NFL Players Association’s Decertification Has Major Ramifications


This day on March 11, 2011, the NFL Players Association filed for decertification. The Players Association, headed by DeMaurice Smith, took this action because they feared that no collective bargaining agreement was going to be reached with the NFL owners, and they did not want to have the owners lock out the players.

For the players, this action was proactive instead of reactive. They took the first step and sent a clear message to NFL owners: you must work with us [the players] not against us. NFL superstar quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees have all agreed that they will headline an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL owners.

Each NFL player now has the ability to negotiate on their own. The Players Association now has no collective bargaining rights for the players. As a result, a series of lawsuits will take place. As is customary with the legal system in America, nothing will happen quickly in the courts. Months will pass between the filing of these lawsuits and the time when hearings will actually begin in a United States courtroom.

As a result of the union’s decertification, expect the NFL offseason to be severely shortened if not erased completely. Based on the history of the NFL and lockouts, the situation looks grim for a resolution to be agreed upon before too much time passes and the teams miss games.

On Thursday, DeMaurice Smith was quoted as saying that the owners and players were as much as 800 million dollars apart. Smith appeared to be facing reality that despite using a federal mediator, the NFL players and owners were not going to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The issues being fought over by the players and owners were many. Both sides had to agree upon how to split up nearly 9 billion in revenue. The owners also wanted to lengthen the NFL schedule to 18 games, but the players citing injury concerns and lack of revenue sharing for their group, adamantly fought against lengthening the schedule.

Certain teams in the NFL will be hurt more than others due to this lockout. For example, teams like the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, and Tennessee Titans will be hurt because they have all new head coaches who will need plenty of time to get to know his new players and assistant coaches. It appears that the Tennessee Titans may be hurt more than any other team in the NFL as they have a brand new head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator as well as having no quarterback at the moment [Titans scouts watched former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton intently today at TCU’s pro day]

However, I digress. The Dallas Cowboys will no doubt experience problems with adjusting to a new coach and new schemes. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is going to need to install an entirely new defense. The Cowboys will switch to Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defense, and they will also be under the direction of new head coach Jason Garrett.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, Garrett has been the offensive coordinator of the team before, so offensive players like Tony Romo, Jason Witten, and Miles Austin are already familiar with his expectations and scheme. Rob Ryan, on the other hand, will have a very short offseason, if any offseason at all, to institute his new 3-4 scheme.

The free agent signing period will not occur until the players and owners have reached a new collective bargaining deal. The Cowboys were looking at upgrading at several positions on defense including the linebacking corps and secondary. For the forseeable future, the only chance the Cowboys will have to upgrade the roster will be through the NFL Draft.

Realistically the Cowboys may only get 1-2 impact players from the draft that will contribute to the team’s success in 2011-2012.

So as fans we wait…we wait to see if the players and owners will put aside their emotions and hurt feelings to return to the negotiating table without having to deal with the extended court process in America. Unfortunately, this strike/lockout/decertification (or whatever it is being called these days) may be one of the more lengthy and strenuous ones in NFL history.

Under former head of the NFL Players Association, Gene Upshaw, the owners were very willing to negotiate. Upshaw was friendly to the NFL and owners, and often sought middle ground which led to an unprecedented term of labor peace in the NFL. DeMaurice Smith does not appear to be cut from the same cloth as Upshaw. Smith is loved by the players for his staunch record of maximizing the interests of the players.

Owners like Jerry Jones will not feel the ripple effects financially from this lockout because the owners will still receive their money from the TV contracts that the NFL has signed. Second off, most owners are billionaires and have thick pockets with more money than they know what to do with. So this is up to the players most likely. Eventually the players will get sick of sitting idol. Some player out there will have to step up and make a stern call for a collective bargaining agreement to be reached.

But for now, Jerry Jones and the owners will be sitting and waiting. They will be waiting for the players to finally give in. You see, the average career time of an NFL player is between 2-3.5 years. For some players to miss a whole year of football could mean half of their career is over. If the 2011-2012 season never happens, every NFL player will be a little bit older and a little bit closer to the end of their NFL career.

Hopefully, for some player, that thought of their lack of longevity will be enough to drive the players back to the negotiating table. However, for now, the players will go through with their antitrust lawsuits.

Let us all hope as fans that the players soon figure out what is coming to pass in the NFL: the owners are sitting on their pocketbooks while players lose a year of their NFL life, a year of their prime, and a year of the game that so many players and so many Americans so dearly love.

I love the NFL, and I love football. However, as an average American it is remarkably disappointing to see millionaires and billionaires quarrel while so many Americans still seek a job and seek to make ends meet.

To me, it seems as if most of the 2011-2012 season will be lost as a result of the union decertification. Hopefully I am wrong but I would be willing to bet I am right.

So Cowboys fans: one less year of Tony Romo, one less year of Dez Bryant, one less year of Cowboys stadium, and one less year of football on Sundays, and one less year of the game we love.

I sure hope that I am wrong.

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