Domonique Foxworth comments on talks

Doomsday scenarios, harsh rhetoric, multiple accusations of condescending behavior from Carolina Panthers hard-line owner Jerry Richardson and threats of litigation have defined the acrimonious collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. A lockout is now regarded as eventuality, not a possibility.

A lockout is now regarded as eventuality, not a possibility. A scheduled bargaining session was cancelled a week ago after the NFL owners walked out of talks after rejecting a proposal from the players' union.

As a member of the NFLPA executive committee, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth is heavily involved in the talks regarding the unresolved labor situation. So far, there's not much to be encouraged about.

"It's hard to be optimistic, honestly," Foxworth told the Carroll County Times in a telephone interview. "I'm going to do whatever I can do and that's all I can control. This game is so important to so many people. That's what makes this situation even more frustrating is there are a lot of good people being hurt. "I believe the majority of the people on their side are interested in having a season, but a minority of them are taking the league hostage and taking the fans hostage to get what they want. A lot of small market teams are willing to sacrifice the season. All the fans want is football. It's unfortunate." Foxworth has attended the bargaining sessions, including the infamous one held in Dallas during the weekend of the Super Bowl where Richardson allegedly insulted the intelligence of star quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. Foxworth declined to discuss that exchange, which has been characterized by Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely as being extremely rude on the part of Richardson, a former Baltimore Colts player.

"I don't want to talk about that," Foxworth said. Among the points of contention: the owners wanting an 18-game regular season, a rookie wage scale, $1 billion off the top for operating expenses and a higher percentage of revenue.

Meanwhile, the players' union would like for the current deal to be maintained, the status quo built by a last-minute 2006 deal tilted toward the players and largely negotiated between former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue and the late union chief Gene Upshaw. NFLPA president Kevin Mawae has acknowledged that the deal is extremely favorable for the players.

"I think if we could all get in a room and talk that would be a great start," Foxworth said. "The communication is one of the biggest obstacles. More people need to know what's going on. In a perfect world, all the owners would be a part of it and would have all the information. I can't speak for them, but I can't imagine some of the owners would be too happy about some of the things that have gone on. I honestly wish they would expand the bargaining committee on their side." The former University of Maryland standout said he speaks often with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, an Anne Arundel County businessman who's not on the bargaining committee. Foxworth said they avoid discussing the labor situation as much as possible. "We haven't had in depth conversations because that's prohibited, but we both agree we want football," Foxworth said. "We have a good team. A lot of losing teams may not be in the hunt this season, but we're in the hunt. Selfishly, this season is very important to us." Foxworth is definitely opposed to an 18-game season.

"I hate the idea," Foxworth said. "Basically, it's the owners saying, 'We can make more money by having them play more games.' But we're the ones who are out there on the field taking risks. We're out there running into each other at full speed and sacrificing our bodies. There are other ways to make more money without endangering players' safety." Foxworth said players are concerned about the NFL halting their insurance even though they've made preparations with COBRA coverage. He also referenced other long-term healthcare issues that don't surface until players are long retired from the game. Foxworth characterized the NFL's more aggressive enforcement of illegal or borderline hits as hypocritical.

"They started fining people an incredibly high amount of money for hits that used to be legal," Foxworth said. "To me, it's hypocrisy when you say you care about our safety, but you want us to play more games and take more risks." In terms of economic impact caused by the potential loss of football should a work stoppage extend into the season, Foxworth is concerned. "It spreads a lot further than people think," he said. "It's not just the people who work at the stadium in concessions or security where working those eight games is important to making their ends meet. On a larger scale, it's important to cities when you're talking about hotels, mass transit, bars, and the whole civic economy. There's a bigger picture, and these owners aren't recognizing their responsibilities as corporate citizens." What would it take to get a deal done? "I don't know," Foxworth said. "I think everything is on the table for us. We're not taking anything off the table. I haven't ruled out anything. We're willing to go to whatever length to give the people what they want." Foxworth said he's heard from several frustrated fans, often communicating with him in rude fashion via Twitter, that they're displeased with the divide.

"I try to let the fans know what's going on and they've said we need to be wary of what happened to baseball and hockey, but they said it in a much meaner way," Foxworth said. "Any kind of lockout would piss them off and it's dangerous. That's what they're telling us and reminding us of that."

Future bargaining sessions are expected to take place between now and a March 3 deadline. The current labor deal expires that day at midnight. "At least there are going to be talks," Foxworth said. "Sooner or later, I hope they all lock us in a room and we figure it out."

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