Good to be with you guys. A special Thursday edition, as I will be traveling tomorrow. But, as usual, in season or out of season, the NFL has a host of issues, including a wrap up of the refs contract. As well, I can offer thoughts of the 30 for 30 film of "Broke" the other night, in addition to news from around the league like the Jets injuries and others.
Let's fire away!
When working in the front office, what were your thoughts on guys who might have been out of football for a period of time, whether it be injury or otherwise? I'm thinking about Burress here.
I think he has a couple off issues going against him. One is the one you raise about being out of football for a period. It seems teams are hesitant to bring in guys who are out for long periods of time. Part of it is inactivity and part of it is wondering why other teams have not signed him. In the case of Burress, he's also a high salaried, long term veteran. Even though he'll sign for a minimum contract, that minimum is still over $900K, compared to younger player for a third of the price. I'm sure other teams are asking the question of why the Jets, who have an injury at the position and know him from last year, are not signing him.
The other reason is philosophical and I would include my experience in Green Bay in this reason. Avoiding the short term quick fixes and developing younger players for the future. Anyone who brings him in is going to push a younger player down the depth chart and some teams, knowing the Packers from my experience as one of them, are unwilling to do that.
After having had some time to digest the new ref deal now, anything that you've read/heard that is particularly interesting?
Yeah, the overwhelming impression I have after the deal is that it's something that could have been done for a while. The major change that happened in negotiations after the Seattle-Green Bay game was continuing the pension for current officials from what was being offered as 2-3 years to 5 years. One other thing that sticks out is the length of the deal. An 8-year deal with the pension going away after 5. What that means is that we will never see the pension again in any CBA.
I do think the NFL was able to accomplish its goal of changing the culture of officiating - backup crews, full time officials - which was a priority for them. They wanted to change the culture and accountability of the refs and show them they were not "the game" but rather an accessory to the game. The Sports Illustrated cover this week with Ed Hochuli on it certainly can not be pleasing to NFL owners as they certainly don't want the egos of these refs to increase. Having said all of that, I think it's safe to say that the standing ovations for the real refs last weekend will be the only time in NFL history that they receive standing ovations.
My final comment on the ref situation is that this was a negotiation that was more personal than business. The referees were just looking for respect, to preserve their pension and to keep their status and the NFL was looking to change that. The money was not the big concern here, the more personal issues were.
Is the NBA allowed to add a rule like the anti-flopping rule?
It depends who you ask. The NBA PA certainly thinks that they can not and has filed an unfair labor practice charge against them. Just when we thought we were done with lawyers in the NBA, we have this situation. Ultimately it will be up to an arbitrator to decide whether this issue is one that should be collectively bargained or is one that can be imposed by ownership. It almost seems like the NBA was feeling left out with the NFL ref lockout and the NHL lockout and they wanted some attention as well.
Why doesn't the league step in and make players pay be spread out over the entire year. You have stated you tried to get players to go that route but few accepted. Seems like it would be a step in the right direction of helping many that apparently really need help. Also, do you see the younger players coming into the league getting better at managing their money?
Great question. I did try to have players take their salary on a year round basis as opposed to the 17 weeks during the season. I got resistance from the union and the agents as everyone wanted the money now as opposed to over the year. I was told by the NFL that I could not unilaterally institute that payment plan and it would have to be voluntary. Out of a potential 60 players on an annual basis, an average of 15 took advantage of that. My goal was certainly not to deprive them of short term money, but rather to encourage leveled spending as opposed to throwing their paychecks over a shorter time frame.
I wish I had an answer as to what can be done. The programs that are available through the teams or through the league go in one ear and out the other, except for a minority of players who operate with discipline even without hearing these programs. One of the problems of the agents that I do not fault them for is if he tells the player what he needs to hear but doesn't want to hear, he may find him as the player's ex-agent. One of the things I always say is it's not how much you make, it's how much you keep. All of these horror stories we saw on the show the other night are unfortuantely all too common.
How is it that the NBAPA can file a grievance? The NBA just changed a rule of the game...does the CBA allow for the NBAPA to have a say in rule changes?
The CBA does allow for certain issues to be collectively bargained that effect "terms and conditions of the workplace" as they are for any bargaining. The obvious question is the intent behind the flopping rules and how they'll be administered. That's why the NBAPA got involved. Time will tell.
The NFL has collected $1 million in fines relating to the bounty scandal. Is that money (and other fines) earmarked for anything specific or does just become part of the league war chest?
The NFL designates its fine money towards different charities every year. In the recent past, it's been designated towards player health and safety and brain injury research. I'm not aware of where the fine money is going this year, but they have their designated charities every year. On the team level, there is also great discretion for the team. With the Packers, we would support local charities and there were also times where we used fine money towards upgrading facilities, including the players lounge.
biggest loss in the refs CBA or was it pretty even?
I think the NFL was able to hire the backup crews and will be able to hire a bench of officials, which was important to them. For instance an NFL official told me that an situation where an Ed Hochuli missed a call at the end of the game with Denver and San Diego a few years ago. In the new agreement, they might have an opportunity to sit him down for a week, have him watch games at NFL headquarters, take a break. That was not available back when that call happened. Those are the kinds of things that come out of this agreement for the NFL, as I said in a previous question, a changed culture.
The Raiders seemed to have regressed a bit in the early stages under Reggie McKenzie/Dennis Allen. While the fanbase is justifiably impatient is this to be expected for a franchise that is experiencing a reboot?
I'm a biased observer here, having worked with Reggie for 9 years in Green Bay. That is clearly a team that needs to take a step back to move forward. Reggie inherited one of the worst cap situations in the NFL and he will be burdeoned with that at least through this year and maybe until next. I think he will turn it around because he has an eye for talent and he believes in the draft and develop philosophy. I saw Reggie discover players and he will continue to bring in gems.
What advice would you give to players that come to you regarding life post their playing careers? Do you think the leagues can do a better job of getting players ready for life?
The second part of the question, I continue to wonder how the league can do more with players on living a different kind of lifestyle. I do think teams can mandate as a part of minicamp or training camp that players attend financial training seminars. You'd like to encourage offseason internships and things like that. That, again, you can only suggest and hopefully the player takes responsibility. The montra I kept telling players, other than it's what you keep, not what you make, is to always look at football as a headstart. It's not a career. It's a headstart to make some money before you start your career. Only a small percentage can live off what they make in the NFL for the rest of their adult lives. A lot of it comes down to the way they were raised and self discipline issues, which is something they have in them before they get to the teams.
It's always a great time with you guys. I appreciate the solid questions, as always. Please check out my article on Roger Goodell on ESPN.com. You can always find me on Twitter: @ADBrandt. Look forward to coming back here next Friday at noon ET. Have a great week!