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Thursday night, NFL owners voted to approve a deal that would end the ongoing lockout, if players agreed and reformed the NFLPA. The league presented a detailed timeline, including preseason, free agency and training camp dates, along with bullets on new collective bargaining agreement high points.
And it's all pretty much masterful marketing by the owners.
Here's labor leader DeMaurice Smith's letter to players:
As you know the Owners have ratified their proposal to settle our differences. It is my understanding that they are forwarding it to us.
As you may have heard, they apparently approved a supplemental revenue sharing proposal. Obviously, we have not been a part of those discussions.
As you know from yesterday, issues that need to be collectively bargained remain open, other issues such as workers compensation, economic issues and end of deal terms remain unresolved.
There is no agreement between the NFL and the Players at this time. I look forward to our call tonight.
Players are now in the awkward position of either agreeing to a deal that doesn't work for them or coming out looking like the bad guys. Many are angry, including former Falcons player Domonique Foxworth, one of the most influential player leaders.
The lockout is technically halfway over, but be prepared for the second half to be as hard-fought as the first.
NFL owners in Atlanta have voted 31-0 to approve a deal that will end the lockout -- if players likewise agree to approve. The one abstaining vote? Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. I don't know. Let him roam.
The players have a conference call at 8 pm ET. It will be up to players to decide whether to reform the NFLPA union and whether to accept the new collective bargaining agreement. The former will involve every player, while the latter will be up to each team's player rep -- the Falcons are represented by Tyson Clabo. Things could end later tonight, or it could drag on into the weekend.
A few unresolved issues remain, along with some lawyerly stuff. But this is very good news. Looks like a Chick-fil-A dinner was all this thing needed all along.
According to WSB-TV's Zach Klein, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank had to step out of Thursday's NFL owner meetings at Atlanta's Airport Gateway Marriott to check up on his 96-year-old mother after she fell. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter, she was at Piedmont Hospital after the accident.
Klein says Blank is expected to return in time for the vote later Thursday to approve or shoot down the agreement that was reportedly proposed "conditionally" by players. According to reports, owners will vote towards the end of the business day, while players will call in for a big powwow later in the evening. That ... sort of sounds like good news, right?
We'll hope Mr. Blank's mother is all right.
Earlier in the day he was optimistic the end of the day would see a completed deal in place.
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, who's playing unofficial host to Thursday's NFL owner meetings in Atlanta, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he expects a deal to be completed according to the timeline everyone had hoped for over the past few weeks -- in other words, Thursday in Atlanta.
"I’d be disappointed like 330 million people in America if it didn’t get done today," he told the paper.
Owners have the task of ... well, here's an excellent breakdown of what needs to happen today. I don't really want to re-write it. I'm sorry. Wednesday night, players reportedly voted to "conditionally" approve the settlement that would put the ball in the owners' court. I think that's a foursquare metaphor. As Tyson Clabo put it, there's still work to do.
Blank has been relatively (and wisely) silent throughout lockout negotiations, other than posting an open letter to fans on the team's website.
The NFL lockout appeared to veer off schedule Wednesday night, not that you should be all that surprised. While players voted to approve the settlement and forward it to the Brady vs. NFL lawsuit's named plaintiffs, that vote isn't set in stone until certain issues with owners are resolved.
As Atlanta Falcons rep Tyson Clabo put it:
So buckle right back up, NFL fans, because this thing could get even more muddled before the end.
As NFL lockout negotiations shift to Atlanta, let's take a quick look at what we're likely to see taking place.
The NFLPA is expected to vote on a new deal Wednesday, followed by owners doing the same on Thursday. There are still loose ends to tie up, but as local sports fans observed during the great Atlanta Thrashers relocation, loose ends are rarely enough to do enough damage to derail something this big. That was three mixed metaphors, if you're tracking.
But what happens after a deal is done?
On Friday, the league should be open for business, if all goes well. Free agency likely won't begin until late next week, following a 72-hour period during which teams will have a chance to very quickly re-sign as many of their current players as they'd like to hang on to. For the Atlanta Falcons, this will primarily center on the offensive line, but you can review the rest of the list here.
