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Update on NFL Labor negotiations

The turning point for these Oakland Raiders really began in Tampa Bay at the end of the 2008 season. That is when this team started to pick their noses up out of the dirt after the Super Bowl loss to their former coach John Gruden and the Buccaneers. Six years later, at the end of the 2008 season, the Raiders knocked the Bucs out of the playoffs. Then the Bucs proceeded to fire Gruden and it all came full circle. That was the day when the Raiders started moving forward as a group of men led by a rebellious coach; from the depths of the NFL they came forth with intent to compete at a high level, from that day forward.

Now led by new head coach Hue Jackson the Raiders have a group of individuals who have it instilled in themselves to fight hard for one another, and to become what they believe they are capable of becoming. Fifty-three men committed to one purpose – to win the Super Bowl. But first things first. There is that little issue of there actually being a season in 2011.

The ongoing labor negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA is about player salaries, how many games should be played each season, rookie wage scales, and most likely countless other things that we may or may not yet be aware of. So it stands to reason, like all good things in life, we may have to wait to see what the rebuilt Raiders are capable of accomplishing.

While some may speculate that the NFLPA was the group that backed out of a scheduled meeting this week, it turns out it was actually the NFL brass who pulled out of the conference. According to Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, “When the NFLPA characterized documents labeled ‘NFLPA Proposal’ as something other than a collective bargaining proposal, the NFL ended the session.”

Then they decided to cancel another meeting scheduled for last Wednesday.

“As often happens in collective bargaining, the parties reached a point where there was a fundamental difference on a critical issue that was not going to be reconciled that day,” said NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “The discussions were adjourned to permit both parties to assess their positions and consider how to move the process forward.”

Following this “fundamental difference” of opinion, Roger Goodell contacted all 32 NFL owners together via a conference call to address the “progress” (or lack thereof) that had been made between the two sides.

According to an NFL source, all 32 team owners were unanimously in agreement on what developments had occurred, though the sentiment of the owners was not revealed by the source.  

In spite of the session that was aborted as well as the cancelled meeting Wednesday, sources report that talks have continued between Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith as well as other smaller working groups. An unnamed NFL player involved with the NFLPA said the two sides will meet at some point in the next week.

However, Smith made a decision to release the owners’ counter-proposal to players and their agents instead of discussing it with NFL management and that has driven a rift between the two sides. Another speed bump in the process will be getting the NFLPA over the fence on their fundamental belief that the owner’s proposal is completely unreasonable.

Knowledgeable sources who previously believed the two sides would reach an agreement by the lockout date of March 5th are now losing their faith in this process and are starting to waver towards a potentially long and drawn out lockout that could affect the number of games played in 2011. One source said last week’s hullabaloo was symbolic and shone light on just how far apart the two sides actually are.

This could all be smoke in the air meant to draw attention to the NFL and generate more television exposure during a time when there is not much else happening in the NFL, or it could be the beginning of a long road to final negotiations between the two sides.

My conclusion from all of this mess is that everybody needs to take the pacifiers out of their mouths and change their stinky diapers. Otherwise the NFL and NFLPA may end up digging their own graves — and if that happens, then nobody is going to get paid anything. Ultimately, both sides need to come full circle and start working together and fight for each other like the Raiders have begun to do. That way they can move forward as a group and begin to achieve the goal that is in the best interest of everyone – committing to the same purpose of increased revenue from this day forward.

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