NFC East: NFL Lockout

Breakfast links: More labor thaw

June, 29, 2011
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See, to me, this can only be a good sign. The fact that the NFLPA would ask commissioner Roger Goodell -- and that he would agree -- to speak to rookies at the rookie symposium the NFLPA is having in lieu of the one the league canceled because of the lockout heralds a new level of trust between the two parties. It gives you reason to believe the optimism that the latest round of talks will lead to a new labor deal and an on-time start to the season may not be misplaced.

What I'm interested to see is this: If there's no actual deal -- i.e., a signed document establishing the work rules for the league for the next three, five, eight, however many years -- within a couple of weeks, but during that time the two sides make significant enough progress that they know what those rules are going to be and all that remains are formalities, could the league year start anyway? The owners, theoretically, have the ability to lift the lockout any time they want to. Could they do that in the absence of a formal, finalized contract with the players and just hold free agency under rules to which they mutually agree as part of their settlement talks?

It sounds easy, but it may not be. Remember, these are not collective bargaining-talks that are going on right now. These are settlement talks on the antitrust suit the players filed against the league. If the owners were to lift the lockout and have free agency, even under mutually agreed-to rules, they'd have to be 100 percent sure they weren't putting themselves at risk of being guilty of an antitrust violation. I imagine they'd have to get a promise in writing from the players that the players wouldn't pursue legal action against them as a result of anything that happens during the free-agent period.

So it may be that they need to dot all I's and cross all T's on the new labor agreement before free agency and the league year can start. But if that's not the case -- if they can get close enough to a finalized deal that they feel they can start the league year and training camps on time -- at least now it looks as if there's a decent enough relationship between the two sides that they could work that, and eventually all of this, out.

In the meantime, as ever, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins and the gang at ESPNDallas.com have been looking at potential free-agent targets for Dallas. Today, Calvin brings up Eagles guard Nick Cole as a potential Kyle Kosier replacement. His theory is that he's younger and versatile and might be more worthy of a long-term deal than will Kosier. Calvin knows the Cowboys. Even if he is really a baseball writer at heart.

Oh and Gerry Fraley has this item about former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer's foray into the wine business. Love the part about him describing his rural Arkansas childhood home on the label. Priceless.

New York Giants

Lots of people ask about Barry Cofield, and the Giants have a number of free-agent concerns once the lockout ends. Cofield himself doesn't sound like a man who expects to be back in New York. "I think they think I'm a good player," Cofield told the New York Post. "Obviously they don't view me as indispensable. They place a premium on certain positions. Let's be honest, defensive end is the name of the game in New York." He's certainly right about that, but that doesn't mean they don't appreciate a defensive tackle who can get to the quarterback. The question is whether the Giants feel they have enough in guys like Linval Joseph and Marvin Austin to replace Cofield if they focus on other concerns. He seems to feel as though that's the idea.

Eli Manning worked out with Hakeem Nicks and rookie receiver Jerrel Jernigan last week at Duke University, according to The Star-Ledger. Priceless time with QB1 for Jernigan, who could theoretically be asked to do more if he shows something and if Steve Smith isn't fully healthy.

Philadelphia Eagles

In light of the recent news on Terrell Owens, Sheil Kapadia wonders if Andy Reid's biggest football regret would be not finding a way for Owens and Donovan McNabb to coexist after their relationship blew up in the wake of their Super Bowl appearance -- if the magic that landed them in the big game could have been extended if Owens' stay in Philly had been as well.

The Eagles' team site breaks down the running backs, wondering as we all are whether Jerome Harrison will return as LeSean McCoy's backup. They do agree, however, that if he doesn't, Dion Lewis isn't the answer there. Expect the Eagles to re-sign Harrison or find a veteran replacement.

Washington Redskins

Rookie Ryan Kerrigan spoke about the challenges he's facing transitioning from college defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL -- especially with no coaches around to tell him if he's doing it correctly.

Redskins.com takes a gander at the right guard spot and whether Will Montgomery looks like the starter there this year. Montgomery also would seem to loom as an option at center should the team decide to part ways with Casey Rabach. Upshot is, Washington may be looking for interior line help.

Go get 'em.
Osi Umenyiora is so mad at New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese for not giving him a new contract, he's apparently taking his case to court. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Umenyiora, in a sworn affidavit to be filed next month in federal court, says Reese reneged on a promise he made to him in 2008 that the Giants would give him a new contract or trade him to a team that would:
Umenyiora
"Mr. Reese told me that two years from the start of the 2008 league year, if I was currently playing at a high level, we'd either renegotiate my current contract so that it would be equal to that of the top five defensive ends playing or I would be traded to a team that would do that," the affidavit reads. "Before leaving the meeting, I asked Mr. Reese twice if he was absolutely sure that would be the case. He then told me that he was an honest and church-going man and that he would not lie, which I believed to be the case. Under the penalty of perjury these statements are true and accurate."