Speaking of the Falcons, Roddy White has revealed teams want players on campuses (campi) by Monday or Tuesday, though some teams have reportedly made it known they plan on bringing in players by Saturday. Saturday! Pro football on Saturday!
Since the conclusion of organized player practices, several Falcons have been doing their best to stay busy as the lockout drags on. Last year's first-round pick and second year LB Sean Weatherspoon has certainly been doing his part to prepare for next season.
While back home in Missouri, Weatherspoon has been working out with fellow ex-Tigers Danario Alexander, a wide receiver for the Rams, and Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles, among others. This has pretty much been the case all offseason long, with several players just trying their best to stay by working out with fellow players.
In the meantime, he's also scheduled to make appearances at a pro-am golf tournament and a youth football camp this weekend, both events being hosted by fellow Mizzou alum Lorenzo Williams in Springfield. All proceeds will be donated to a local network of children's hospitals. That's quite generous of him, especially considering he might not be getting a single paycheck this season.
Still, the important thing to take away from all this is that Weatherspoon is doing his part to get ready for 2011. He looks to rebound from a rookie season that, while promising, was hampered by nagging injuries all season long. It'll be exciting to see just how much of an impact he can have starting all 16 games next year.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.
Some good news came out of player practices this week in regards to a couple of Falcons on the mend. Previously injured wideout Harry Douglas and safety Shann Schillinger have reportedly been making good forward progress in recovering from their respective injuries.
Douglas, who tore his ACL in training camp prior to the 2009 season, came back to the Falcons in 2010 but still took awhile to get his knee back up to 100%. However, he has regularly attended the Falcons unofficial minicamps this offseason and seems to be back up and running at full speed.
When questioned about Douglas' production, Mike Smith would often cite how ACL tears typically take two years for the player to fully recover. Not only will defenses have to face a receiver tandem of Roddy White and Julio Jones, but now they'll have to deal with a healthy Douglas as well. Expect him to provide some extra explosiveness from the slot in 2011.
In other news, 2010 sixth-round pick Shann Schillinger, who broke his ankle toward the end of last season, is also on the road to recovery and showed up at a few of the practices. Schillinger noted that while he is not 100% healthy, he's almost to where he can play at full speed. The Falcons already don't have much depth at safety, so having him healthy will only help.
For more on the Falcons, check out The Falcoholic.
The Falcons players who had been participating in the unofficial offseason practices closed up shop on Wednesday.
Since May 10, several Falcons had been been a part of the 7-on-7 drills held in lieu of the team-wide minicamps that would have been normally held around this time. The teams had one of the better attendances in the league, with a core group of around 30 players typically showing up at each practice.
Earlier this week in an interview with D. Orlando Ledbetter of the AJC, Ryan talked about how he felt the Falcons got what they wanted out of the workouts:
"I think obviously with the lockout and the situation that we were in, it was not a great situation in order to get prepared for next season. But with that said, I think we got a lot done. We had consistent turnouts week-in and week-out for about six or seven weeks, which is a long time. I think we did a great job."
Although not the ideal settings for NFL practices, the workouts seemed to have served their purpose, especially given the circumstances. Ordinarily, the idea behind NFL mini-camps is simply to get the rookies and new players acclimated to their team and playbooks.
As far as the Falcons rookies go, LB Akeem Dent made it out to a few practices and WR Julio Jones established himself as a regular participator. It has already been reported that Ryan and Jones have been building a good relationship with one another. Ryan has basically taken Jones under his wings and put him in a position to succeed in 2011. That alone is enough to call these workouts a success.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have lagged behind the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons as far as offseason workout attendance goes, but based on some remarks by Josh Freeman, they might just force Atlanta and New Orleans to re-examine their respective workloads. Freeman says he hopes for about 45 teammates to attend a three-day minicamp in a couple weeks.
