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Obama: I won’t intervene in NFL lockout

03.03.11 at 2:07 pm ET
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Speaking at a press conference on Thursday afternoon, President Barack Obama said he would not intervene in negotiations between NFL owners and players.

‘€œYou’€™ve got owners, most of whom are worth close to $1 billion. You’€™ve got players who are making millions are dollars. My working assumption at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kids’€™ college education is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the President of the United States intervening,’€ he said.

‘€œI’€™m a big football fan, but I also think for an industry that is making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way and be true to their fans who are the ones who, obviously, allow for all of the money that they are making,’€ he continued. ‘€œMy expectation and hope is that they will resolve it without me intervening, because it turns out I have got a lot of other stuff to do.’€

Read More: Barack Obama, lockout,

Reports: NFL players, owners talking about extension of deadline

03.03.11 at 1:56 pm ET
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Multiple reports now indicate that NFL players and owners are talking about a possible extension of the midnight deadline that would allow them to continue working on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported three sources indicated the extension of the talks are “now a definite possibility,” similar to what happened during CBA negotiations in 2006. It is not known how long the extension would last, but the idea of an extension is an optimistic sign for a negotiation that appears to be coming down to the wire.

Another reason for football fans to be encouraged includes the fact that the players’ union has not yet decided to file for decertification. If the NFLPA does file for decertification ‘€” something they would have to do by 5 p.m. to have it affect the current CBA ‘€” the players would be allowed to file suit against the owners for restricting trade. (Disbanding the union would be necessary because a union is not allowed to sue a party with which it is collectively bargaining.) That would start a chain of events where the whole negotiation would end up in the courts, tying up the talks and almost certainly having long-term affects on the game.

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Statement from Bill Belichick regarding the retirement of Stephen Neal

03.03.11 at 1:02 pm ET
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Patriots coach Bill Belichick issued a statement through the team on Thursday afternoon regarding Stephen Neal‘s decision to retire after 10 seasons with New England.

“They don’t come any better than Steve Neal. In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport to being an integral part of championship teams. I congratulate Steve for an incredible career and thank him for everything he did for me personally, our team and organization.”

Read More: Bill Belichick, Stephen Neal,

Opening statement from retiring Patriots’ lineman Stephen Neal

03.03.11 at 12:58 pm ET
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Before his Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon, Stephen Neal delivered an opening statement. Here’€™s the full transcript of what he said before he took questions from the media:

‘€œI never really was one who enjoyed the spotlight, but rather loved sport and competition. My first love was football, but graduated high school at 17 years old and being 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, limited my opportunities. Wrestling was my best option and I attacked that challenge. Thanks to T.J. Kerr and Darryl Pope, my college coaches at Cal-State Bakersfield, I became a four-time All-American and a two-time National Champ, and a World Champion in 1999.

‘€œIn 2000, I failed to make the Olympic team, but that allowed me to meet Neil Cornrich, who is my agent. And thanks to him, he got me to the doorstep to the NFL, so thank you Neal. Then, I met coach [Bill] Belchick, and he opened that door, so thank you, coach Belichick. I learned the sport of football and the dedication needed for success in the NFL from Bill and Dante Scarnecchia. The dedication that they showed ‘€” being the first one into the building and the last one to leave is something that’€™s truly amazing and the reason for the success of the Patriots each and every year. So, thank you Dante, for everything. And then having success in this league is only possible with great ownership, and so I want to thank the Kraft family ‘€” they really made me feel like part of the family when i was there.

‘€œAnd it is truly special what happens in New England, and it’€™s something I will definitely miss. The sport of football is a brutal sport, and injuries are part of this game. The training, strength and medical staff here are top notch, and they are a huge factor to my success and the team’€™s success. So thank all of you very much. You helped me stick around for so long.

‘€œOf course, football is not an individual sport. I want to thank each and every teammate and coach who have walked through this building in the last 10 years. They have all helped me to have success in this game, so thank you guys. I want to thank each and every one of you. Without the media and the fans, the sport could not continue at the level it is at, so I’€™d like to thank you for the coverage and the support you have shown me over the years. We definitely have the greatest fans in the country, and being in New England, when the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Pats all have success, it’€™s just a great environment and something I’€™ll never forget.

‘€œI also want to recognize two good friends I made in New England. We have Chris Robertson, who is my go-to guy at Stop and Shop. He’€™s a great guy. Thanks Chris. And Rich Burns, who is a great friend and fan, neighbor, and a great guy. So thank you Rich ‘€” I’€™ll give you a call in a day or two.

‘€œAnd all this is really possible because of my family. My Mom, my Dad ‘€” Mike and Dave, my brothers. They all believed in me and never doubted my dreams. They were always there for me. And my wife Jodee put everything down in Bakersfield to follow me out here to New England. She’€™s been my support through this entire journey. Always there for me after a win, loss, injuries, everything, with her arms wide open. She’€™s there raising our beautiful girls, Colby and Jillian, and our stubborn copy of me, Gunnar. Our little guy. I just can’€™t wait. My family is my new team, and I hope we can go undefeated for the rest of our lives. Thank you guys. Any questions you have, I’€™ll try and help you out.’€

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dante Scarnecchia, Darryl Pope, Neil Cornrich

Compared to other teams, how would the Patriots fare if there was a lockout?

