D(certification)-Day Has Arrived

NFLPA decertifies, as mediation breaks down between players, owners

The day we have all dreaded is here.

Owners and players have not agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on the 17th and final day of federal mediation. The NFLPA has decertified and the prospect for football this fall has dimmed. At midnight tonight, we will have the first labor stoppage in the NFL since 1987.

"A wide variety of issues, both economic and work related, were addressed in a professional and thoughtful manner and those differences were explored in length," said George Cohen, director of federal mediation and conciliation service. "Consensus emerged in a number of them and in others differences were narrowed and focused.

"It is regrettable, however, that the parties have not achieved every agreement nor resolved strong-held competing views that separate them on core issues. In these circumstances and in careful reviewing of all these events that have transpired, it is considered the judgment of yours truly that no constructive purpose would be served to request the parties to continue mediation at this time."

Since the NFLPA has decertified, the NFLPA ceases to exist as a labor union, it does not have bargaining rights on behalf of the players and individual players can sue the NFL under anti-trust laws.

"It was painfully apparent it was (the NFLPA's) objective to go the litigation route," Giants owner John Mara said. "They believe it gives them the best leverage. We never got the feeling they were serious about negotiating. Unfortunately, that's not what collective bargaining is about."

It is the ability to sue under anti-trust laws that could actually speed up the process, according to Gabe Feldman, the NFL Network's legal analyst.

"This is the first big step to try to get the owners to cave it," he said. "This might work. Owners may think it is not worth the risk of these anti-trust suits. They could say, all right, we'll give in a couple hundred million and there still could get a deal done in a couple weeks. I'm slightly optimistic something gets done well before August or September."

Then again, with the courts involved, it could be a while before something is settled.

The games are in jeopardy and the negotiation turns into litigation. The word "lockout" may or may not be implemented. If there is a lockout, even if the players are not in a union, there will be no offseason activities for the foreseeable future, aside from the NFL Draft April 28-30.

The NFL released a statement about a half-hour after the union decertified.

"The fastest way to a fair agreement for both the union and the clubs is to continue through the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players union has notified their office at 4 p.m. Eastern, the players union has decertified and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining presumably to initiate the anti-trust litigation it's been threatening to file.

"In an effort to get a fair agreement now the clubs offered a deal that would have no adverse financial impact on veteran players in the early years and it would meet the players financial demands in latter years. The union left a very good deal on the table.

"It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

"The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.

"The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes."

How This Affects The Browns

Teams who have implemented a new coaching staff, new offensive philosophy and new defensive scheme will take their place behind the 8-ball.

Enter the Cleveland Browns.

Call it bad luck, call it a cursed franchise, call it whatever you want, but the latest in a long-line of "things going against the Browns way since 1999" has just occurred.

The Browns' new coach Pat Shurmur is implementing a new offense with second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. The two had been meeting regularly to go over the new playbook. McCoy not only needs to learn from his first season in the NFL, but also he now needs to learn a new offense.

Yet the NFL has stressed once a work stoppage is in place, there will be no contact between coaches and players. Players cannot use the facilities in Berea and certainly not meet with their coaches.

Defensively, new coordinator Dick Jauron is implementing the 4-3 scheme. Just like McCoy and the offensive players, the defense needs to learn its new playbook.

Finally, the rookies the Browns draft this April will just have to sit and wait.

For a team going through another transition, the Browns are currently stuck in neutral.


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