SPARTANBURG, SC - AUGUST 03: Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League, speaks to fans of the Carolina Panthers during training camp at Wofford College on August 3, 2011 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

New CBA Is Officially Done: Labor Peace For 10 Years

The NFL lockout ended last week and now the new CBA is officially done meaning football is back.

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NFL Adding Game Day Tests For Performance-Enhancing Drugs

As part of the new CBA, which was ratified last week, the NFL will begin testing for performance enhancing drugs on game day, a first for the league, according to the Associated Press.

The league's senior vice president of law and labor policy, Adolpho Birch, said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters that tests weren't conducted in the past on days there were games "because of logistical issues involved, much more so than any philosophical issues."

Adolpho went on to say that the league now has a way to test players that "is not overly disruptive to the clubs and that respects the game-day process." 

In the wake of the news that the NFL will become the first league to begin testing for human growth hormone, this is by no means the most radical addition to the anti-substance policy this season, but it is an interesting development.

Most athletes have very specific pregame routines, and any drug test, I would imagine, would have to disrupt those. I wouldn't be surprised if there are some voices of displeasure in locker rooms after Week 1 games. 


CBA Ratified By NFL Players Making It Officially Done

NFL lockout. Injunctions. 8th Circuit. Labor negotiations.

Forget about all of that. The new CBA is officially, completely done, according to multiple reports.

The players and owners agreed to a settlement of the Brady vs. NFL lawsuit last week, which opened up parts of the league year over the last 10 days, but still had minor details to cover in the CBA.

On Thursday afternoon, they finalized those, the players voted and they approved. We officially have labor peace for the next 10 years in the NFL.

One major note is that the new CBA is that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell retains much of his power over the personal conduct policy. The players wanted a separate party to determine wrongdoing and discipline. Another tidbit is that it's believed HGH testing will be implemented.

Those are just details for now. The real point is that football is officially back.

The official ratification of the CBA also means that those free agents that haven't yet been allowed to practice can step onto the field. As of Thursday afternoon, many free agents were waiting on the sidelines waiting for the ratification of the CBA so they could start practicing.


HGH Testing Could Be Headed To The NFL

HGH testing appears to be coming to the NFL. The players are expected to vote on the new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday and included in that is HGH testing, according to multiple reports. As Judy Battista of the NY Times points out, HGH testing is a new thing in sports.

It will be annual and random blood testing. First North American league to do it with players' union consent.

It needs to be implemented within 30 days, which is before the Sept. 8 regular season opener. Players had previously balked at this idea until a reliable test was created.

Back in July, NFL attorney Jeff Pash first indicated that the league planned to institute HGH testing.

"We expect that we will have testing for HGH. I think that both sides believe that's important for the integrity of the game and that we should continue to be leaders here," Pash said. "I think that's a view that's strongly held by the players as it by us."

The league has been pushing for HGH testing for some time and the players were receptive to it if an agreed upon test was found.


CBA Nearly Done Which Means Salary Cap Matters Again

The NFL lockout is over but the new collective bargaining agreement is not quite done yet. The players are expected to vote to today to formally finalize the new CBA which will officially kick off the new league year. We've been working in this strange transition period in the last week where the league is kind of open, but not officially.

Once the players vote to approve, it'll be done, and the league year will start. That means every team needs to be under the salary cap by Friday, according to a report from Pro Football Talk.

PFT reports there are seven teams that were over the salary cap as of Tuesday: Raiders ($17.3 million), Steelers ($11.5 million), Texans ($8.5 million), Vikings ($5.6 million), Lions ($5 million), Cowboys ($3.7 million), and Panthers ($939,000).

Getting under the cap isn't that hard because the numbers can be poked and prodded to mean a lot of different things. These teams could make a few cuts to get under the cap or they could restructure some existing deals. 


NFL Lockout: Roger Goodell Retains Power To Discipline In New CBA

Last week when it was announced the NFL lockout was over, free agency could begin and training camps started up, most people thought the lockout was, you know, actually over.

Well, it is -- kind of. The settlement between the players and owners is done but the actual CBA isn't quite completed as there were a few issues the two sides could only discuss once the players returned to union status, one of those being the system used to discipline players.

Previously, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was the judge, jury and appeals man in all discipline matters, something that bugged the players, who wanted some sort of third-party or multi-person crew to determine discipline. In the new CBA, which could be completed on Thursday as scheduled, Goodell will retain that power, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Steelers player rep Ryan Clark talked on Wednesday and indicated the players didn't want that to happen.

"We feel like someone else should be on there; there should be some ... type of way -- actually someone who's not on the NFL payroll," Clark said. "A big issue, for us, especially, as a team, is Roger Goodell ... being judge, jury and appeals system."

Clark described it as a "deal-breaker" for the players but apparently not if the ESPN report is accurate. 

If the two sides agree on the final details of the CBA, those veteran free agents that have been sitting out can practice on Thursday.