The complaint is part of the NFLPA's antitrust suit against the league, which is of course a central part of the ongoing lockout and labor dispute. Umenyiora is one of the named plaintiffs in that suit with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and others, and this is apparently the reason.

But ... come on.

I mean, I totally get how this illustrates what the players are up against in a league that doesn't offer guaranteed contracts and restricts free agency to the extent that the NFL does. It's a prime example of a conversation that has no doubt gone on hundreds and hundreds of times between players and coaches and/or GMs. And because one of the points of the antitrust suit is to shine a light on what the players consider unfair labor practices by NFL teams, it obviously belongs here.

But ... come on! Doesn't this make Umenyiora look a little dopey? "Honest and church-going man"? Really? This is what we're basing our career hopes and decisions on? I feel for Osi, I really do. NFL players are way behind other pro athletes when it comes to freedoms and earning potential. Too often, they're left to do nothing but take a man's word that they'll be taken care of. But when that's all you've got, you've got pretty close to nothing. Until you have a contract in writing, I'm not sure you have the kind of complaint with which a court is going to want to help you.

The upshot of all of this, of course, is that it casts major doubt on Umenyiora's future with the Giants. But I think there was already some doubt about that, no?

Oh, and if Umenyiora ever does find himself in court, he'll be glad Eagles RB LeSean McCoy isn't on the jury. Upon seeing Adam's tweet about this story, McCoy (@CutOnDime25) tweeted: "Overrated n soft 3rd best d-line on his team honestly."

Zing!

Breakfast links: Labor chatter

June, 15, 2011
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The big news Tuesday seemed to be hope on the NFL labor front, which is what everybody wants, of course. But sometimes we can let the seeming approach of the thing we want get us more excited than we should actually be. Reports that a solution to the labor issues is close, or that the framework is in place, or that a deal could be done by Tuesday's owner's meetings are all premature and overly enthusiastic, according to the people I spoke with Tuesday.

Those people admit work is being done, and that finally, after years of posturing, there is actual negotiation taking place with each side apparently committed to the shared goal of an eventual deal. And that is positive. But one of the people I spoke with Tuesday, who's connected to and knowledgeable of the situation, told me people are underestimating how much work remains, and that even if progress continues to be made at the rate it has over the past week or so, the process will be long and likely include more setbacks before a final solution is reached.

So in the end, while there's more hope than ever of training camps and the season starting on time, it's still far from guaranteed, and I wouldn't expect any big, happy announcements today.

Meanwhile, we link:

Dallas Cowboys

Jean-Jacques Taylor hopes Tony Romo learned some things from Dirk Nowitzki during the Mavericks' run to the NBA title. Taylor falls into the "championships are all that matter" camp, which was discussed at some length in the comments section under yesterday's links. I have said many times that I consider that an overly simplistic way of assessing a player's career, and I think in this case it underestimates how much more Nowitzki had already accomplished in his career than Romo has in his, even before the title. Taylor raises some decent points here, but the central, underlying one is that Romo's book hasn't been completely written yet, and there is time for him to change the tone, tenor and content of the story. I'm just not sure he needed to see the Dallas Mavericks win a championship in order to realize how important it is to win one.

Todd Archer predicts, based on the results of the player voting so far, that DeMarcus Ware will finish between 10th and 15th on the NFL Network's list of the 100 best players in the league. I predict that it'll be a long, long time before somebody finds a way to stretch out a story the way the NFL Network has with this list.

New York Giants

Give Perry Fewell credit. The Giants' defensive coordinator is passionate about his job and determined to do it well. But he's not pulling anybody's leg about whether he wants to be a head coach again someday. He wants it bad.

Keith Bulluck says he'd like to sign with the Giants, Lions or Patriots once the lockout is over. He said the Giants are on the list because "they gave me an opportunity to come and continue my career, really get healthy, where I needed to be." And that is true, but I'm not sure the on-field results from 2010 made the Giants as interested in bringing Bulluck back as he may be in returning.

Philadelphia Eagles

Les Bowen went up to British Columbia to do the Danny Watkins firefighter story, which is well worth a read. Looking at the NFL through the eyes of people who don't generally think about it very much is always interesting for those of us who think about is so much. Les tells the Watkins story from the perspective of people who knew him before the NFL was even on the radar.

Sheil Kapadia missed the Plaxico Burress release while on his honeymoon (good for him), but he joins the chorus of Philadelphia media who think Riley Cooper can do the same job for far less hassle.

Washington Redskins

Mike Jones writes that Trent Williams and LaRon Landry haven't attended any of the workouts organized this offseason by and for Redskins players. It never stops, right? I always find it ridiculous when coaches get on players for missing "voluntary" offseason workouts, and now ... I mean, have there ever been workouts more "voluntary" than these? Someday, we may be able to go back and track how much of this stuff meant. But as of now, I just can't get too worked up about taking attendance at these practices. Heck, maybe they couldn't find the workout.

