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NFL, NFLPA officials respond

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and two owners on the negotiating committee, Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and John Mara of the Giants, as well as league vice president Jeff Pash, met the media Friday in Washington D.C. as the NFL stared at a lockout.Later, NFL Players Association chief DeMaurice Smith released a statement and points refuting the league's take on the failed talks.

Roger Goodell: We had 17 days of mediation here. We certainly want to thank George Cohen, Scott Beckenbaugh and the entire staff here. We worked hard. We didn't reach an agreement obviously. As you know, the union walked away from the mediation process today to decertify. We do believe that mediation is the fairest and fastest way to reach an agreement that works for the players and for the clubs. And we believe that ultimately this is going to be negotiated at the negotiating table. They've decided to pursue another strategy and that is their choice. But we will be prepared to negotiate an agreement and get something done that is fair to the players and fair to the clubs.

Jerry Richardson: This is a time for our fans not to be discouraged. We've worked very hard. I view it as a bump in the road. In due course we will have an agreement. As the Commissioner alluded to, we'll have to negotiate an agreement. I would also like to add there has been no anger and friction between the players and the teams and has been actually a real learning experience for all of us, and in due course we will have an agreement.

John Mara: This obviously is a very disappointing day for all of us. I've been here for the better part of two weeks now, and essentially during that two-week period the union' s position on the core economic issues has not changed one iota. Their position has quite literally been 'take it or leave it' and in effect they have been at the same position since last September. We made an offer to them today to basically split the difference between the two sides. We made that approximately at 12:00 pm and at 4:00 pm they came back and said it was insufficient and they have apparently decided to decertify. One thing that became painfully apparent to me during this period was that their objective was to go the litigation route. I believe they think it gives them the best leverage. I never really got the feeling in the past weeks that they were serious about negotiating. And it's unfortunate because that's not what collective bargaining is all about. I think eventually we'll be back at the table, but unfortunately now we will have to go through this process where we are in court.

Jeff Pash: As you know we've been here for the better part of three weeks, fully engaged and fully committed to this process. I said yesterday that an agreement could be reached if there was a shared commitment on both sides. I was disappointed and all of us were disappointed that at the very time we were face-to-face with the union and its executive committee, they had already made the decision to decertify their union. We were meeting with them after 4:00 pm this afternoon to talk about the offer that we tendered them. And an hour later, we got letters that as of 4:00 PM they had given up their status as a collective bargaining representative.

So I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate as we said all along. And that's unfortunate because all it means is the eventual resolution of this business dispute is going to be delayed. We will have an agreement and we will have a system that is good for fans, good for players and allows this game to grow.

I want to say before I go any further that George Cohen and Scott Beckenbaugh, the director and deputy director here at FMCS have our most profound gratitude. They've put in an extraordinary amount of time and effort, they have brought a discipline and a strength to the process, they have pushed both sides to examine and re-examine their positions.

Out of that came today a comprehensive, new revised proposal to the Players Association that incorporated and moved in fact further on all the areas we had discussed all week and where progress had been made.

We incorporated new economic terms to try to bridge the gap. You've heard a lot of talk about an $800M gap. Nowhere close. Not close to factual.

We offered today to split the difference and meet the union in the midpoint, with a player compensation number that would have been equivalent to player compensation in 2009 and above player compensation in 2010, and we offered grow it from there over four years by $20 million a club, to the point where in 2014 the player compensation number was the union's number. It was the number the union proposed to us and we accepted it. That wasn't good enough.

We offered to guarantee for the first time in the history of the league, more than one year of injury on player contracts. Apparently not good enough.

We moved off of our wage scale, and we offered to do a rookie compensation system within the context of a hard rookie cap as the union had proposed which would preserve individual negotiations and maintain the role of agents in the process. Evidently not good enough.

We offered, in fact we agreed to the union's request for a cash team minimum for the first time in league history. We agreed to it at their number and their structure. Evidently not good enough.

We told the union that for 2011 and 2012, we would play within the existing 16-game regular season format, and we committed to them, notwithstanding the rights we have in the current agreement, we would not change to 18 games without their consent. Evidently not good enough.

At the same time, we agreed to implement wide ranging health and safety changes, reducing the offseason program by five weeks, reducing the practice time in the preseason, reducing the practice time and contract drills during the regular season and expanding the number of days off for players. Evidently not good enough.

We offered to increase the benefits in a wide range for both current and retired players. Under the proposal we had tendered, retired players who left the league before 1993, would experience an increase in their retirement benefit of close to 60 percent and the union, which says it represents former players, walked away from that today.

We're discouraged, we're frustrated, we're disappointed, but we are not giving up. We know this will be resolved in the negotiation process and we will be prepared to come back here any time the union is ready to come back here.

And we look forward to getting back to the collective bargaining table with the assistance of the director and Scott Beckenbaugh and getting the kind of agreement that we need to have this game go forward.

Will you lock the players out tonight?

Decision has not been made.

How do you plan to get back to the negotiating table when you are so far apart?

On many things, I don't think we are that far apart. That's my point. We accepted the union's position on a wide range of issues in an effort to bridge the gaps, in an effort to get to an agreement. Evidently that was not good enough for whatever reason.

