On Sept. 11, I think back to this solemn time 11 years ago while with the Green Bay Packers, when I had to deal with the mundane matter of playing our game in the midst of tragedy. The venue for that week's game against the New York Giants was a problem, because their stadium was a staging area for emergency medical services.
At one point during the week it appeared we would instead host the Giants in a Monday night game, setting up two consecutive home Monday night games (we were hosting the Redskins the following Monday). As we mobilized toward that plan, the NFLPA held a player conference call to discuss the games.
Players were adamantly against playing. The Giants' Michael Strahan and Jason Sehorn were among the most vocal. That reaction, coupled with personal losses suffered by commissioner Paul Tagliabue and NFLPA chief Gene Upshaw, led to a decision to postpone that week's games. The games were rescheduled for the end of the scheduled regular season, and the bye week before the Super Bowl was eliminated.
When play resumed with our Monday night game against the Redskins, linebacker Chris Gizzi, an Air Force graduate, led us sprinting out of the tunnel, carrying the U.S. flag in a spine-tingling moment.
The games went on, but football was insignificant at that time.
Replacements will go on
Whether the replacement officials are performing almost as well as the regular referees or far below their standard is a matter for debate, but that ultimately does not affect the ongoing negotiations, at least from the NFL's point of view. The owners continue to say things like "Do they think we can't play without them?" They will not be leveraged by bad calls from the replacements.
The NFLPA has lent its support, at least verbally, to the officials, but that is not helping. Several league officials and owners already have issues with NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith, and his support of the officials may not be having the desired effect.
Bounties Part 2
The appeals panel determination vacating the bounty suspensions ultimately has one definitive ruling: Commissioner Roger Goodell does not have the power to discipline players for non-contract payments, because that is the domain of the system (cap) arbitrator. It appears that Goodell can no longer broadly discipline for "conduct detrimental," which is significant.
If Goodell, after a rehearing, reissues punishment to the players, he needs to be careful in the wording of the discipline. He previously punished Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith for "establishing" and "funding" the pool to injure players, and to Scott Fujita for "pledging" money to the pool. A literal reading of the panel decision indicates this conduct may be the province of the cap arbitrator, not Goodell.
What about Dan and Jerry?
My sense is -- stay with me here -- that Goodell's penalties in this case were affirmed by the cap arbitrator because: (1) teams were punished, not players, and the NFLPA signed off, and (2) the penalties could not be for payments outside the 2010 cap because -- you guessed it -- there was no 2010 cap.
I know this is circular and unsatisfying, especially to Redskins and Cowboys fans, but, in the amorphous words of NFL coaches: "It is what it is."
The Texans quietly extended quarterback Matt Schaub's contract hours before the season began. The total value is $62 million; the key marker is the guarantee of $29.15 million, paid over the first two years of the deal.
Schaub's guarantee puts him right down the middle of two contracts completed over the past year: Ryan Fitzpatrick ($24 million) and Michael Vick ($35.5 million guaranteed). Over the next eighteen months, however, a dramatically different picture of the marketplace may emerge. Extensions may be coming for Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Jay Cutler. All have contracts that have become outdated since they were signed.
In the short term, the quarterback negotiation to watch is that of Joe Flacco, who is in the last year of his rookie contract. Flacco's guarantee will certainly surpass the $30 million mark; the only question is by how much. Stay tuned.
Forbes' 2012 NFL team valuations, averaging $1.1 billion, demonstrate the value of: (1) a new 10-year CBA, ensuring labor peace for a decade; (2) player costs, every team's largest expense, at their lowest level in four years; and (3) record-level network television contract extensions.
The Packers recently reported record profits of $43 million; the Browns, ranked 20th in team values, were just sold for $1 billion. Despite looming issues ahead and legal bills that could fund a small country, these are salad days for NFL owners.
Trading for dollars
Although the NFL does not allow cash as part of trade compensation -- unlike MLB or the NBA -- two teams recently went to the brink of that prohibition.
The Rams traded Jason Smith, set to make $4 million, to the Jets for Wayne Hunter, who makes $2.45 million. Right before the trade, the Rams renegotiated Smith's contract to pay him a $1.55 million signing bonus, reducing his salary -- assigned to the Jets -- to $2.45 million.
It appears that the Jets, to complete the trade, required Smith's salary to equal Hunter's $2.45 million. Thus the Rams, unable to demand a pay cut because of Smith's guaranteed salary, took on $1.55 million in Smith's salary -- paid as a bonus -- to circumvent the "no cash in trades" prohibition.