NFL Nation: Jeff Pash

Report: NFL to conduct HGH study

April, 21, 2012

John Clayton discusses the NFL's interest in HGH testing and when we may see testing in the NFL.
For those who thought we might hear word on the player discipline for the Saints’ bounty program (and I was one of them) on Friday, think again.

No announcement on discipline is coming Friday, NFL counsel Jeff Pash told’s Gregg Rosenthal.

I really don’t know what the holdup has been on this. I thought we would have heard news on player discipline a week or two ago. When we got to this week, I thought it was certain to happen this week. But it hasn’t. It’s safe to assume no announcement will come over the weekend.

With the NFL draft starting Thursday, logic would say the NFL will make the announcement on Monday -- maybe Tuesday at the latest. The draft is the league’s biggest offseason event and the NFL doesn’t like to have anything overshadow it. Also, I’m sure the Saints would like to know what they’re dealing with as far as suspensions because they might want to draft some guys that could fill in gaps.

But the way this thing has dragged on, anything seems possible. It now looks like it’s at least possible the NFL may wait until after the draft to make an announcement.

Everything is still pending ratification by the National Football League Players Association, but the National Football League is talking like there will be a season.

Commissioner Roger Goodell just finished a news conference in Atlanta, where owners ratified their side of the deal. The league also issued a calendar for the preseason and made it sound like players who had legal problems during the lockout could be subject to disciplinary action.

"Violations of law, that’s covered by the personal conduct policy,’’ league counsel Jeff Pash said. “We believe that policy remains in effect.’’

That could impact Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib. He was charged with assault in Texas in March and faces a trial next March. Talib already served a one-game suspension last year and could be viewed as a repeat offender.

The league also is saying that team facilities will be open Saturday for voluntary training, conditioning and classroom instruction. Also on Saturday, teams can begin to renegotiate contracts with their own players and sign their own free agents. Waivers for the league year also begin Saturday.

Starting at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, teams can begin negotiating with undrafted rookie free agents and free agents from other teams, but are not allowed to sign them right away. At 2 p.m. Sunday, teams can begin signing undrafted rookie free agents.

The official free agency period will begin at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. Rosters expand to 90 players Wednesday.

Training camps also can open Wednesday, but will be limited to reporting, conducting physicals and meetings. Teams can’t practice in pads until the fourth day of training camp.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's recent column in the Wall Street Journal warned of impending doom if players' attorneys prevail in ongoing court battles.

The column invited strong criticism from various quarters, and then there was this: veteran guard Chester Pitts, player rep for the Seattle Seahawks, agreeing with characterizations of Goodell as "Fraud-ger" instead of Roger, and comparing league attorney Jeff Pash to something best flushed down a toilet.

Pitts made the remarks during a segment Wednesday with Mike Salk and Brock Huard on 710ESPN Seattle. Salk characterized Goodell as fraudulent and asked Pitts for thoughts on the commissioner. The Pash characterization was unsolicited. Pitts:
"[Goodell] has tried to find in the media’s eyes and the people’s eyes a middle ground where he is not seen as an employee of the owners, when everyone in the world knows he is. But I think if he would just own up to that and say, 'Everything I’m going to do, I’m going to back what my owners tell me to do,' then I think that he wouldn’t be a fraud any more. We may not like him, the same way I don’t like Jeff Pash, but Jeff Pash is consistent. He’s a consistent turd, but he is consistent. He is what he is."

This is the first time I can recall one person labeling another person a "turd" and meaning it as a compliment. Makes a fan want to run out and purchase season tickets, no?

