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New England Patriots Links 3/07/11 - NFL Labor Wrangling Continues

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Jim Trotter (SI) reports on what happened at the labor negotiations in Washington late in the week:

With only five minutes to go before the union's deadline to decertify last Thursday -- a move that might have obliterated the NFL as we know it today -- a player walked into the negotiating room that included commissioner Roger Goodell, league attorney Jeff Pash, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president Kevin Mawae and declared: "We're done! We're decertifying."

It had been three years since the league announced its intentions to void the current labor pact, yet 66 formal negotiating sessions had failed to bring the sides significantly closer. And as the decertification deadline ticked closer, members of the union's executive committee began to feel the owners were stringing them along in hopes that the players would miss the deadline. The players believed their only real leverage was to decertify because it would allow the players to sue the league for alleged antitrust violations if the owners locked them out, as expected. With the window to file closing fast, union officials and executive committee members sat in a room one floor beneath where the power brokers were meeting and weighed their options one last time. Then they decided it was time to act.

At that point the aforementioned player -- whose name is being withheld because of the sensitivity of ongoing negotiations -- walked into the room upstairs, tapped Mawae on the shoulder and made a quick hand-across-the-throat gesture while making his decertification declaration.

Jim Donaldson writes about former Patriots GM Patrick Sullivan and the lessons of 1987.

"The 1987 strike was a lose, lose, lose, lose proposition."

"The owners lost. The players lost. The fans lost. Everybody lost." "There was no victor," said Sullivan, who has become highly successful as the president of Game Creek Video, which provides mobile production units to networks televising events all across the country.

"The owners didn’t get the financial stability they were seeking. The players lost two, three, or four paychecks, which, in the scope of their careers, was significant. Also, some players came back (before the strike ended), others didn’t. A lot of resentment was created in locker rooms, some of which still exists between those players to this day. "And the fans, understandably, were disgusted."

Sullivan doesn’t think adding two games to the schedule should pose much of a problem, as long as players are compensated accordingly.

"For the players to say that playing 18 games is a safety issue is absurd," he said. "In the third preseason game, the starters usually play at least a half, anyway. By lengthening the regular season, they’re not going to be exposed any more to injury than they already are." Sullivan went on to add that he thought the players could gain more support from the public if "they were working on getting hundreds of millions in health-care benefits for retired players. But they’re not doing that."

"One of the reasons other owners are reluctant to open their books," Sullivan added with a chuckle, "is partly to hide information from their so-called partners. I don’t think Jerry Jones, or Robert Kraft, would want to let Ralph Wilson or Mike Brown know how much revenue they received from things like concessions and parking."

TEAM TALK

LOCAL LINKS

  • Karen Guregian notes Tom Brady's wall of protection has sprung a few leaks and both depth pieces and prospects for future starters are needed.
  • Ian Rapoport reports Tom Brady is still in a walking boot after foot surgery.
  • Shalise Manza Young reports Robert Kraft is part of a 10-day trade mission to Israel and the UK, and won't be in the negotiating room when labor talks resume Monday.
  • Greg A. Bedard discusses how the Patriots and the Logan Mankins' camp have both been at fault for the contract impasse that now exists.
  • Tom E. Curran disputes the assertion that the Patriots' ownership and football operations staff are always in lockstep on contracts. Drew Bledsoe is the prime example.
  • Jeff Howe writes Rob Ninkovich feels revitalized after growing into a very capable starter at OLB in 2010. He can't wait for the 2011 season to begin.
  • Ian Rapoport looks at where the Patriots stand with their free agents.
  • Jeff Howe notes Leigh Bodden is expecting his best season yet, especially after a "year off with no pounding on the body."
  • Ian Rapoport reports on what Jonathan Kraft had to say about the future of the game day experience at the M.I.T. Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday.
  • Mike Reiss posts some quick-hit thoughts from around the NFL and the Patriots.
  • Mark Farinella offers a few thoughts about Stephen Neal, entering retirement with dignity and class, and a documented legacy of achievement.
  • Jim Connelly (USCHO Hockey East) BC's York turns to Belichick for help capturing elusive regular-season title.
  • Mike Reiss notes Boston College hockey coach Jerry York said his team was inspired by a meeting with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
  • Mike Reiss analyzes the mock draft picks of Charles Davis, who selects DE Cameron Jordan (Cal) at 17, and OT Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) at 28.
  • WEEI mocks the post-Combine Draft. Patriots select DE J.J. Watt (Wisconsin) at 17 and OLB Justin Houston (Georgia) at 28.
  • Nate Dow tells us the top five performers in the seven key physical tests from the class of 2011.
  • Jeff Howe opens up his Patriots mailbag: Lack of new CBA will put Pats in draft dilemma with Matt Light & Logan Mankins stuck in free agency.
  • AP NFL, union taking weekend break from mediation.
  • Tom E. Curran points out if players concede to take less of the pie and the salary cap drops, how does the union protect players' jobs?
  • Chris Gasper says the owners can proceed with their scorched earth policy of a lockout and hope to emerge totally victorious from the ashes, or they can keep negotiating.
  • AP NFL talks continue, deadline at end of Friday.
  • Michael Felger, Steve Buckley and Ron Borges explain the dispute is not "millionaires vs. billionaires". (2.25 min. video)

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