CBA Hung Up On Roger Goodell's Control Of Personal Conduct Policy

The NFL lockout has ended but there are still a few nagging issues to be meted out before the new collective bargaining agreement can be ratified, chief among them being Roger Goodell's refusal to relinquish full control of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Per Pro Football Talk:

Since inception of the rule that exposes players and other team and league employees to discipline for off-field conduct, regardless of whether an arrest or conviction arises, Goodell has had the ability both to impose a penalty and to preside over the appeals process. Though former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw willingly gave Goodell that power, the players generally have decided after several years of incidents and enforcements that they want someone other than Goodell or an employee of the league office to have final say.

Until the new CBA is ratified, newly-signed free agents will not be able to practice with their respective teams. The earliest that free agents can begin practicing is this Thursday, though obviously that date is now in serious jeopardy. 

Yes, the lockout has ended, but the technical annoyances of negotiation still rage on.


CBA May Not Be Ratified In Time For Free Agents To Practice On Thursday

Yes, the NFL lockout ended last week and teams have opened free agency and training camps. Player movement is happening, preseason games are scheduled and we expect to play the regular season games as scheduled.

But...there are still lingering effects of the lockout that could affect training camp. The settlement between the owners and players has come and the two sides needed only to negotiate on a few collectively bargained items in order to finalize and ratify the CBA closing the book on the lockout.

The date to get that done was Aug. 4, which is also the date free agents signing new contracts can start practicing.

Pittsburgh Steelers player rep Ryan Clark tells Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette he's not sure the CBA will be fully ratified by then. He says the hang-up right now is over NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's disciplinary power.

I don't think this would blow the whole deal up and reinstate a lockout -- it would just delay the final deal, again -- but it is a disappointing development for those of us who are trying -- very hard -- to forget the lockout ever happened.

One of the biggest effects of failing to ratify the CBA on Thursday will be that those free agent veterans won't be able to practice with their team until it's done.


NFL Lockout: NFLPA Officially Votes To Recertify

The NFLPA has recertified, according to a report.

If you don’t know what that means, you don’t need to worry about it, assuming you already know that the NFL Lockout is over. Basically, the recertification of the players’ union was a foregone conclusion once players and owners reached an agreement to end the lockout, so the actual voting on recertification is simply a formality. The players’ side in the NFL Lockout negotiations would not have reached an agreement with the owners unless it was fairly certain that the union would recertify. Still, DeMaurice Smith of the NFLPA has recently been encouraging players to vote to recertify, just in case.

Because a union now exists (again), players can meet with owners on Saturday to dot the i’s and cross the t’s on their agreement. Without a union, it would not be possible for the players and owners to officially agree upon a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For more on the end of the NFL Lockout, follow this storystream.


NFL Lockout: TV Executives Never Planned For Missing Games

The New York Post reports that TV executives were never terribly concerned that the 2011 NFL lockout would cause them to lose out on programming.

"There’s so many benefits to so many people that I was always relatively confident they’d get the deal done," Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said.

The NFL is extremely popular, meaning that not only the players but also the owners had tremendous incentive to complete a deal. Sports business reporter Darren Rovell explains why:

"Sports is the only thing on television that is not TIVO-able meaning it’s either live or it’s garbage," Rovell said. "That’s really the value of sports and that’s what makes the advertising so valuable. Whether you go to the bathroom or not for the most part the ads are going to be on because you are watching live."

Advertising, then, is more valuable on sports broadcasts than on other types of programming. Also, the league draws huge audiences, helped along, the Post notes, by fantasy football and by high-definition television, which makes the games look incredibly vivid.

In other words, it’s a great time to be in the football business, and a bad time to be in the lockout business. The longer as the lockout stretched on, the harder it was to be certain that the two sides would reach an agreement, but the financial incentives involved probably suggested that we shouldn’t have worried as much as we did.


VIDEO: With NFL Lockout Now Over, NFLPA Thanks The Fans

The NFL Players Association showed that it at least has some sense of reality, releasing a video of players on the bargaining committee basically thanking the fans for sticking through the lockout and expressing their excitement at getting back to business. It might not be the most original idea, but they certainly deserve credit for being self-aware enough to make the gesture.

How much rebuilding of the fans' faith is required, though? As frustrating and maddening as the lockout was, some credit is deserved for both sides' apparent realization that they needed to get a deal struck before any actual games were missed. The regular season isn't scheduled to start until Sept. 8, meaning teams will have more than six weeks to get themselves together.

With all that, this seems like the appropriate level of reaching out. The players should be excited to be back to playing, and this comes off as honest enough. It's now safe to move on.


The Lockout's Over: 10 Reasons To Get Excited For Football In 2011

The NFL Lockout is over, and after months of biting our tongue, it's finally okay to get excited about football again. So from free agency anarchy to the Peyton Hillis' Madden jinx, here are ten reasons to get pumped for what comes next.


NFL Calendar Confirms Free Agency, Training Camp Dates

The NFL published a new calendar for the start of the 2011 season and it's about what we thought it would be. The action starts on Tuesday and continues through the weekend when full free agency opens.

