.

After about eight hours of negotiations in New York on Friday — tacked onto more than 25 hours across Wednesday and Thursday — the league and players issued a joint statement, saying: “The discussions this week have been constructive and progress has been made on a wide range of issues.”

They did not reveal details, citing a gag order imposed by the court-appointed mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.

“I wouldn’t dare speculate on where we are,” said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, one of six members of the owners labor committee participating Friday.

But people familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press that Friday’s talks moved beyond economic issues to cover other remaining areas where gaps need to be bridged to finish off a deal. That included player health and safety matters, such as offseason workout rules.

The aim was to build upon the significant steps made Thursday, when the framework for a rookie salary system was established, including that first-round draft picks will sign four-year contracts with a club option for a fifth year.

On another financial matter, the per-team cap figure for 2011 will be in the range of $120 million in salaries plus about $20 million or so in benefits, according to people with knowledge of the talks.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations aimed at breaking the impasse are confidential.

One person said owners first learned Thursday the NFLPA set up $200,000 in “lockout insurance” for each player if the 2011 season were lost entirely, a policy that cost at least $10 million and was taken out nearly a year ago.

That policy was first reported by SI.com.

The NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987 began in March, when owners locked out players after negotiations broke down and the collective bargaining agreement expired.

Now the preseason is just a few weeks away.

The Hall of Fame game that opens the exhibition season is Aug. 7 between the Rams and Bears in Canton. The teams hope to be in training camp by next weekend.

Yet, camps won’t start before a new CBA is in place.

Boylan, who has been on vacation, ordered both sides to meet with him in Minneapolis early next week, and the owners have a special meeting set for next Thursday in Atlanta, where they potentially could ratify a new deal — if one is reached by then.

Any agreement also must be voted on by groups of players, including the named plaintiffs in a class-action antitrust lawsuit pending in federal court and the NFLPA’s 32 team representatives.

“We made some progress; we continue to have a lot of work to do,” Smith said as he left Friday’s session at a Manhattan law firm. “I know everybody is frustrated, and they want a definitive answer. I hate to disappoint you; you’re not going to get one right now. We’re going to continue to work, and I think that’s a positive sign.”

Retirees want say

Carl Eller , the Hall of Fame defensive end, is unhappy about how he and his fellow retirees have been treated as owners and current players negotiate a new deal to split more than $9 billion in revenue.

That deal, of course, will include retirement benefits for the former players of this dangerous sport.

Eller and other retirees have sued both the NFL and the NFL Players Association, complaining that they’ve illegally been left out of the latest talks after taking part in court-ordered mediation sessions earlier this year.

As loudly as they’ve raised their concerns, they’re not interested in derailing a deal.

“We’re not looking for a fight. We’re just looking to make things right. If football stops on our account, we don’t want to be left holding the bag. We just want what we’ve earned,” Eller said. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt the game.”

Terry Foster: NFL lockout’s fine with us — just don’t dare miss a game


Terry Foster

The reality of an NFL lockout hit full force Monday when I saw Lions kicker Jason Hanson at the drinking fountain at my local Life Time Fitness.

He was doing mostly weight training on a slow Monday morning in the gym.

He’s got nowhere to train because he is not allowed inside the Lions practice facility and cannot talk to coaches and the training staff. The king of sports is shut down. It just hasn’t hit home for the rest of us because we have not missed one game, one hit or another Lions loss.

We haven’t gathered around the water cooler on a Monday morning second-guessing coach Jim Schwartz or wondering if Matthew Stafford will last the season. Everything seems status quo outside of those clips we saw a few weeks ago of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and New England quarterback Tom Brady walking down the street before and after negotiations.

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The NFL now is a 365-day-a-year league. The draft is scheduled as normal, beginning two weeks from this Thursday. The draft guides are out. Fans are discussing who the Lions should take with the 13th pick and even the top collegiate athletes will walk across the stage, shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand, and wear a cap of the team that selected them.

After that, the league will roll into bubble wrap unless a deal is hammered out.

ESPN is reporting that a judge will impose forced mediation on the NFLPA and the NFL. The two sides both agree that more mediation is necessary, but they cannot even agree where to have it.

I won’t bore you with the details because I get the feeling the public doesn’t really care. ESPN provided wall-to-wall coverage and I admit I often turned the channel midway through it. Now when I see lockout news, I just shut it off.

This is April, not August when training camp begins. Players will miss some OTAs and will be forced to work out with you and me. So what? It just doesn’t hit home yet with the public with what is going on.

For players, it does. Hanson said most of the players he talks to are trying to maintain things now, but at some point they will need to find trainers to push them further. Some guys have returned home while others have found workout partners in the Detroit area.

This whole thing seems ridiculous. The owners are not losing money. The players are not going broke. And the league is the most prosperous in our country. I still am trying to figure out what the point of this lockout is. What you have is a few hundred people trying to figure out how to slice up a multi-billion dollar pie.

Meanwhile, the people who really will get hurt are the little guys trying to hammer out a minimum-wage salary. The people who work concessions and show us to our seats need that money. Sunday’s are always a great source of business for the bars and restaurants in Detroit who need every high-ticket day they can get.

It might just be eight dates, but NFL gameday packs a huge punch that can make a place profitable for the week.

These are the people I think about.

It was great seeing Hanson on Monday but I don’t want to see him in my gym. Get out.

There is plenty of room for him, but he belongs in Allen Park with the rest of the Lions.

terry.foster@detnews.com

Browns cut former Lions DT Shaun Rogers


NFL: Notebook

Associated Press / Associated Press

Cleveland— The Browns are cleaning house. On Wednesday, team officials terminated the contracts of some big-name players, including their biggest player — enormous nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who also played for the Lions.

In addition, the Browns, who are rebuilding once again under new coach Pat Shurmur, also released veteran linebackers Eric Barton and David Bowens (Michigan), defensive end Kenyon Coleman, tight end Robert Royal and right offensive tackle John St. Clair.

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Rogers, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was due to make $5.5 million in 2011 with a $500,000 roster bonus.

Rogers was on his own practice schedule last season, resting a leg injury so he could play on Sundays.

A Pro Bowler in 2008, Rogers played in 15 games, but made only one start and finished with just 17 tackles.

The Lions traded Rogers to the Browns in 2008 for cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round draft pick.

Ticket holders sue NFL

Ticket-holding football fans that ended up with no seats or what they considered bad views of the Super Bowl have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones .

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Dallas alleges breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices on behalf of people who ended up watching the game on television at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, or had seats the lawsuit labeled “illegitimate.”

NFL officials had announced just hours before the Packers played the Steelers last weekend about 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe.

Officials scrambled to find new seats for about 850 people. The remaining 400 were forced to watch from standing-room locations around the stadium.

Cowboys and NFL officials had no comment Wednesday.

League, union meet

The NFL and players union representatives met for much of Wednesday afternoon in Washington to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement.

It was the second session in five days. Another session is set for today.

Neither side would comment on what was discussed or how fruitful the talks were.

Team owners opted out of the CBA in 2008 and the current contract expires March 3. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized the need to get a deal done soon during his Super Bowl news conference last week.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has said he expects the owners to lock out the players after the CBA expires.

Team owners want a bigger cut of the revenues, which are roughly $9 billion, as well as a rookie wage scale and to increase the regular season by two games to 18, dropping two exhibitions.