Packers President Mark Murphy spent 20 minutes on Thursday talking to Packer Report publisher Bill Huber. One of the focuses of the interview was the brewing labor unrest.
Murphy, a former All-Pro safety with the Washington Redskins and assistant executive director of the NFL Players Association, knows the issues better than practically anyone. Unless there's a new collective bargaining agreement or the current one is extended in the next 12 months, this will be the last season without a salary cap and there's a possibility of a work stoppage when the CBA expires after 2010.
With that in mind, here is Part 2 of our interview. On Sunday, come back to Packer Report to see what Murphy has to say about general manager Ted Thompson and other on-the-field issues.
Bill Huber: We'll use this as a segue between the economy and the collective bargaining agreement. One question I've got from a lot of fans is this: Does a bad economy improve the chances of a resolution with the union or does it lessen the chances?
Mark Murphy: There's so much uncertainty with (NFLPA executive director) Gene Upshaw's passing. It's really hard to answer that. I'm still optimistic that we can still reach an agreement. We've got two more years before the agreement expires. Hopefully, there's enough time to work something out.
Bill Huber: I know you're limited in what you can discuss on the CBA. What is the status? Have there been any talks or any progress made, or is everything on hold with Gene's passing?
Mark Murphy: No, really, the next step will be when they name the next executive director. Everything will take place after that.
Bill Huber: To review, 2009 would be the last year with a salary cap, unless an extension or new agreement is worked out by when?
Mark Murphy: Yeah, 2010 would be an uncapped year. That would start at the end of the 2009 season.
Bill Huber: Not that you're a fortune teller, but do you think it will get to that?
Mark Murphy: It's really hard to tell. I'm still optimistic that we can reach an agreement.
Bill Huber: I know losing the cap would be bad for the teams, but the players would lose some things, too, in terms of free agency eligibility (six years to become an unrestricted free agent instead of four) and other things.
Mark Murphy: Absolutely, there's poison pills for both sides. It was really designed to encourage both sides to sit down and reach an agreement before they got to the end of it.
Bill Huber: If the cap disappears, is that what the Franchise Preservation Fund is for? There was $129 million in that after last fiscal-year.
Mark Murphy: Yeah, it's for any emergency. I think, whether it be a work stoppage or … I think that's the main thing, that we can preserve the organization through bad economic times or a work stoppage. I think the organization really showed some great foresight when they established it.
Bill Huber: How vital is a salary cap to the Packers? I know you generally rank in the top 12 in revenues, but you're kind of limited in other areas.
Mark Murphy: I think the combination of the salary cap and revenue sharing has worked well for us over time. I think it's worked well for the league. We've talked about the success the Packers have had over the last 17 years. Well, that ties in pretty closely. The salary cap system has been in place since 1993. We've really thrived under that, and I think it's important to the league.
Bill Huber: As far as revenue sharing goes, do the Jerry Jones of the NFL share your opinion that it's vital for the Packers and the rest of the league?
Mark Murphy: I think the majority of owners understand that the league needs to have a collective bargaining agreement in place that works for everybody. I think that's really the goal. It's got to be one that doesn't work only to the benefit of the owners or the players. I think what we've had over the years has been a system that's worked for the owners and the players, and the game has grown. So, I think we all want to see that.
Bill Huber: One thing that has been discussed by the commissioner is getting rid of two preseason games and having an 18-game regular season. Obviously, that would increase national revenues, but would that have any impact on team-produced revenue, considering you'd still have 10 home games?
Mark Murphy: Where you'd probably see increase revenue is from the TV package because TV, obviously, would much rather have two additional regular-season games. It gives you a little more flexibility in terms of some of the TV packages, like NFL Network. I think you can do a little more than maybe we've been able to do under the current system.
Bill Huber: Is that something the team supports?
Mark Murphy: It's something we're looking at as a league. There's a couple things driving it. I think there's a sense the preseason, with the way the game has changed and the way players train year-round, you don't need four preseason games to get ready for the season. And there's a chance to create some additional revenue that may be helpful when it comes to making a deal with the players.
Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 2 of Murphy Q&A: CBA vital for Packers
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