Here's a glimpse of the schedule this week:

Monday: The NFL will release a list of the 2011 free agents.

Tuesday: At 10:00 a.m. (ET), team facilities will open. Also at that time, trades can begin. Teams can begin signing their own drafted rookies and other undrafted free agents. They can also negotiate with other teams' free agents but can't sign those players yet.

Wednesday-Saturday: Training camp opens for all teams.

Friday: Starting at 6:00 p.m. (ET) teams can sign other teams' free agents so this is when full free agency starts.

One caveat is that deals that are agreed upon this week don't become official until the players officially reform as a union and ratify the new CBA. That will happen before Aug. 4.


NFL Lockout: Robert Kraft Apologizes To The Fans

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spoke to the media following the news that the players had unanimously voted to approve the labor deal with the owners ending the NFL lockout.

Kraft is among the most influential owners and he was also the first to take the opportunity to apologize to the fans.

"First of all, on behalf of both sides, I want to apologize to fans that for the last 5-6 months we've been talking about the business of football and not what goes on on the field and building the teams in each market. The end result is that we have an agreement that is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade and we've done that in a way that's unique among the major sports in that every team, all 32j, will be competitive. We've improved player safety and we've remembered the players who played in the past. 

"I want to give a special compliment to Commissioner Goodell and De Smith. The Commissioner has to deal with 32 tough and demanding owners and he's been able to take that balance. De Smith comes in, and he has to manage 1,900 players, a bunch of different professionals. It's a new CBA with tricky language and he was able to keep all those things going and come up with an agreement that he and Roger did together with their two teams."

Perhaps the most touching moment in the press conference came when Jeff Saturday remembered Myra Kraft, Robert Kraft's wife, who passed away last week. Saturday said without Kraft involved, the deal doesn't get done. I'm not sure there's a higher compliment you could pay someone following a labor negotiation.


NFLPA's DeMaurice Smith Announces Players Recommend New Deal

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith spoke to the media on Monday after the players voted unanimously to approve the new labor deal with the owners ending the NFL lockout. There are still a few procedural issues the players need to tie up but, starting as soon as Tuesday, the NFL is back.

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Here's a transcript of what Smith had to say to the media on Monday afternoon around 2:00 p.m. (ET):

"We wanted to let everyone know who loves this game that the executive committee and board of player reps of the National Football League unanimously recommended the approval of the deal.

"Obviously, we have a collective bargaining ratification process that has yet to start. We have a recertification effort that is going to be one of the most intense and significant unionization efforts, certainly one of the most public unionization efforts in our history. Our men believe they should make this decision as players. They'll make the decision of recertification as players. They'll make the decision of ratifying the CBA that addresses health and asfety issues, and benefits, that you know have been important to us.

"To our fans, I know you love this game as much as I do. I know it's been a very long process since the day we stood here on that day in March. But our guys stuck together when no one lese thought we would and football is back because of it. I'm proud of the men that you see behind me, I'm proud of the former players that have stood with us, and most of all, I dig our fans who love our game."


NFL Lockout And How We Got Here: Timeline To A New CBA

NFL players formally voted and approve the new labor agreement with the owners on Monday. How did we get here? Here's a timeline of the last three years in this labor dispute.


NFL Lockout Is Officially Over: Welcome Back, Football

After nearly five months, the NFL lockout is over. NFLPA spokesman George Atallah tweeted out two words that mean so much to football fans everywhere:

"It's unanimous."

Meaning the players have officially voted -- and approved -- the proposal from the owners which ends the NFL lockout. All that remains is the players reforming as a union which is a formality at this point. The guesswork is over.

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The labor dispute really started when the two sides extended the previous collective bargaining agreement in 2006. Shortly after that, more than a few owners recognized that they actually didn't have a deal that they thought was fair and opted out of the deal as early as the deal allowed in May 2008. 

The owners and players had more than two years to come to a new labor agreement but there was no real pressure on either side to do one in that time so, like a lot of negotiations, it came down to the final minutes.

On March 11, the players decertified as a union and planned to sue the league because they felt that gave them the most leverage. Likewise, the league felt locking the players gave them the most leverage so they instituted a lockout at midnight on March 12. 

From there, the lockout was on. It was technically lifted for a brief few days the week of the 2011 NFL draft, a time when some players were able to see the coaching staff, even if for a few hours. The 8th Circuit stepped in later that week and ruined the fun ruling that the lockout would remain in place.

The lockout officially came to an end on Monday when the two sides agreed to a new labor deal.

In all, those four-and-a-half months were forgettable, at best. There was no free agency. The players couldn't meet or talk with the coaching staff. There were no practices. There were no fun press conferences introducing the rookies after the draft. There was nothing for the fans except to listen to prepared statements from Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith.

But that's all over now as we prepare to return to football. Free agency, contracts, training camp and all that good stuff will make the next week in the NFL the fastest moving we've ever seen.

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