Well, the NFL Players Association sure has been busy.
Not only has the union taken up the flag of the Saints over the bounty suspensions, now it has taken direct aim at the NFL by filing a collusion complaint.
Let’s first go back a bit.
In early April, several media outlets, including the Globe, began taking a closer look at the economics of the new collective bargaining agreement after a few owners, including the Patriots’ Robert Kraft, commented that the NFL expected the salary cap to remain flat for a few years.
Those comments ran counter to what NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told agents in February.
Smith said the cap would be flat for a few years but the players would begin reaping the rewards of the new media contracts starting in 2014.
It didn’t take much effort or complex math to go back to the owners’ final offer before the lockout to see what the players gained or lost in cap space compared with the eventual CBA.
In 2011, the players gained $204.8 million total above the owners’ offer.
In 2012, the players will lose $12.8 million.
In 2013, under the owners’ projected flat cap, the players would lose $224 million, and in 2014, there would be $416 million in losses.
That’s $652.8 million lost in the final three years of the last offer - $448 million if the gains in 2011 are included.
NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth said he hadn’t crunched all the numbers, but he cast doubt on the owners’ statements that the cap would remain flat.
Well, six weeks later, the NFLPA finally put out some numbers to take aim at “anti-player’’ critics, in the words of NFLPA counsel Jeffrey Kessler.
Kessler listed several reasons why the new CBA is better than the old one. The points, which many are not debating, were: players previously were receiving 50 percent of all revenue in the old CBA; players are receiving more cash spent of the salary cap - 99 percent in 2011 and 2012 and 95 percent from 2013-20; there is more guaranteed money for draft picks; players get 55 percent of media revenue; players should see more revenue since there aren’t any stadiums being built (for which the owners receive a credit) in the near future; first-round rookies have earlier leverage thanks to the fifth-year club option that must be picked up after the third season; the NFLPA did not surrender group licensing rights; and the players have better work rules (i.e. limiting padded practices).
Kessler also pointed out that in 2011, the players absolutely gained off the owners’ final cap proposal.
And Kessler rightly points out that the players got the true-up to revenues that they desperately wanted. But the owners did have on the table a true-up at least in 2015 when they said the new television contracts would kick in. In the interim, the owners proposed giving the players a pegged cap that looks like it will be richer than an annual true-up.
At no time does Kessler dispute the owners’ contention that the salary cap will remain flat until 2015. He also doesn’t mention - which the NFLPA acknowledged for the first time last week - that the union signed off on the salary cap penalties for the Redskins and Cowboys in exchange for a cap adjustment in 2012 that kept their true-up from resulting in a lower cap than 2011, which would have been embarrassing.
“We believed at the time that it was the best deal for all players, that we had to do that in order to get the cap number to where we needed it to be,’’ NFLPA director of external affairs George Atallah said last week.
Why did the cap need to be anywhere but where the NFLPA negotiated? Why was the cap going to come in less than the year prior? How long will a cap shortfall - compared with the pegged cap - continue? Why aren’t the players striking it rich in 2014 with the new TV deals? Will the gains from 2015-20 offset the losses from 2012-14? What about those players who are near retirement that are seeing their salaries remain flat and won’t see the windfall of any cap increase?
Those are the questions that Kessler needs to answer.
That’s not to say the NFLPA won’t be proven right that it gained a lot by walking out on negotiations.
But now each side has had its say, and we’ll have to watch to see what actually transpires.
TACKLING THE LEGALITIES
Collusion suit may run into a blocker or two
The NFLPA’s charge of collusion against the league is extremely serious, and brought these pointed words from executive director DeMaurice Smith: “Cartels will do what cartels do when left unchecked.’’
So much for 10 years of labor peace.
The NFLPA said the collusion charge has to do with the 2010 uncapped year, but nothing to do with cap money clipped from the Redskins and Cowboys for the way they structured player contracts that year. That was something the NFLPA signed off on to get the cap boosted in 2012.
We’ll see if the collusion charge runs outside the scope of the agreement the NFL and NFLPA signed regarding the Redskins/Cowboys cap penalties. Whether it proceeds will depend on one more thing: whether the agreement signed as part of the new CBA precludes the NFLPA from even bringing this charge.
Mike Florio, who runs ProFootballTalk.com and is a lawyer, laid it out very well.
To move forward with CBAs, he said, the antitrust lawsuits filed by Reggie White in the 1990s and Tom Brady this time had to be dismissed with a “stipulation of dismissal.’’ Each side signed one in 2011 that read, “The parties stipulate to the dismissal with prejudice of all claims, known and unknown, whether pending or not, regarding the Stipulation and Settlement Agreement . . .’’
Seems fairly clear that the NFLPA can’t go back and argue something that it waived claim to. But NFLPA lead counsel Jeffrey Kessler said judge David Doty superseded the stipulation of dismissal by dismissing the case on his own.
“The court did not enter that proposed stipulation,’’ Kessler said. “Instead the court did its own ruling, which it’s allowed to do, which says that only claims pending are dismissed. That’s it.’’
Even before we get into what evidence the NFLPA has for the alleged “secret salary cap of $123 million’’ for 2010, the charge will have to get by the agreement that signed off on the cap penalties, and the stipulation of dismissal.
ANSWERING THE CALL
Brown is still making a difference as coach
Most of the time, when a player is informed he’s being released, it’s a very dark day. But for former Patriots linebacker Vincent Brown, it actually turned on a light.
“I recall very clearly when I got cut by the Patriots, Bill Parcells called me into his office and told me that they were releasing me,’’ Brown said. “He said to me, ‘You have the ability to influence other people. You need to find a way to use that.’