I did enjoy this item, though, on John Beck scouting rookie teammates by finding clips of them on YouTube.

Enjoy your morning. Hope it's as sunny where you are as it is here. We'll be back later to talk broken tackles and whatever else ends up being on your mind, my mind and the news wire today.
It's been a quarter of a century since Bill Parcells, Phil Simms, Lawrence Taylor and the Giants won their first Super Bowl. They gathered this weekend to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of that title, to mingle with fans and with each other and to marvel in retrospect at what they were able to accomplish together. Mark Bavaro summed it all up for The Star-Ledger:
"Even in 1990, when we won the second Super Bowl, there was the constant feeling that we might lose, we might lose," Bavaro said. "In 1986, it was always we were going to win, just by how much. Somebody pointed out that most of those games were very close. In my memory, I don't remember them being close because I never thought we were going to lose any of those games."

That Giants team and defense won the Super Bowl one year after the Chicago Bears nearly went undefeated and won theirs. They didn't get to knock off the champs themselves, as the Redskins defeated Chicago in the divisional round, but Bavaro's memory is better than that of whoever told him the games were close. The Giants beat the 49ers 49-3 in the divisional playoff round, whipped the Redskins 17-0 in the NFC Championship Game and then rolled the Broncos 39-20 in the Super Bowl. That's a combined 105-23 over three playoff teams. You can see why they might not have thought it was possible to lose.

More Giants

George Martin wasn't the happiest guy at the reunion. He's pouting because NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith won't give him a meeting to discuss the role of retired players in the current labor dispute. Martin is the head of NFL Alumni, which is a retired player organization that is funded and supported by the NFL. Because of that association, Smith and the NFLPA, who hosted quite a few retired players at their annual meetings each of the past two years, do not trust or particularly like Martin's group. Martin made an appearance at the NFLPA meetings this year, but it wasn't a face-to-face meeting with Smith. It was an address to the group of retired players affiliated with the NFLPA, and word is they all gave him an earful about his connections to Roger Goodell and the league. It sounds like, if Martin's looking for a supportive ear, he's looking on the wrong side of the labor fight.

Dallas Cowboys

Rainer Sabin looks at the Cowboys' internal options at cornerback in case they get rid of one of their starters and don't sign Nnamdi Asomugha. Not a pretty picture, though Sabin agrees with the prevailing opinion that the team should and will address the safety position first.

The heart attack Godfrey Miles had last Wednesday took his life. He played six years with the Cowboys and was a starter during their run to the Super Bowl XXX title. RIP.

Philadelphia Eagles

The life of a free agent is a weird one during this lockout. At a charity softball game in Camden, N.J., Eagles safety Quintin Mikell mused on his future thusly to the Philadelphia Daily News: "We're so deep in the lockout I don't even care. I'm just worried about staying in shape and making sure I'm ready to go. Obviously, I would like to be back here with the Eagles, but at this point I'm not sure what their thinking is. I am fairly sure that there's going to be a lot of people interested in me if I hit the market so either way I'll be fine." Mikell isn't super-likely to be back in Philly, but his name has come up as an option for the Cowboys in their hunt for a safety.

Michael Vick gave the commencement speech at a school for at-risk kids and handed out a couple of $5,000 college scholarships. Again, think what you want, but...

Washington Redskins

Redskins.com looks at the recent success of rookie wide receivers in the league and what that might mean for draft picks Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Aldrick Robinson. It's an interesting point, with guys like Dez Bryant, Mike Williams, Percy Harvin, Austin Collie and Jeremy Maclin as strong examples from the past two years. And given the Redskins' current situation at WR, the rookies are likely to get an opportunity to show what they can do. It's just...well, I don't want to be accused of being negative or anything, but ... isn't it tough for a receiver, rookie or otherwise, to do much without a quarterback?

And Vonnie Holliday joined the piling-on-Albert-Haynesworth party during a recent radio appearance. Question: Do you think it's possible that the piling on of Haynesworth will ever get to the point where he's a remotely sympathetic figure? I kind of thought it might last summer during the conditioning-drill fiasco, but the way the guy carried himself throughout the season prevented that. I doubt he's at all redeemable in the eyes of Washington fans, but you tell me.

All right. The kids need to eat before they go to school. You know I'll be back later, though. You can count on me.
Before we get to the division, a quick word on these "secret" talks between the NFL and the NFLPA this week. I covered the labor situation extensively at my last job, and I consider this a major development. The people to whom I've spoken with who are connected with this say they believe it's the most serious both sides have been about doing a deal in the more than two years since the owners decided to opt out of the last CBA.

Will it work? Does this mean training camps and the season will start on time? Lots of work to be done yet before we know. But the key thing to understand is that the motivation finally appears to be there on the part of both sides to get one done. The players never viewed their "litigation strategy" as a real solution, only as a defense against the owners' "lockout strategy." They have said all along they were waiting for the owners to get serious about something other than a lockout. If that's the case -- if the owners have decided that the potential for lost revenue if training camp dates and/or preseason games begin to get canceled here in the next few weeks -- then it's the kind of thing that could mean real progress.

