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Mike Vrabel: Lockout wasn’t reason for my retirement

07.13.11 at 2:12 pm ET
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While doing everything he can to help end the NFL lockout, former Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel wants everyone to know that the lockout wasn’t the reason he decided to end his pro career.

Vrabel told ESPN Radio Dallas that he made his decision to retire after the Chiefs lost at home in the playoffs to the Ravens in January. He also addressed his reactions to Bill Belichick‘s high praise of Vrabel and heading back to his alma mater of Ohio State to begin his coaching career as an assistant to Luke Fickell.

Would he have made the decision to retire had the NFL not been bogged down in a lockout this offseason?

‘€œI thought in January when we lost to the Ravens that I had played my last down in the NFL. Whether the league resumed in March, I don’€™t know if I would have felt any better or any worse, but I’€™m comfortable with this decision. It’€™s certainly exciting, it’€™s a new challenge, it’€™s something that’€™s going to give me something to do and something I want to do.’€

On the comments of Bill Belichick after Vrabel announced his retirement that Vrabel was one of the most important and integral members of the Pats‘€™ locker room and bound to be a great coach one day:

‘€œWell it’€™s humbling, it’€™s flattering. I think a lot of what I’€™m going to do and these these guys is going to come from Bill, it’€™s going sound like Bill, and hopefully if I can join that coaching tree of guys that have worked with Bill to go on to be great coaches either in college or in the NFL, hopefully I can be one of those guys.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Kansas City Chiefs, Luke Fickell, Mike Vrabel

Patriots rate as world’s 6th most valuable franchise

07.13.11 at 1:16 pm ET
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The New England Patriots, once a laughing stock of the National Football League, is now regarded as one of the most valuable franchises in all of sports.

Forbes – in its annual review of sports franchise – values the team owned by Robert Kraft at $1.37 billion, good for sixth in the world.

Forbes writes that “sponsorship revenues were up in 2010 and demand for tickets remains strong despite the highest prices in the league.”

The top team is the international soccer dynasty, Manchester United, valued at $1.86 billion. The Glazer family, which also owns the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Man-U will be at Gillette Stadium Wednesday night for a soccer “friendly” with the New England Revolution.

The Dallas Cowboys are second at $1.81 billion, followed by the New York Yankees ($1.7 billion), Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion) and the European soccer power Real Madrid ($1.45 billion).

Kraft was offered $75 million in 1994 as a minority partner by then-owner James Orthwein to buy out the remainder of the team’s lease at the Foxboro Stadium, which, if Kraft agreed, would free Orthwein to move the Patriots to St. Louis.

However, Kraft not only refused the offer, but made a counter-offer of $175 million – an NFL-record at the time – for the outright purchase of the Patriots. The move was stunning at the time since the Patriots were among the NFL’s least-valuable franchises. As Kraft had the stadium lease as leverage, Orthwein had little choice but to accept Kraft’s counter-offer.

Read More: Forbes, Manchester United, New England Patriots, New York Yankees

Saints QB Drew Brees: ‘Very close to a settlement’

07.13.11 at 12:50 pm ET
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Shortly after releasing a joint statement with Tom Brady and Peyton Manning calling on owners to accept the players’ latest proposal and end the lockout, Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in a radio interview that the two sides are closing in on a deal.

Speaking with XX Radio 1090 in San Diego, Brees said:”We’re very close to a settlement. We’re at that point in the negotiations where there’s just a few more details that need to be ironed out.”

Added Brees: “We’ve taken a significant setback in overall revenue in terms of what we’ve offered them compared to what we were making. I feel like there’s a fair deal there ‘€” we all do ‘€” and we think it’s time to step up and make a deal.”

Brees acknowledged that there is a push to get the deal done this week so that it can be approved at the July 21 owners meetings.

“Obviously, there’s a big sense of urgency, especially in the next week with the owners meetings on July 21,” he said. “I think we’re all optimistic and hoping we can finalize a deal for that time.”

Explaining why he, Brady and Manning released their statement, Brees said: “Yesterday we felt like there’s a fair deal on the table and we need to make sure everybody knows this and make sure the owners know this, because this season is just around the corner.”

Read More: Drew Brees, NFL lockout,

Tom Brady: ‘It is time to get this deal done’

07.13.11 at 12:34 pm ET
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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, along with fellow QBs Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, released a joint statement through the NFL Players Association Wednesday pushing for a conclusion to collective bargaining negotiations.

“We believe the overall proposal made by the players is fair for both sides and it is time to get this deal done,” the QBs said, adding: “This is the time of year we as players turn our attention to the game on the field. We hope the owners feel the same way.”

Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft arrived in Manhattan Wednesday morning along with other owners for a negotiating session with Players Association head DeMaurice Smith.

To read more, click here.

Read More: Robert Kraft, Tom Brady,

Report: Owners expect players back right after lockout ends

07.12.11 at 7:50 pm ET
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One reason those close to labor negotiations are optimistic that a compressed offseason schedule will result in the loss of few, if any, games is because most owners expect their players back to work right after ratification.

