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Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Lockout could be costly for Bears players

By Michael C. Wright

Urlacher
Brian Urlacher stands to lose a $500,000 workout bonus in case of a protracted work stoppage.
The Chicago Bears claim to have saved money for a lockout.

Hopefully for their sake that's the case because they stand to lose quite a bit if a potential work stoppage becomes a protracted situation that extends into the summer.

With the NFL and NFLPA still deep in negotiations for a new CBA, the 46 Bears currently under contract for 2011 could lose close to a combined $7 million in roster bonuses and workout bonuses if a work stoppage extends into the period those bonuses are due, which is typically in June.

Linebacker Brian Urlacher, whose contract runs through 2012, will lose the most, forfeiting $2.1 million this offseason in bonuses while tight end Brandon Manumaleuna will lose $1.1 million.

Without a CBA in place, teams around the league won't be paying workout bonuses and roster bonuses this offseason. Some teams pay bonuses in March, but the Bears are one of many to have structured their contracts to make those payments in June.

Because of labor unrest, however, the payments could be lost, or indefinitely pushed back.

Teams usually begin offseason conditioning programs in March, and players can earn a minimum of $7,280 -- as mandated by the last CBA -- by fully participating in these programs. While the minimum $7,280 doesn't seem like much incentive to participate, 14 Bears will lose at least $25,000 in workout bonuses, with 10 of them -- receiver Devin Hester, Manumaleuna, quarterback Jay Cutler, defensive ends Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, linebackers Lance Briggs and Urlacher, safety Chris Harris, tackle Frank Omiyale and cornerback Tim Jennings -- expected to forfeit at least $100,000 in workout bonuses alone.

Workout bonuses total $2,666,960 in potential earnings for the Bears on the roster that could be missed if an extended lockout prevents the Bears from holding an offseason conditioning program.

Potential losses in June roster bonuses, which are typically paid five days after they're earned, are much more significant for the individual players involved. Urlacher ($1.6 million), Manumaleuna ($1 million), Harris ($500,000), and kicker Robbie Gould ($500,000) head a group of players slated to lose $4,180,732 in June roster bonuses if the sides can't strike a new agreement by the time the payments are due.

Offseason conditioning programs often run through June. So if there's a lockout, the longer it takes for NFL and the union to come to agreement on a new CBA, the more difficult it will be for the sides to determine how to make up for players' lost wages from offseason programs and roster bonuses.

Should the potential work stoppage become a protracted affair that extends into the summer, the matter of how to reconcile those lost wages and make the players whole again will likely become a major bone of contention between the sides as they continue talks toward a new CBA.

Surely, the players hope the situation never advances to that point.