When it come to the NFL labor negotiations, it's clear where each side stands. The NFL thinks the NFLPA walked away from the table and they want to keep negotiating. The NFLPA feels the NFL didn't give them enough information in order to get a deal done and they feel decertification is the best course of action for them.
What we don't know, though, is where the incoming class of rookies stand. They're not NFL players yet so they're not technically in the union (or the organization formerly known as the NFLPA). Yet they've already declared for the draft so they're definitely not college players anymore.
It almost feels at times like this group is being overlooked. SB Nation interviewed Roger Goodell on Thursday and asked him about the incoming class. His response is that they're most definitely not being overlooked.
I don't think anybody has been overlooked in the context of this dispute and the negotiations. The incoming class of NFL players is important. They were all at the Combine a couple of weeks ago. Our clubs were obviously in contact with them during that period of time. And we're excited about the Draft as we are only a few weeks away from what is one of our biggest offseason events. I don't think anyone is being overlooked in this case. We know those players are going to be great NFL players and a big part of the success of the league. I can assure you nobody is being overlooked.
I'd agree they're not being overlooked and there are two reasons for that.
First, a rookie wage scale will likely be implemented whenever the two sides cut a new deal. A rookie wage scale -- essentially reeling in some of those big contracts paid to players at the top of the draft -- is one of the few things these two sides can agree on. There was a school of thought at one time that agreeing on a smaller issue, like the rookie wage scale, would be the basis for the two sides to begin to agree on larger things, like how to distribute the over $9 billion in revenue each year. The NFL lockout tells you that was not the case.
Second, the NFLPA is using the incoming class as some sort of statement against the league. They are thinking of requesting that the top NFL draft picks that would normally get an invite to Radio City Music Hall in New York City instead go to an NFLPA event "down the street". So in that sense the players are almost a pawn in the labor battle.
In light of those two issues relating to the 2011 draft class, the rookies are not being forgotten.