Even in spite of their recent success in the 8th Circuit Court, the owners fear what solution the courts might impose on this. And in part because of their recent loss in the 8th Circuit, the players' leverage isn't what it was six weeks ago. They may finally be at a point where each side is willing to give a little. But the key in getting there was that the owners had to be willing to talk about something other than a lockout. The fact that these meetings this week took place without anybody knowing about them ahead of time makes me think they're finally at that point. I'm hopeful for the first time in more than two years that they might actually play all 16 games this year.

Regardless, however, come the links:

Dallas Cowboys

A new defensive coordinator, a lockout and a second-round tender that may or may not be honored depending on the structure of the next labor deal have combined to leave Cowboys DE Stephen Bowen in a very uncomfortable position. He'd like to be back.

Nick Eatman would like fans to hold off on the "good riddance" stuff when Marion Barber gets cut and remember the great things he did for the franchise over the disappointments of the past couple of years. Nick, you're too sensible, man.

New York Giants

The Giants worked out for the second day in a row, honoring the labor talks with their own continued media silence. Shaun O'Hara said they'd talk to reporters Friday, which is nice of them but still weird. They planning some big huge announcement? They know something we don't? Labor deal settled by then? New date for the Rapture? What?

Some stats our research department came up with a couple of days ago show how much the Giants suffered when they lost Plaxico Burress. Particularly striking is the 6-1 record against the Eagles while he was on the team and the 0-5 record against the Eagles without him. I'm not sure these numbers necessarily suggest that the Giants need the guy, since he's much older now and the continued development of Hakeem Nicks answers a lot of these issues, but some of the numbers are eye-popping.

Philadelphia Eagles

We mentioned Andy Reid's non-comments about Plaxico on Wednesday, but far more telling are the comments here from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who openly compared the decision on whether to pursue Burress to the team's 2009 signing of Michael Vick. While Eagles coaches and execs worked on building a school playground, Lurie said a lot would go into deciding whether to bring in Burress. "Any player, if there's issues off the field, we have to ascertain ... are they going to represent the Eagles and the community that we serve?" Lurie said to Philly.com. "Are they going to be part of events like this? Michael has shown this. If a player is not willing to be part of the culture we have, then I don't think it's a good fit."

Jonathan Tamari checked in on Nate Allen as he recovers from his knee injury and looks ahead hopefully to 2011.

Washington Redskins

Stephon Heyer, like Bowen in the earlier Cowboys item, would like to know what's going on with his situation. And the Redskins surely would like to know what they're doing at right tackle.

Some speculation has surfaced in Chicago that the Bears could take a run at free-agent receiver Santana Moss. I think we've all kind of been assuming he'd go back with the Redskins, but this is a reminder that that's no sure thing. Losing Moss would leave Washington in some fairly dire straits at WR, no offense to Anthony Armstrong and the gang.

Stay cool out there today, people.
Morning, my friends. If you're mad at me today, you have a rare opportunity to yell directly at my face. The only catch is, while you'll be able to hear me, I won't be able to hear you, so you'll still have to use the mailbag.

I am in Bristol today and will be appearing on "First Take" on ESPN2 from 10 am until noon ET. I'll be the one in the chair opposite Skip Bayless, debating away on a variety of topics, some of which may include NFL labor as well as Plaxico Burress and the Eagles.

Don't worry -- I promise not to forget about you. I'll put something up on Burress and the Eagles later today. I'm going to put the Fired-Up Friday debate post up right before the show starts, so you'll have something to hold you over in between listening to me talk about the insane Game 2 of the NBA Finals. And you know I'll be strolling through the comments on that one so we can have some fun together.

Meantime, eat, link and be merry:

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones was among the influential owners at the Chicago mediation session that has everybody fired up about the lockout may be ending soon, and his presence speaks to the real issue at the heart of the labor dispute. The reason the owners opted out of the last deal and decided to lock out the players because they don't like the current economic structure of the league. But the main problem isn't between players and owners as much as it is between the high-revenue owners and the lower-revenue ones. If guys like Jones and Carolina's Jerry Richardson (who was also at the meeting) can resolve some of their own differences on the league's economic issues, then the owners will find themselves in a more friendly negotiating mood vis-a-vis the players. And if that has been happening behind the scenes, it could explain why these discussions are taking place now. We'll see.

Cowboys.com's continuing roster rundown looks at Felix Jones and his chances to emerge as the nominal "starter" at running back in 2011. If you read my column yesterday, you know how I feel on this issue.

New York Giants

Brandon Jacobs says there's no chance Burress comes back to the Giants. I don't doubt Jacobs' sources or question his reasoning (that Burress wants a change of scenery), but it should be noted that Jacobs is neither Burress' agent nor a member of the Giants' front office. I'm picking the Eagles as the team most likely to sign Burress, but I think ruling out the Giants would be a mistake, given their history with him and the uncertainty around Steve Smith's knee. Just never say never, is all I'm saying.

