Jeff Faine and the NFLPA aren't hopeful this CBA gets done soon.

NFL Owners Preparing to Play Hard Ball

Jeff Faine, the Buccaneers’ NFLPA player rep recently caught up with Rick Stroud of the St. Pete Times and gave his take on the on-going NFL-NFLPA Labor negotiations recently. If you were looking for good news, keep looking. Faine didn’t exactly try to church anything up, and things don’t look promising. In Faine’s estimation the owners are gearing up to play hard ball and the players are going to suffer for it.

One of the most contentious issues of the past couple days has been the NFLPA plan to decertify. Despite the fact that this plan has been in place and well-known for several months, the NFL decided to posture this past week by filing a labor charge against the players union accusing them of not negotiating in good faith. Despite that, the NFLPA recently held a conference call with all 32 player reps to discuss the process.

“That’s our last resort,” Faine said. “It is. But it’s an action we will take. … There’s a sense we’re all still on board and want to do that.”

Chances are things will get to that point of “last resort.” And in the mean-time the owners are preparing to try and freeze out the players. Starting on March 4th the players will begin to miss out on hundreds of millions of dollars in contractual bonuses, health care coverage and potentially the shot at their next pay-day.

While the owners are guaranteed an estimated 4.5 billion dollars in television revenues regardless of whether or not there is a 2011 NFL season, the players won’t even have health coverage on March 4th.

“The health insurance is pulled,” Faine said. “There are six guys on our team I can think of right now that have babies coming this offseason. There are two players in the league that have kids on the transplant list, who need to get these organs. It’s not an insignificant thing from a life standpoint and it’s not insignificant from a cost standpoint. No one wants to shell out a million dollars, but they’ll have to at this point.”

In the coming months it seems like the only group who won’t be insured is the players.

“They’ve taken out insurance on a work stoppage, as well as what they’re going to be paid from television,” Faine said. “And the networks have taken out insurance as well. The only ones who don’t have insurance against a lockout is us.”

The bigger issue, Faine believes, will be players who have not planned financially. As easy as it is to write that off, it’s also unfair. Despite offering a rookie symposium, it’s not as though players receive extensive financial training before entering the league. Many have never had much money before or support massive groups of people. The NFLPA warned players to save their last three game-checks to tide them over in case of a lock-out, but there will still be players who find themselves in unenviable financial situations.

“The unfortunate thing working against us in this lockout and CBA talk is that the majority of players in this league play beyond their means,” Faine said. “The majority of people in this country live beyond their means. But not everybody in the NFL makes millions and millions of dollars and it’s just the persona we’ve taken on.

“What about the undrafted free agent who really didn’t believe a lockout would occur? I believe there are guys who will suffer, but they have a lot of pride and they’re not going to tell me about it. The message is where does it stop? I’m not fighting just for me. Players that came before me fought for me.”

The owners are preparing to play hard-ball though, as Faine is well aware of. They don’t stand to lose anything right now, and won’t until games start getting cancelled. They can try to freeze the players out as long as they want to, they’re not really the ones taking a risk right now (despite the fact they’re making the case that they are).

And it doesn’t look like the owners will relent to anything less than exactly the deal they want. For all the talk about players concessions, there don’t seem to have been many on the part of the owners. Just look at the 18-game season proposal. The fans only support it insofar as it eliminates two full-priced pre-season games. The owners still want to sell full-price tickets to another home game so they’re going to force an 18-game season no matter what. Faine, and many others, think it would only lead to more injuries and shorter careers.

“The initial idea is that they’re going to spread a 16-game salary over an 18-game schedule,” Faine said. “That’s like asking someone to work another month for free.

“I still feel like it’s a bargaining chip. If it is, I’m sure that’s something we may go to. If it’s something they’re stuck on, I think it’s a terrible idea. There’s nothing good in it, except for the owners.”

But as we all know by now, the NFL really doesn’t care what the players want, or what the fans want for that matter. They care about making 32 rich men a lot more money. Everything else be damned.

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