This summer has been a complete mess! The lockout has depressed the sports world and has left many football fans very bitter. If there is one thing football fans can agree on, it’s that we all want this lockout to end. During these rough times, tons of information has been put out there BUT there is also a lot of behind the scenes stuff going on that only NFL insiders know about. That being said, I went out and got an interview with NFL Network lockout specialist Albert Breer (@albertbreer). Here is everything Albert informed me about the lockout and a few things you might not be aware of.
1) What are a few things the fans know the least about in this whole lockout process?
I think the one thing that’s been glossed over, at times, is the magnitude of this negotiation. Since 1993, the parties have basically been renewing the previous CBA, and so this kind of change in the way the deal is structured really is a once-in-a-generation thing. Or at least you’d hope it is. The owners are looking for a deal that can work for a couple decades going forward, and the players are looking, under new leadership, to set a tone for the future of this relationship. Some very long-term interests are at stake here, and the end result could be another long period of labor peace. All things considered, if this thing gets done soon, I’d say getting that would be worth the pains of the last few months.
2) How would you describe Goodell and De Smith’s relationship?
I don’t think it was bad before, so much as it was non-existent. The advantage that Gene Upshaw and Paul Tagliabue had in knowing each other was important in past talks, and I think that’s something that Smith and Goodell have had to develop, and I do think it’s getting there. Ultimately, it won’t be what gets a deal done – Deadlines and threat of losing money do that nicely. But having the leadership of each side understand where his counterpart is coming from, and having a common goal (a lucrative future for everyone) certainly helps with the pace of talks, and helps each side ride out the inevitable bumps of negotiation. The progress of the last few weeks is due to the looming scheduled start of training camps. But I think having Goodell and Smith build a rapport is certainly a contributing factor to things moving along.
3) What agreement needs to happen for the players to come out of this considered winning?
I think three factors are important, if I’m a player. First, the salary floor has to be close enough to the salary cap, because the floor is where the real dollars are. Second, I think it’s important that the players are set up to reap the benefits of whatever happens in 2014 with the new television deals, and the “all revenue model” seems to take care of that. And third, the retirement plan has to be improved.
4) Which owner has been the main guy leading the charge in negations throughout this process?
The easy answer – and it’s correct – is Robert Kraft. He’s played a major role in getting these conversations out of the rut they were stuck in back in late May. But it’s important to remember that even he had reservations about where these talks were going at one point, with concerns over the national economy. That’s what’s so interesting here is that you have shifting alliances within the ownership on almost every issue, and it’s very hard to simply categorize guys into “Hawk” and “Deal-Maker” boxes. But Kraft has done, by all accounts, a good job of helping to motivate the parties off their positions. I’d also throw Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in there, since he’s been open to change and compromise, despite his reputation for being a hard-liner.
5) Do you think the rush to end this lockout to avoid both sides losing money will hurt the league long term?
No, because I think both parties have people imploring that the long-term isn’t sacrificed in order to save a few bucks now. I think these parties will do a deal when there’s one there that works for both sides not just today, but for the foreseeable future. I think the owners learned their lesson about rushing a deal in 2006. And I think the players are hell-bent on making sure this agreement doesn’t put them in a bind down the road.
6) Have you heard anything regarding Steven Ross throughout this whole process?
He’s been largely in the background, but he was with Kraft on the issues concerning the national economy. Both men have businesses outside of football that provide them with economic indicators, and each saw a murky future ahead for the country and the possibility of another downturn being very real. That’s where the idea of including “True-Downs” (which would take player spending down in the case that the league doesn’t grow in a given year) may come into play.
7) What kind of travel bill have you accumulated with all the flights playing where’s Waldo chasing all these “secret meetings”
It’s funny, we have travel people that I book through, so I don’t see the charge on the flights most of the time, and still have expense reports I need to finish outside of just that. But I’ll put it this way: I’m very fortunate that the Network has put me in position to cover this story the right way.
8) How much free food and drinks are there at these meetings? Any idea what the snack of choice is during negation and mediation?
At these meetings? Well, I’ve only shown up at one set of them thus far – The ones here in Boston. And they had a $9.99 Prime Rib Special at the restaurant in their hotel. So it might not be quite as extravagant as you’d think.