Giants players are still trying to figure out when and whether they'll next get together to practice as a group. No idea if this is accurate or if it means anything, but it does seem as though the Giants have done the least of any of the division's teams when it comes to player-organized workouts.

Philadelphia Eagles

Brent Celek says players are okay with the lockout until they start losing paychecks. Um ... yeah. Kinda figured that. Just a tip, though, Brent: It's not the most awesome negotiating technique to say publicly, "Yeah, we can wait out this lockout until September, but then it's going to get tough." There's a chance that's exactly what the owners are counting on, right?

Andy Reid is no Buddy Ryan, says Rich Hofmann, who wonders if Reid's relationship with his players could be hurt by Reid's decision to publicly renounce the NFL Coaches' Association brief and side with the owners in the labor dispute.

Washington Redskins

Chris Cooley went on NFL Network (Side note: Why are players doing NFL Network interviews while the NFL is locking them out?) and talked about a number of things. My favorite was his take on John Beck and the Redskins' QB situation: "Obviously, we're going to have to bring someone else in." Sounds like a brutal indictment of Beck if you take it out of context, but what Cooley meant was that Beck is the only QB on the roster and obviously you need more than one, even if Beck is the starter. Still, struck me as funny, since -- out of context -- it probably jives with what most fans would say about the situation.

The Skins are planning some more player-organized workouts in the middle of this month. Got to give Lorenzo Alexander and the other leaders on this team credit for keeping things organized during a tough time. I'm curious to see if it pays off -- if teams that hung together like this during this summer get a bump in post-lockout performances. Curious to see, too, if it works in the other direction against the Giants.

All right, that's it for now. Enjoy "First Take."
KolbDoug Benc/Getty ImagesKevin Kolb has no idea if he's going to remain in Philadelphia or be traded.
The NFL lockout has put players and owners in limbo. The ripple effects are also felt by people whose lives or businesses touch their teams. Here are their stories:

Kevin Kolb does not want to be a problem, and he surely never sought to become a face of the NFL lockout. But while most NFL players are just waiting to be told when to go back to work at their respective teams' facilities, Kolb finds himself in a more complex and uncertain situation. He wants to know where he's going to work. He wants to know where he's going to live. And he wants to know how much he's going to get to play.

"You could keep going down the questions. There's a list of questions," Kolb told reporters when he showed up for a workout last week with other Eagles players in South Jersey. "Nobody knows the answers."

A year ago, Kolb was the talk of Philadelphia. With Donovan McNabb traded out of town, he was the heir apparent and the starting quarterback. But he got hurt in the first game, Michael Vick replaced him and the rest is electrified Eagles history. By the end of the season, Vick was the man and Kolb let it be known that he would appreciate it if the Eagles would trade him somewhere so he could get a shot at being a starter again.

Instead of telling him "no," the Eagles decided to test the Kolb market. They found that teams were interested. So at this point, Kolb has reason to believe that he might get his wish. He even told of a text message he got from head coach Andy Reid during a break in the lockout that said, "I'll do what's best for you."

But while that text may have made him hopeful, it didn't answer any questions. Kolb still doesn't know where he'll be playing, where he'll be living or whether he's going to be a starter or a backup in 2011. And there's no way for him to know until the lockout is over.

"Does anybody know right now? It's kind of radio silence, it seems like," Kolb said. "I just don't want to get my mind set on one thing or one team or one place to live, and then something different happens."

Word is, as you've surely heard, Arizona is interested. But that's no done deal, and the longer the lockout goes, the more the Cardinals and other potential Kolb suitors may have to scale back and make other plans. Kolb could end up staying in Philly -- a possibility he's considered.

"I want my opportunity. If the situation can't be avoided, I'm not going to sit there and be a turd," he said. "That's not my style. I think that I've voiced my opinion, and there's nothing more I can do. Just like always, whatever situation arises, I'll just have to roll with the punches."

Right now, all he wants to know is which way to roll.
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck was on "First Take" this morning, promoting the charity billiards tournament he's got going on later this week in New York City. During the interview with Julie Foudy, Tuck addressed a couple of topics, including the ways in which he, as a leader of the team, is keeping up with his fellow teammates during the lockout.

"I've been text-messaging guys and calling guys and making sure they're working out," Tuck said. "Because this lockout could end at any point. So I'm making sure they're working out and keeping their bodies in the right place."

Tuck said he and Eli Manning have talked about getting the whole team together for a workout in late June or early July, but that no plans for that are yet set.

"Our veteran guys who are up here in New Jersey, we'll get together and sit down and make sure the New York Giants are ready to roll once this lockout ends," he said.

As for when that might be, Tuck is as hopeful as anyone is that it'll be soon. But he's not exactly using rhetoric that's right out of the NFLPA handbook. He sounds as if he's not eager to wait out the court rulings.