“And at the time, I’m just coming off of playing. I didn’t really give it a whole lot of thought. It took me a while to really understand what he meant by that.’’
Brown, who was the Patriots’ second-round pick in 1988 and started 103 games before being released prior to the 1996 season, became an assistant high school coach near Atlanta and he has risen steadily through the coaching ranks.
“The light clicked on,’’ Brown said. “I said, ‘OK, this is really what Coach Parcells was referring to,’ and it has been tremendous for me.’’
Brown, who earned All-Pro honors from 1991-93, is currently the linebackers coach/assistant special teams coach at the University of Virginia.
“The Undertaker’’ continued to build on his résumé - which includes stops with the Cowboys as linebackers coach under Parcells in 2006 and the University of Richmond - by taking part in the NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy last week in Dallas.
“It was excellent,’’ said Brown, who attended for the second straight year. “This one was extremely valuable. I always look forward to these events to be around a bunch of guys that are willing and eager to learn more about developing their craft as a coach, and to gain some different perspectives on what it takes to continue to progress in the profession.’’
Brown said several of the speakers were persuasive, including former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly, who spoke on the player evaluation process.
Brown said he doesn’t have any grand aspirations for his coaching career - just that he wants to continue to do it.
Getting tripped up by rule’s low threshold
Yes, the NFL should be more forthcoming with the evidence it has on the Saints in the bounty case, and commissioner Roger Goodell said last week that it will be. But what a lot of people - including some directly involved in the case - seem to forget or do not understand is that the NFL doesn’t need to show that any players or coaches actually paid or received payment to be in violation of the rule. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who was suspended for the 2012 season, tweeted that he “never paid nor intended to pay any amount of money to any player for intentionally hurting an opponent.’’ And NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said, “We have not seen one piece of evidence that would show that one of those players got paid to target a player and injure him and get him out of the game.’’ Notice what Vilma did not deny? That he offered payment for injuries, which is what the NFL contends he did. And Smith seems to think evidence of payment is needed. It’s not. Here’s the bounty rule: “No bonus or award may directly or indirectly be offered, promised, announced, or paid to a player for his or his team’s performance against a particular team or opposing player or a particular group thereof. No bonuses or awards may be offered or paid for on field misconduct.’’ People want evidence - which they should - but they should also remember the threshold for these penalties is a lot lower than some would lead you to believe.
1. A little free advice to the NFLPA: Pick your battles. You need to debate knee and thigh pads? Seriously? If you fight everything, how is anyone supposed to know when something is really important? We get it; taking on Roger Goodell wins points with the players. But does it always serve the players to do so?
2. Giants general manager Jerry Reese won’t do anything rash in the wake of the broken foot suffered by receiver Hakeem Nicks, it’s not his style. But if Reese needs to make a move - cornerback Prince Amukamara had the same injury last year and struggled with it all season - the Patriots, deep at receiver, would make sense.
3. Interesting choice of words by Browns quarterback Colt McCoy last week when he said, “If it’s a fair competition, then that’s all you can ask for.’’ The team drafted Brandon Weeden in the first round, and general manager Tom Heckert has said the Browns “fully expect’’ Weeden to win the job.
4. I would keep an eye on Trevor Scott, who didn’t get much fanfare as a Patriots free agent signing, to have a big impact. It’s early, but he looked very comfortable in the Elephant end/outside linebacker hybrid role.
5. Love how quarterback Jay Cutler threw some cold water on the enthusiasm that the Bears’ coaching staff has for the offensive line. “The offensive line is definitely going to be a concern,’’ Cutler said. It’s his neck on the line if the protection isn’t better.
Former Patriots linebacker Vincent Brown was a graduate assistant at Virginia when cornerback Ras-I Dowling was a freshman, and was on staff during his injury-riddled senior campaign. Brown is a Dowling fan. “I think he can be a great player,’’ Brown said. “I saw a tremendously talented football player. One of the things that stood out most is he’s such a humble guy. Not very loud, not very talkative, is humble, just goes about his business. I thought [the Patriots] got a great player when they drafted him. I just hope he can stay healthy because I know he’s going to be a very good player.’’ . . . Can almost guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth at punter Zoltan Mesko’s first “ZoliOke’’ fund-raiser June 9 at Royale in Boston. The event, from 7-10 p.m., will feature Patriots players singing karaoke and will benefit Boston Children’s Hospital. Tickets are $50 and available at TicketMaster.com . . . Interesting war of words between 49ers quarterback Alex Smith and Panthers linebacker Jon Beason. “Yeah, Cam Newton threw for a lot of 300-yard games. That’s great,’’ Smith said last week in defense of his statistics. “You’re not winning, though.’’ Beason struck back on Twitter. “Don’t hate on Cam because your stats would have gotten you cut if Peyton [Manning] decided to come to San Francisco,’’ he tweeted . . . Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff, a 64-year-old bone cancer survivor, had surgery again on his left leg last week and will be sidelined until training camp . . . Broncos end Elvis Dumervil has shed 10 pounds since last season to help his pass rush. Linebacker Von Miller is hoping to gain 10 pounds - up to around 250 - to take the wear and tear of the season better . . . After breaking training camp before their first exhibition games the previous three years, the Vikings will stay in Mankato, Minn., an extra week this year. Coach Leslie Frazier had to deal with the lockout last year as a first-year coach. “I would always like to take our team away for at least three weeks for the team building aspect that I think comes along with being at training camp,’’ he said.
Greg A. Bedard can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.
Because of an editing error, this story displayed a earlier photo that incorrectly identified NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth. The person pictured was Brian Dawkins.