Pitts' less personal points, including that player are gaining ground as more becomes known, are worth a listen. You might want to plug your nose just to be safe.
Five thoughts on NFL labor relations following the Players Association's move to decertify:
  • The NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, said the league offered a "comprehensive, new revised proposal." The league did seem to be scrambling at the last minute to get a deal done. The players shrugged. Both sides had to realize the players held the bigger hammer in this initial fight. The players felt more comfortable taking this to the courts.
  • The players' hammer gets smaller heading into a season. The owners could hold more leverage once September rolls around and players miss paychecks. That is when the players would have a tougher time keeping solidarity.
  • The league scored public relations points Friday when Pash went public with the NFL's offer. I would expect the league to continue hitting similar themes publicly. The NFLPA responded with its own point-by-point breakdown. Longer term, it'll be tougher for the players to compete with the league to control the message.
  • What would happen if the owners decided against a lockout? As John Clayton notes, they could, in theory, impose new rules governing free agency, but they would risk incurring treble damages if found in antitrust. That looks like a strong deterrent.
  • These labor battles are best viewed from high overhead than from on the ground. Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm understood this when putting together his piece suggesting decertification isn't necessarily an impediment to an agreement. Friday is being cast as a dark day in the NFL, but it's only March.

What happens next? Not even NFL teams know for sure, but all signs point to a lockout.
The NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is scheduled to expire in exactly two weeks. A lockout could begin immediately thereafter, hurtling the league into a state it hasn't experienced in a generation.

I realize you come to the NFC North blog for news and analysis about our four teams, and so we'll continue focusing on those teams and traditional news items as much as possible. With that said, there will occasionally be times when I think a lockout issue will have some interest in our division.

When relevant, I'll present a talking point, along with both sides of the argument and a potential solution just for kicks. Then, it will be your turn to address it in the comments section.

Tops on our list is a central question of the current dispute.

NFL owners say their business has taken a significant downturn. The NFL Players Association has asked for proof, in the form of opening their financial books. Currently, the only NFL team with open books are the publicly-owned Green Bay Packers, who claimed a $9.8 million operating profit in the most recent fiscal year. (That figure was down from $20.1 million the previous year.)

Are the Packers representative of the rest of the league? Are some teams making significantly more money? Are others losing money? These are the questions the union wants answered before accepting a smaller share of total revenue, spokesman George Atallah wrote recently in a guest commentary on
Atallah: "The players maintain that one fundamental question needs to be answered in earnest if there is to be an agreement before a lockout: Why is the current deal so bad? If owners had decided to make this a direct business transaction between partners, the players are confident a deal would've been struck a long time ago. Business partners get together, sign confidentiality agreements, exchange financials and negotiate. Our repeated requests for detailed financial information that would help us answer the quintessential question have been denied."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called that request a "negotiating ploy" during a Feb. 4 news conference. Goodell added: "The players have more than sufficient information to understand why the economics of this deal do not work."

How so? Through the Packers' financials, according to an essay written last summer by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash.
Pash: "We have shown the union how and why the current system does not work. The Green Bay Packers' recent financial statement illustrates the point -- operating profits declining every year since 2006 while player costs continue to rise. ...

"Our Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the union extensive audit rights and access to an enormous amount of financial data on each club. This includes total revenue, total player compensation and many stadium and other costs. We have provided substantial additional information on expenses we are asking to be recognized in a new CBA.

"Companies 'open their books' when they say they are losing money. But fans should know that opening the books doesn't lead to agreements."

I understand why the NFL wouldn't want to open its books. There is the unsavory potential for a "gotcha" moment that could be embarrassing to a specific owner and, worse, irrelevant to the larger debate. And as with any other negotiation, it's always favorable to hold back as many cards as possible.

So is there a way for both sides to compromise on this issue? This isn't my idea, but it's one I've heard discussed and think it's worth considering. Couldn't the NFL and NFLPA hire a third party to examine the books under a pre-determined set of ground rules that would keep private everything but the bottom lines necessary to determine the extent to which the NFL's business has suffered?

Trust is important in any negotiation, and at this point it doesn't appear the players trust the information they've been given. Owners don't trust the players' motives for asking to see the books. So why not let an established accounting firm settle this debate once and for all? With that information in hand, wouldn't we be a lot closer to reasonable parameters of a deal? What do you think?