"We have to sit down. Both sides need to lock ourselves in a room and sit down, because that's the way issues are resolved," Tuck said. "We've got to put our egos aside. You're talking about billionaires who are used to getting their way, and millionaires who are kind of used to getting their way, and it's just going to take us putting our egos aside ... As players, we're doing this for the players who come after us, so 10, 15, 20 years from now, players can say, 'Back in 2011, those guys really stood up and helped make this game into what it is today."

Tuck has been busy during the lockout. He recently toured his home state of Alabama to help those affected by the tornado outbreak. He told Foudy that, along with JP Morgan Chase, he donated $300,000 to the city of Tuscaloosa and the surrounding areas. He also worked while down there to help put tarps on damaged roofs and do repair work on damaged schools and libraries.

"Just going in and letting everybody know we're here to help," Tuck said. "It was a really heartfelt trip for me."

No individual coaches were named Wednesday when the NFL Coaches' Association filed a brief in support of the players in the 8th Circuit Court. But at least one group of coaches wants to make sure nobody thinks they're connected with it. In a statement released Thursday, the Washington Redskins' coaching staff distanced itself from the Wednesday brief and made it clear that it supports the position of the owners in their labor dispute against the players.
"The Washington Redskins' coaching staff has not given its backing to the brief filed with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of the National Football League Coaches Association," the statement reads. "Our former representative, Kirk Olivadotti, is no longer with the organization and no member of our coaching staff was consulted prior to this action being taken.

"We stand united with our ownership and the brief does not reflect our thoughts on the matter. We, like everyone else, are hopeful that we can return to playing football. We look forward to a new CBA and welcoming back our players as soon as possible."

The statement is hand-signed by every member of the Redskins' coaching staff except head coach Mike Shanahan. A Redskins team spokesman told me the reason Shanahan didn't sign the document is because his title is Executive Vice President, and as such he represents team management (which I guess doesn't have to explain which side of the dispute it's on). Shanahan's son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, did sign the document, as did defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the rest of the staff.

The brief the NFLCA filed Wednesday specifically pointed out the damage it believes the lockout is doing to the staffs of the eight teams that have new head coaches this year and the "three additional coaches who have only spent one season with their teams." Shanahan and the Redskins' coaches fall into that latter category, but clearly, they don't want anybody to think they had anything to do with Wednesday's brief.

It'll be interesting to see if any other coaching staffs make a point of saying whether they do or don't support the NFLCA brief. Coaches have, after all, been caught in the middle of this whole thing.

Lockout will hurt the Redskins

May, 26, 2011
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Mike Shanahan Geoff Burke/US PresswireThe lockout threatens to disrupt the momentum Mike Shanahan built heading into the offseason.
The Redskins are a critical part of NFL labor strife lore. Under Joe Gibbs, they survived the strikes of 1982 and 1987 better than any team in the league, winning the Super Bowl at the end of each of those disrupted seasons. The New York Times did a big story on this a couple of months back, examining the reasons Washington was able to go 8-1 in '82 and 3-0 with replacement players in '87 and weather those labor storms to become champions. Not coincidence, say those who were involved, as much as it was about Gibbs and the way the veteran cores of those teams held things together.

Knowledge of this history has led some to suggest (facetiously, of course) that 2011 could be the Redskins' year. Hey, they always win the Super Bowl when there's a work stoppage, so this is just what they need, right? If there'd been a lockout two years ago, Jim Zorn would be wearing a ring right now and Mike Shanahan would be coaching the Cowboys. Or something like that.

Well, unfortunately for the Redskins, while history may well be on their side, reality is not. Not this time. Given their current circumstances, the Redskins are surely more likely than any other NFC East team to suffer damage as a result of the lockout. Given where they are right now in the development of their franchise, the Redskins might be hurt worse by this lockout than any team in the whole league.

This is a critical season for Mike Shanahan as Washington's coach. Sure, it's only the second year of his five-year deal, and for that reason job security is the last thing he's worried about. But this year is critical for other reasons -- reasons that pertain to Shanahan's goal of building the Redskins back into contenders.

Shanahan's first season was a bumpy one, and his midseason handling of Donovan McNabb and the quarterback situation in general raised eyebrows among people who'd expected a man with his résumé to deal with such things more artfully. But on balance, the 2010-11 season served a key purpose for Shanahan. It established him as the unquestioned leader, face and voice of the franchise. The skirmishes with McNabb and Albert Haynesworth were merely the most public manifestations of Shanahan's assertion of himself. Zorn had been weak and overmatched in the head coach role, and it was important for Shanahan to establish right away that he would be neither.