While any players attempting to rally up unpaid and uninsured football players to play football in the middle of the summer in Florida should be commended, Freeman deserves even bigger props for trying to get Tampa Bay players off the streets. Aqib Talib's offseason alone would've made for the most harrowing season of Hard Knocks ever.
Roddy White hadn't been joining his Atlanta Falcons teammates at their self-organized, twice-a-week workouts at Buford High School. Matt Ryan has said he wasn't worried, but some Atlanta Falcons fans were. White's absence might be a thing of the past now, as the team's star and arguably best player made it out to the seven-on-sevens Tuesday.
He even tweeted about it on the way down, becoming the first player to reveal the not-so-secret secret location.
White held out before the 2009 season and ended up having his best year to that point. He knows how to stay in shape. It's not like he's going to forget how to play football if he's not working out with his teammates.
All that said, this is very good news. By all accounts Julio Jones is a hard worker, and it will be excellent for everyone involved to see the two working together and competing for touches before training camp even starts.
For more on the Falcons, join The Falcoholic.
It seems like we're not the only ones growing tired of labor talks that, although are making progress, still seem to be going nowhere fast. Coaching staffs around the NFL are more than ready for mandatory, team-wide practices to resume. Mike Smith and company are no exception.
In an interview with the AJC, Smith admitted that he is growing quite lonely without his Falcons players to keep him company. However, that does not mean the coaching staff has not been keeping busy.
In the meantime, Smith says that team efforts have been focused on two specific tasks: the re-evaluation of the potential free agent class, and secondly a wholesale analysis of the offensive and defensive systems currently in place. At the very least, it is heartening to see that the coaches are still working towards team improvement.. Even minor changes can go a long way.
When you boil it down the Falcons coaching staff has been playing the waiting game like everyone else. The Falcons' staff, although it has not openly supported either the players or owners, has yet to comment on the NFL Coaches Association brief, which was released back in late May and detailed the coaches' support for players.
However, several teams publicly disagreed with the brief, and stated that the Coaches Association did not represent all coaches accurately. Fortunately the Falcons are not among them (ironically, the Saints are, which makes us wonder how Drew Brees must feel about all of this). Regardless of stance, however, every coaching staff is eagerly awaiting a deal in the near future.
For more on the Falcons, join The Falcoholic.
Atlanta Falcons RB Jason Snelling isn't comfortable with the court system being used to decide the outcome of the NFL lockout, saying he'd prefer daily meetings between players and the league. He told Mike Florio Thursday that he has spoken to a National Football League Players Association representative about his concerns, but that he doesn't feel assured the dispute is being handled in the best way.
Even New Orleans Saints players seemed to approve of his stance, with a handful of them tweeting Snelling's remarks.
One of the most frustrating things about observing the lockout, as soul-grinding as it is, has been the legal battle. Very few people have the frame of reference to understand everything that's going on, and it's all so boring that I can't imagine why anybody would want to do so anyway. The idea of shutting both parties in a room until the deal gets done appeals to most fans, as farfetched as it may be.
The Atlanta Falcons have been working out at a high school field in Buford, Georgia for several weeks now. Like last year, they're sharing the facility with another NFL team, but unlike last year, they're not actually scrimmaging against them. About 30 Oakland Raiders players, led by Atlanta native and Georgia Bulldogs great Richard Seymour, took the field Tuesday and turned it back over to the Birds afterward.
Seymour organized the workouts, hiring Georgia's Competitive Edge Sports to run things, and provided vocal leadership on the field. He and Matt Ryan both spoke to media while not running their respective shows.
"We can't control what's going on with the NFL lockout, but we just wanted to come out and be able to run some drills and do it in an organized fashion," Seymour said.
"It was impressive to see how many guys that they had down here. But I think that's a commitment that players have," Ryan told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan confirmed to CBS Sports an earlier report that he's thrown to rookie WR Julio Jones since the NFL Draft. Jones wasn't able to attend Tuesday's player-organized minicamp workout, as he's still recovering from a foot surgery similar to the one Tom Brady underwent this offseason.
