CHANTILLY, Va. -- The NFL labor agreement between the owners and players expires at midnight tonight if a new one is not reached before then, or if the two sides do not agree to an extension.
Here are some questions and answers about the negotiation process and the ramifications if an agreement is not reached:
Q: What are the sides fighting over?
A: Money, as usual. The packages may come in different wrapping paper but it's all about money. The owners believe they gave away too much in the last collective bargaining agreement extension in 2006 and opted out of the deal a year early. Basically, they are demanding a bigger cut of the $9 billion annual revenue the league produces, they want an 18-game schedule and they want a rookie salary cap. The players want to keep things the way they are, including the 16-game schedule.
Q: What if there is no agreement by tonight?
A: There are three possible options: A lockout by the owners, an agreement to extend the CBA while negotiations continue, or nothing. They did nothing in 1987; the owners declared an impasse in negotiations and basically extended the terms of the CBA that had expired. The players went on strike after the second regular-season game. The owners could try the same tactic but it is seen as unlikely they will do so and again allow the players to strike during the season if they cannot reach an agreement.
Q: Why would the NFL Players Association decertify?
A: It was a tactic they ultimately used long after the 1987 strike and it worked -- forcing an agreement in 1993 much more favorable to the players. This time, it would be used to fight a lockout; the idea being that if there is no union, those players with contracts cannot be locked out or can sue if they are. A judge could rule that the league violated antitrust laws in such a case. There are many benefits to pro sports leagues to having unions and the NFL might lose some of those if the players union disbanded.
Q: What would happen during a lockout?
A: Not much other than negotiations between the two sides if, indeed, they continue to talk. Players would not be permitted on the grounds or buildings of any teams and would not be permitted to talk to coaches or employees other than a casual conversation. Even injured players or those overcoming surgery would not be permitted to visit the training room or in any way undergo rehabilitation with supervision from the training staff. They would be able to work out in groups at some other venue.
Q: What might be some of the repercussions of a lockout?
A: Players receive no money, not even bonuses due them starting Friday. All of their insurance ends -- health and life. They can extend their current NFL-provided health insurance under the federal law known as COBRA and pay for it out of their pockets. Safety Ryan Clark, the Steelers player representative to the union, said his monthly COBRA fee for his family of five will be $2,500. The NFL also will feel the pinch, more so after a U.S. district judge in Minneapolis ruled Wednesday that the 32 owners would not receive the $4 billion in television money they were set to receive even during a lockout.
Q: What about the draft?
A: The draft will be held as scheduled April 28-30 and all the routines leading up to the draft can take place -- prospects can visit teams and can hold individual workouts at their schools or hometowns. The 2011 draft was included as part of the current CBA. However, teams cannot sign the rookies after they draft them and they cannot sign rookie free agents after the draft if there is no CBA. They can trade draft picks but they cannot trade players until there is a new CBA. For instance, the trades that sent Santonio Holmes from the Steelers and brought Bryant McFadden to them that also involved draft picks would not be permitted this year.
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org .