Critical to that effort was the subversion by team owner Daniel Snyder of his own out-front persona. As a condition of taking the job, Shanahan insisted that he be given control over football matters and that Snyder not meddle in personnel decisions to the extent that he had in the past. Against all expectations, Snyder actually pulled this off. The 2010-11 season was his quietest as Redskins owner, and his disappearance into the background helped Shanahan do the things he needed to do in order to deliver his new-sheriff-in-town message.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Snyder
AP Photo/Paul SancyaDaniel Snyder has stayed out of the limelight since Shanahan came aboard.
The lockout could wipe out some of that momentum. Shanahan's assertion of leadership and Snyder's step into the background are vital to the Redskins' near-future success, but one year wasn't enough to lock those things in. With Shanahan unable to coach, the risk rises that he ends up starting from or near scratch once his players return to Ashburn. With Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen unable to make personnel moves, the risk rises that Snyder gets itchy and impatient and backslides into his old ways. He could decide to go nuts once free agency opens against the advice of the football minds he hired and promised to leave alone. Not saying this is what will happen, mind you, just that the "pause" button the league has pressed on its offseason increases the risk.

It's also preventing the Redskins from doing a number of vital housekeeping things. They need to move on from McNabb and figure out what their 2011 quarterback situation really is. If it really is John Beck, then he'll need to know he's not just a Shanahan smokescreen and get in to practice huddles so his teammates know it, too. If it's to be Carson Palmer or someone not currently on the roster, then they need to get on with that as well.

They need to resolve the Haynesworth situation, of course. He needs to go, certainly, and dispatching him will be as cathartic a move as Shanahan's ever made. But the lockout will end with Haynesworth still on the team, along with all the distractions he brings, and his mere presence will be a story for as long as it takes them, post-lockout, to get rid of him.

They need to keep working on Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense, because as we discussed here Monday the second year is a crucial one for the install of a 3-4. They need a nose tackle, and they need to know how realistic it is to get someone like Aubrayo Franklin in free agency -- a move that probably would help them more than a splashier play for someone like Nnamdi Asomugha, though they need to know about him, too. And as they've seemed to since the Art Monk days ... sheesh, they still need help at receiver.

The Redskins have a lot they need to do -- more than most teams, really, given where they are in this particular chapter of their history. Because of that, when I'm asked which team in this division I think will be hurt most by the lockout, my answer's easy. This won't be 1982 or 1987 for the Redskins. This year's work stoppage is a huge problem for them.
So this story's out there now, citing an NFL source saying Eagles senior staffers will be taking 25 percent pay cuts on or about June 11. And just a couple of days after we were praising the Eagles for being one of those seven teams that have pledged not to cut coaches' pay during a time in the lockout when neither they nor any other team has yet lost a penny of revenue.

Anyway, the Eagles say they'll be making no official comment on this report, and the people I've talked to down there say nothing's changed, nobody's pay has yet been cut and no final decisions on this have been made. The Eagles told their staff in February that they would not cut anyone's pay until mid-June, at which point they reserved the right to re-evaluate if the lockout was still continuing, which we now know it will be.

It's still curious that teams would make these kinds of decisions in June, by which point they still won't have lost any money as a result of the lockout. But some reasons for the timetable are starting to come into focus. For instance, lots of talk lately about the Eagles having to decide by mid-June whether they're going to have training camp at Lehigh University this year as they always do. Apparently, that's the time by which Lehigh needs an answer, so they can figure out if they can use their facilities for another purpose. That kind of stuff is probably starting to happen for teams -- figuring out how much of training camp is going to be lost, etc. -- which may be why you're starting to see talk about decisions on pay cuts, etc being made in the coming weeks.

For the record, I still think it's unconscionable for team owners, who came up with the lockout idea as a means of establishing bargaining leverage against the players, to punish employees who aren't players as part of the scheme. But it looks like almost all of them are going to do it anyway. Maybe they think they can make the players feel guilty, though I don't know why they'd expect another group of people to feel an emotion they apparently can't feel themselves.
According to Greg Bedard's Sunday notebook in the Boston Globe, only seven of the NFL's 32 teams have pledged not to cut coaches' salaries this offseason. Three of those seven -- the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants -- play in the NFC East. The other four are the Steelers, Seahawks, Raiders and Colts, so our division here clearly wins this particular battle of class and dignity.

We've touched on this topic a few times already, but it's utterly unconscionable for NFL teams to be cutting employees' pay, laying people off and imposing furloughs at this point in the lockout. Not one single dime of revenue has been lost or will be lost until games are canceled. If anything, teams are saving on overhead this time of year by not having to pay workout bonuses or open their facilities for offseason practices. (Seriously -- can you imagine how much teams normally spend just to feed their players between OTAs?)

Sure, you can argue that the coaches aren't "working" to the extent that they would be this time of year if they actually had players around to coach, game plans to install, etc. And you may even be able to convince yourself you're justified in cutting their salaries based on such an argument. But the coaches don't fit squarely into either side of this dispute. And as Larry Kennan, the director of the NFL Coaches Association, points out in Greg's note, they're still going to work and putting in hours. You'd think teams would make the no-pay-cut promise just to build good will, or to try to get the coaches on their side. Again, no one's lost any money yet. These teams don't have to cut anyone's salary if they don't want to.