CBS Sports also reports Ryan ran the show, acting as "coach" and "unquestioned leader" during the workouts and leaving the field in the last group of players, which included Brent Grimes, Michael Jenkins, Brian Finneran and backup QB John Parker Wilson.
Lots of encouraging stuff going on here. On Twitter, Grimes and Curtis Lofton have since called these workouts 7-on-7 events, meaning linemen like Jamaal Anderson (the only big guy whose name I've seen mentioned) didn't have a whole lot to busy himself with. Kroy Biermann, however, was spotted at Monday's strength and conditioning program, so hopefully linemen are working out together elsewhere.
The Atlanta Falcons are holding a self-organized minicamp at an undisclosed location. CBS Sports' Rapid Reports has been the best source throughout Tuesday morning on which players are present and who's doing what. According to their running tally, about 30 players are included. Let's list as many as we can!
We already know about QB Matt Ryan, MLB Curtis Lofton and FS Thomas DeCoud, plus free agents WR Brian Finneran and OLB Mike Peterson. Let's add DL Jamaal Anderson, WR Harry Douglas, CB Brent Grimes, WR Michael Jenkins, SS William Moore, FB Ovie Mughelli, LB Stephen Nicholas, CB Chris Owens, WR Andy Strickland and LB Sean Weatherspoon.
Douglas and Weatherspoon have both dealt with serious injuries over the past two seasons, so it's encouraging to hear they're on the field. Lofton has been saying for several weeks now that he'll do what he can to work out with the team as he rehabs his surgery-repaired knees.
Rookie LB Akeem Dent is also listed, but no word on WR Julio Jones or any other rookies yet. WR Roddy White was expected to attend, but I haven't seen his name listed anywhere yet, other than a claim he was at a club at 5 am, which would probably rule out a morning workout. CB Dunta Robinson is the only confirmed scratch.
And here we have the best possible news the Atlanta Falcons fan could wake up to, short of the ending of the NFL lockout*: rookie WR Julio Jones has been training with Matt Ryan and likely bookend Roddy White, according to a tweet by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter.
It's not entirely clear whether Jones will be able to participate in the team's punk rock minicamp, which was set to begin Tuesday at a shadowy location that's definitely not Falcons HQ in Flowery Branch. But the word "already" in Ledbetter's tweet should at least slightly reassure even the most skeptical Falcons fans (points at self and Braves & Birds) that the team may have selected the right guy.
* - Actually, this might be better then the lockout ending, from a competitive standpoint. Is every fanbase getting to hear about its first-round pick working out with veterans? If not, then the Falcons are coming out ahead here. In which case, lockout on, sirs.
Despite the ongoing NFL lockout, players for the Atlanta Falcons and several other teams have managed to jimmy-rig offseason conditioning programs for themselves. The Falcons have been conducting a strength and conditioning program based on their regular drills at a Cumming, Georgia facility, and now they're set to begin their minicamp, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter.
Ledbetter lists Matt Ryan and Roddy White among likely participants, but can't say whether Julio Jones or other rookies will attend. The New Orleans Saints have had at least one rookie take part in their own offseason workouts.
The team (by team I mean players) appears to be going by last year's offseason calendar, in which minicamp began on May 7. Fans of just about every NFL team have to be concerned about whether their players are staying in touch and in shape, so it's good to know the majority of Atlanta's roster is.
Not to be outdone by the Atlanta Falcons roster's own self-organized offseason player workouts, New Orleans Saints players are holding their own at Tulane University's football practice field. Thirty-seven players showed up at the workouts organized by Drew Brees, including rookie CB Johnny Patrick from Louisville.
With no particular end to the NFL lockout in sight, and no word on whether the NFL lockout still exists in our plane of reality or in another, it's interesting to see which teams have the leadership and discipline to put in their own work without someone telling them to do so.
Sure, most NFL players besides the Albert Haynesworths are staying in shape in one way or another, but nothing can replace preparing for a football season as a part of a team. Elsewhere around the NFC South the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have also held team workouts.