Teams throughout the NFL are anticipating the near-immediate arrival of players at team facilities within hours of a new collective bargaining agreement being reached, officials from several teams told the NFL Network.

In the minds of most coaches and player personnel executives, the biggest loss of the spring due to the lockout was the loss of up to 14 organized team activities (OTAs). The Patriots, for example, held 12 in 2010.

This is when teams get a first look at their rookies and undrafted free agents, along with free agent veterans who have the chance to report to the team and get accustomed to the their surroundings and systems.

That is followed-up with a mini-camp in early to mid-June followed by the opening of training camp in the last week of July.

While it’s not clear yet whether teams will hold any type of mini-camps or formal on-field workouts before training camps start, teams are prepared for players’ arrivals. Teams are eager to see all players, particularly rookies and those coming off injuries.

Teams wants to administer physicals as soon as possible, especially to players that have had offseason procedures performed by surgeons other than team physicians. Colts quarterback Peyton Manning told reporters last week he was concerned about his return from neck surgery because he has been unable to consult with team trainers and doctors because of lockout restrictions.

NFL Network also reports teams also are preparing for classroom and film work with players. It is expected players will report to lift weights and go through conditioning work.

Teams officials said they will wait to get all rules from the league regarding football-related workouts but they do expect to see most players — especially team leaders, according to three team officials — almost right away when the lockout is lifted

Meanwhile, NFL Network’s Albert Breer reports that with the preseason hanging in the balance, legal teams for both sides of the labor fight worked early this hoping to set the table for key figures later in the week.

Read More: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, nfl, NFL labor

Chris Mortensen on M&M: Rookie wage system holding up negotiations ‘doesn’t make sense’

07.11.11 at 2:39 pm ET
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ESPN NFL expert Chris Mortensen joined Mut & Merloni on Monday to discuss the most recent developments with the NFL lockout, including the issues that are holding a deal up and when he expects things to be resolved. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Mortensen opened by saying that this week’s negotiations are the most important to date on whether or not a new deal will be reached by the scheduled league meetings on July 21.

“This is an important week because everyone has pretty much said that this needs to get finalized,” he said. “Finalized means that there is really no more negotiating after this week, and it is all dotting I’s and crossing T’s and getting everyone to sign off and getting the approval. Bottom line is they are still hung up on a couple of issues. The most surprising one to me is the rookie wage system, that owners are hung up on a matter that doesn’t make sense to me and doesn’t make sense to the players side.”

Added Mortensen: “The players have basically agreed that we’re going to cut rookie salaries about in half in terms of the amount of money they’re paid. ‘€¦ But where the players are pretty upset ‘€¦ what they’re seeing is this control over the fifth year. In other words, the players really want after four years for these rookies ‘€” who are no longer rookies ‘€” to be able to experience free agency like a true veteran. Because since you’ve already slashed the rookie salaries in half ‘€¦ then they should be able to experience what most veterans do, and that is free agency after four years. Owners want a fifth-year option that’s a little more restrictive than the players are willing to have. If there’s going to be a fifth-year option, it’s got to cost the owners. And that’s where they’re hung up at.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Bill Belichick, Chris Mortensen, Logan Mankins, NFL lockout

Why there’s reason to think it’s do or die this week on the labor front

07.11.11 at 2:00 pm ET
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This could be the best week for NFL fans. Or it could be the more frustrating.

According to an ESPN report, the NFL and NFL Players Assocation are expected to reach an agreement that will be ratified during the July 21 league meetings in Atlanta. The report credits sources familar with the state of negotiations and quotes an unidentified owner as saying that there’s “no reason to believe it won’t get done.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and his son Jonathan, have been key players at the negotiating table for the owners while the newly-retired Mike Vrabel, a member of all three Patriots Super Bowl-winning teams, has been at the table for the Players Association.

The Patriots are scheduled to open preseason the weekend of Aug. 11-15 with a home game against Jacksonville. They open the season Monday night Sept. 12 in Miami against the Dolphins.

Talks resumed Monday in New York City, with two key dates on the horizon.

Vacationing U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan has scheduled a meeting between the principles and their lawyers for July 19 in Minneapolis. Boylan adjudicated the court-ordered mediation in April and May and has presided over talks the last six weeks. Two days later, the owners have a meeting scheduled in Atlanta.

The ESPN story incudes some concern from a member of the players’ negotiating team, who indicated players feel they have made significant concessions “that have not been reciprocated,” and that “we’ve basically reached the limits of compromise.”

The players’ source told ESPN that the union agreed to cut rookie compensation in half but won’t agree to change the right for rookies to become free agents after four years in the league.

[Click here to listen to Chris Mortensen break down the rookie wage issue on Mut & Merloni on WEEI on Monday.]

He also indicated negotiations Wednesday and Thursday will be the most telling days on whether an agreement indeed will be finalized within the July 21 time frame because “we’ve basically reached the limits of compromise.”

The same source added that the players have agreed to cut rookie compensation in half but won’t agree to a deal that does not allow for the rookie class to become free agents at the end of four years. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Arthur Boylan, Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, Jonathan Kraft
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