03.03.11 at 12:03 pm ET
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When compared to the other 31 teams, the Patriots are actually pretty well situated for the coming lockout, at least when it comes to the on-field product. While other teams with new GMs and coordinators will struggle because they won’€™t be allowed to meet with players and get teams ready for new systems, in New England, there’€™s relative continuity on the coaching staff. The biggest change anticipated for the 2011 season is the fact that Bill O’€™Brien was recently named offensive coordinator ‘€” but he’€™s really been the OC in waiting for the last two seasons, so it’€™s not like the New England will be hamstrung when it comes to installing a new offensive system.

In contrast, there are teams who will likely have issues if there is a lockout. In an interesting piece for NBCSports.com, Gregg Rosenthal lists the 32 teams and the challenges that they will face if the clock strikes midnight on Thursday and there’€™s no new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with the Titans (new head coach, major quarterback problems), Broncos (new GM and new coach) and Browns (new coach and young quarterback) as the top 3 teams who will be the most hurt by the lockout and the fact that coaches and GMs will not be able to have contact with players. Rosenthal has the Patriots at No. 29, with only the Steelers, Packers and Colts better prepared for the lockout. Rosenthal says of New England: ‘€œThe weirder the rules are, the more that creative front offices should thrive. The Patriots and other quick-thinking teams can better adapt and sniff out market inefficiencies.’€

Read More: Bill O'Brien, lockout, Patriots,

Update: What to watch for if a lockout is imposed

03.03.11 at 10:09 am ET
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According to multiple reports, both players and owners have arrived for mediation at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Washington, D.C., as we tick down to midnight and the expiration of the NFL’€™s Collective Bargaining Agreement. We gave you a few of the sticking points between the two teams, and while we await word on what’€™s going down inside ‘€” white smoke from the Vatican chimney, if you will ‘€” here are a few things to look for over the next couple of days.

‘€¢If there’€™s no agreement struck by Thursday at midnight, come Friday morning, everything essentially comes to a halt. Players will not be allowed inside their team facilities, and wouldn’€™t be allowed to have contact with coaches or trainers. Teams could not conduct voluntary workouts or organized team activities with players. In addition, teams could not interview or sign free agents, and there would be no payment of offseason roster and workout bonuses. There will still be a draft, which will take place April 28-30. At the draft, teams will be allowed to swap draft picks but not players. However, draftees won’€™t be able to sign until a new deal is in place. They won’€™t even be able to get a playbook.

‘€¢The players union will likely decertify. Players have been preparing for this since the regular season as a tactic against the owners ‘€” if a lockout does take place, decertification would allow individual players file anti-trust lawsuits against the owners for restricting trade. (Disbanding the union would be necessary because a union is not allowed to sue a party with which it is collectively bargaining.) If they do want to decertify, the players have to file those papers by 5 p.m. Thursday. If the word comes down that the players’€™ union has decided to decertify, it’€™s a sign that things are going poorly.

‘€¢There remains the possibility that the two sides could push the deadline back, which certainly would appear to be the most hopeful news of the day. As Andrew Brandt of the National Football Post wrote: ‘€œThe extension would come from two factors: (1) a spirit of good faith from both sides that negotiations are spinning in a positive direction while the clock is ticking down, and (2) the mediator recommends to both sides to stop the clock and continue negotiating without a hard deadline for tomorrow night.’€

Read More: lockout,

A quick look at the major points being discussed in the talks between NFL players, owners

03.03.11 at 8:00 am ET
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As the countdown begins to midnight ‘€” when the NFL’€™s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires ‘€” negotiations are scheduled to continue throughout the day. Here’€™s a look at the major sticking points between the players and the owners:

‘€¢The owners want to move from a 16-game regular-season slate to an 18-game regular-season schedule, with a change from four preseason games to two. The players are against the idea because of financial and injury reasons. This is a huge sticking point, one the players agree almost unanimously on. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady weighed in on the idea of an 18-game schedule.

‘€œI’€™ve taken part in several postseason runs where we have played 20 games. The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented,’€ Brady said. ‘€œLook no further than the players that came before we did. Each player today has to play three years in order to earn five years of post-career health care. Our Union has done a great job of raising the awareness on these issues and will make the right decision for us players, the game and the fans.’€

‘€¢The owners want a bigger slice of the nearly $9 billion in revenue that’€™s generated annually. The owners are given $1 billion off the top of that for operating expenses, a number agreed to in the 2006 CBA. Of the rest of the approximately $8 billion, 60 percent (roughly $5 billion) goes to the players and 40 percent goes to the owners (just over $4 billion). The owners want more of this money ‘€” another $1 billion off the top for stadium expenses and other expenditures to help ‘€œgrow the game’€ ‘€” and the players to take the same amount.

‘€¢The two sides sound closest over the idea of a rookie wage scale. The owners want to reduce the borderline insane rookie bonuses, and veterans have quietly resented the megabuck deals that have been handed out to unproven rookies. However, the idea of where the money should go ‘€” instead of to the rookies ‘€” is a point of debate. Players propose limiting contracts to three years, with the savings going to veteran players, pensions and health care, while owners are looking for rookies to be attached to their rookie deals for three years and to increase the amount of time it takes players to reach free agency.

Read More: lockout, Tom Brady,
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