Did they bargain in bad faith?

That's for someone else to decide.

What do you say to the fans?

I can say to the fans as I've said before, the absence of an agreement is a shared failure and I think they should be disappointed, I think they should be unhappy and I understand that. I will only say that we will not waiver for one moment, for one day, in trying to get an agreement that works for fans, that works for players and that works for clubs. That's what we want. It doesn't do us any good to shut down our business. That was never our goal. It's not our purpose today. No one is happy with where we are right now. We will continue our efforts. This is a part of the process, but it is not the end of the process. I think that's the most important thing to remember.

Will you stay in touch with the union?

I certainly hope so. I would expect so, yes.

What is the status of the NLRB charge?

I don't know.

How can you stay in touch if they've decertified?

I have my views on whether the decertification such as it is valid or meaningful. Someone else will make that judgment--it's not for me to decide. But we've obviously brought a proceeding at the National Labor Relations Board to address that issue. There will come a point no matter how the litigation that union has evidently filed, whatever course it takes, when we will have to get back together to resolve these issues. Because the only way we can have an orderly process for having this game operate is through consensual negotiations, through agreements, and so we'll have to make them. Eventually, I don't know how long, I hope not very long, we'll sit down and get to work on that.

When will you make a decision on the lockout?

We'll talk to the CEC again and get a sense of what they think is the appropriate course and make an announcement at the appropriate time.

Will your offers be less generous as you continue to lose money?

We've said that as this goes on, there will be losses and those losses will obviously complicate, they won't make it easier to get an agreement, they'll complicate it – so that's certainly a factor that we'll have to account for as we go forward. That's one more reason why the sooner we get back to bargaining, and the sooner we reach an agreement, the better.

Will you release any more financial documents?

There is no point to releasing them to people who don't want to negotiate with you. We did offer to release five years of individual club-by-club financial documents to a mutually acceptable third party to review, analyze and report on those documents. We also offered to give the union aggregate profit data for the 32 clubs as a whole so they could see how the profitability has changed over the years. We offered substantial financial disclosures and the union chose not to take it.

Is the five years of audited financials a new offer?

It was something we had offered them some time ago. It was not something we just offered today.

When De Smith said we want 10 years of audited financials from each club, what was the reaction?

We were upstairs discussing the various points that they had made. Unbeknownst to us at the time they made those points they had already claimed to renounce their bargaining status, so I don't know precisely why we were meeting with them. We were upstairs discussing it, we were talking to members of our ownership and within the committee and then we saw on one of the television stations that they had announced they had decertified and filed a lawsuit, etc. So it sort of muted the discussion.

The NFLPA's Smith answered:

This has been a long and arduous process. Many of our players are tired. I am tired. We have worked hard as a player leadership for two years to prevent this moment.

To the fans, we are sorry it came to this today. You deserve better. I am truly sorry. The players are sorry. Our players – YOUR players – left everything they had at the table. I have asked them for two years to commit themselves to this process. I have asked them as businessmen in the business of football to commit to leading their teammates through this process. I have asked them to leave their families, be at every meeting, review every document and engage in every part of negotiations. They exceeded every expectation. They should be proud and hold their heads high for their leadership.

I want to thank all of you that have supported our players from the beginning, who took the time to understand the issues related to the business of our game and will remain a part of our family. These teams are your teams from Steeler nation to the 12th man in Seattle.

As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that's a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.

To our forefathers: Radovich, White, Mackey, McNeil, Duerson and Powell; I want you to know that the torch has been passed to Brady, Brees, Manning, Vrabel, Umenyiora, Leber, Mankins, Robison, Jackson, and a brave young Aggie prospect named Von Miller. The measure of our Association is the men and their families who fight for the only thing they can bestow to each other: a better game, a safer game, and a  recognition from those who own for common respect.

This is the only inheritance we can provide to the men who play, their families and those who have served before and after us.

Issues which prevented a new NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement from being reached:

  • The NFL demanded a multi-billion dollar giveback and refused to provide any legitimate financial information to justify it.
  • The NFL's offer on March 7 to give the NFLPA a single sheet of numbers was NOT financial disclosure. The players' accountants and bankers advised that the "offered" information was meaningless: only two numbers for each year.
  • The NFL wanted to turn the clock back on player compensation by four years, moving them back to where they were in 2007.
  • The NFL offered no proposal at all for long-term share of revenues.
  • NFL demanded 100 percent of all revenues which went above unrealistically low projections for the first four years.
  • The NFL refused to meet the players on significant changes to in-season, offseason or preseason health and safety rules.
  • The NFL kept on the table its hypocritical demand for an 18-game season, despite its public claims to be working toward improving the heath and safety of players.
  • The NFL wanted cutbacks in payer workers' compensation benefits for injured players.
  • The NFL sought to limit rookie compensation long after they become veterans into players' fourth and fifth years
  • The players offered repeatedly to continue working under the existing CBA, but were rejected by the NFL five times. 
  • Despite publicly admitting no club was losing money, that TV ratings, sponsorship money, etc. were at an all time high, the NFL continued to insist on an 18-percent rollback in the players' share of revenues and continue to deny the NFLPA's request for justification. 
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