Yet NFL owners, who have imposed the lockout as a means of pressuring the players into making bargaining concessions, are cutting nonplayer salaries all over the place simply because they feel they have cover, and saving a few bucks now might help if and when the lockout extends into the season. They should be ashamed of themselves, but shame appears to be in short supply right now. Good for the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants for not engaging in this unforgivable behavior.
People on both sides of the NFL's labor dispute have good things to say about Giants owner John Mara. He's the rare non-polarizing figure in the lockout. Representatives from the players' side have told me multiple times that they felt respected by Mara (where they haven't always felt that way about other owners, such as Jerry Richardson or Jerry Jones), and that when he was in the room there was an atmosphere they believed could facilitate progress.

[+] EnlargeJohn Mara
AP Photo/J. Scott ApplewhiteIn a letter posted on the team's website, John Mara stated that the league's owners never intended to lock out the players.
Today, Mara posted a letter on Giants.com entitled "Time to Get Back to Football." It's a long letter, effectively re-stating the owners' oft-stated case that (a) the league's economic system is out of whack, (b) the players walked away from the bargaining table March 11 and (c) the path to peace is through collective bargaining and not litigation. There's a bunch of stuff about how the players want to get rid of the draft, the salary cap and other things, which probably isn't true but which the players made fair game by putting it in their antitrust suit. But basically, Mara is making the same old owners' point that they hate the fact that this dispute is in court rather than at the collective bargaining table.

"We locked out the players this year only after they walked away from negotiations and sued," Mara writes. "A strike or lockout is a last resort to force a resolution. Our end-game has always been a balanced collective bargaining agreement that helps us grow and improve the game."

This is the league's party line -- that they never intended to lock out the players and that it was the players who blew up negotiations when they decertified the union and filed suit March 11. But it's not honest. The players believe the NFL has been planning to lock them out for more than two years. They have evidence, which has been seen by judges in the TV money case that's still pending in U.S. District Court, that proves this.

There is little doubt that the league's strategy all along was a lockout, which is why the owners engaged in no serious talks until a couple of weeks before that March 11 deadline. They can act aghast and upset that the players walked away and sued, and that act plays well among a public that's inclined to disdain lawsuits, but they're not being 100 percent honest if they say the lockout was a "last resort" they imposed only after the decertification. The players decertified and sued because they knew they were about to be locked out and they believed that was the only way they could fend off the lockout.

But the owners and the league are smart to put Mara out front on this. He's universally liked and respected. So when he's the one spouting the party line, people might be inclined to think that's not what they're getting. Or that the NFL's party line has more merit than that of the players. But in the end, this is just more of the same rhetoric. And whether the owners like it or not, nothing's going to change on any of this until all of the court cases are won and lost and each side takes stock of how much leverage it has left.
Really enjoyed this Washington Post story by Rick Maese about Anthony Armstrong coaching 7- and 8-year-old soccer players during his lockout-imposed downtime. I found it hilarious that Armstrong knows almost nothing about soccer and basically took the assignment because his girlfriend's kid had no team.

In my conversations with NFL players over the past couple of months, I've consistently heard them talk about how nice it is to have some time to do things they don't normally get to do this time of year -- hang out with their kids, do some charity work, coach soccer, whatever. And while I assume the itch will set in before long, these kinds of stories serve to make a critical point on the players' behalf.

When and if the time comes to actually talk about settling the labor mess, one of the most important concessions the players want from the owners is a shortening of the offseason program. Specifically, the players dislike the "voluntary" offseason workouts where everybody on the team but one player shows up and the coach does the old passive-aggressive, "Yeah, it's voluntary, but it sure is disappointing that not everybody's here" thing. The players' central argument is that too many physical demands are made on them as it is, and one way to relieve that would be to cut back the offseason requirements. When they responded to the league's initial request for an 18-game regular season, one of the requests in the players' counterproposal was that the offseason programs be cut from 14 weeks down to five.

This is a point around which negotiation can happen. Once the lockout is over and a new CBA is in place, you can expect to see shorter offseason programs and specific rules in place that govern what teams and coaches can and cannot require of the players during spring and summer workouts. It's a point on which the teams have shown a willingness to give, and it's the kind of quality-of-life issue that will appeal to the players when it's time to talk about what they got in exchange for the things they ended up giving.

And who knows? Even if he doesn't have quite this much downtime next spring, Armstrong might get to return for the second season of his soccer coaching career.

Dallas' Jerry Jones: We'll get it done

March, 12, 2011
3/12/11
6:40
PM ET
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was one of three NFL owners who met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and a federal meditor Friday as part of the labor committee.

Jones is still confident the union issues will get solved.

"The answer is, we’ll get it done," Jones told reporters. "The answer is, we won’t miss any football. Certainly, that is our goal. Their move into litigation will ultimately result in going right back into negotiation, in our view."

ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins has more from the Dallas owner.

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