Judge Susan Nelson performed some sort of legal maneuver Monday night to lift the NFL lockout, which theoretically freed up NFL players to meet, be contacted by their coaches and work out at team facilities. While some players around the league headed in to try and work -- before being turned away, at least in the case of D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- Atlanta Falcons players aren't planning to convene, according to a tweet by WSB's Zach Klein.
Monday night Roddy White tweeted that he wasn't sure about whether he'd go to Flowery Branch Tuesday morning, but that he "probably should." Many Falcons players seemed especially active on Twitter Tuesday morning around 6 am ET, which could be totally unrelated.
The team had been working out away from the club's official campus in the weeks preceding the likely brief lockout of the lockout.
While some NFL players are spending their lockout time running track, playing soccer, boxing, and pro rasslin'*, the Atlanta Falcons have put together their own offseason workout program, coordinated by veteran LB Coy Wire. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter reports, 30 Falcons players are working out together at a Cumming, Georgia facility.
While QB Matt Ryan and WR Roddy White are expected to join the group next week #hollywood, LB Spencer Adkins, OL Robert Bruggeman, WR Harry Douglas, CB Brent Grimes, OL Mike Johnson, LB Curtis Lofton, WR Kerry Meier**, LB Mike Peterson, OT Garrett Reynolds, safety Shann Schillinger, WR Andy Strickland, and OG Jose Valdez are listed among those participating.
The players say their workouts are based on their usual work with team director of athletic performance Jeff Fish. They even say they're planning to conduct their own mini-camp and so forth if the lockout persists.
* All of which are perfectly viable training methods and preferable to just about anything else a wealthy pro athlete could do with unlimited free time. Just not preferable to training for football.
** Hey, apparently Kerry Meier's healthy now.
An open letter in the name of Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank was released on the team's site Sunday, described as an update for fans on the league's labor dispute. The letter places responsibility for the ongoing lockout on the players, who "walked away from a deal that was more than fair" in order to fiddle around with the legal system.
Blank also claims the owners "offered to share financial information that goes far beyond the requirements of federal labor law."
Not every NFL owner built a business from the ground up, especially not businesses based around physical labor, so Blank does have more experience with the matter than many others involved. Blank's associate and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, however, does appear to have strikingly negative views on labor unions in general -- though there's no reason to assume Blank and Marcus agree in all instances on the viability of unions, of course.
Following the lockout hasn't been easy for Falcons fans. Besides the obvious NO FOOTBALL thing, there's the fact that most of us actually like our team's owner. While it's preferable to hear from him as often as possible during the process, it's still concerning to read his description of the league's latest offer in light of the team's push to have an expensive new stadium built.
Analyzing the NFC South, we can see which teams are least affected by the 2011 NFL lockout.
After today, an NFL lockout is — unfortunately — even closer to happening as the Players Association has elected to decertify the union after they couldn’t agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The NFL Players Association released the following statement around 5 p.m. on Friday evening after earlier in the day issuing an ultimatum that asked for ten years worth of audited financial statements from the owners.
The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.
The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.
According to Sports Illustrated, the move is expected to transfer the labor impasse from the bargaining room to the court room. The owners previously said they would lock out the players if the sides failed to come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement before Friday’s midnight deadline.
Hours before the recently extended collective bargaining agreement was set to expire, the NFL and National Football League Players Association agreed to further extend the deadline. The new CBA expiration time is 5 pm ET on March 11.
This is good news, as it means the two sides are inching closer to a resolution. Though the distance between the two remains oceanic, any progress is good news for football fans.
The downside for the Atlanta Falcons is that the team can’t sign any free agents or re-sign any of its current players, as everything is pretty much in limbo, which is a term you may be unfamiliar with if you haven’t seen Inception. That’s where it was invented.
The owners and players will resume spitting at each other’s foreheads from competing golden racecars on Monday.
Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints could be called upon to flex his legal skills, potentially serving as one of the NFLPA’s lead plaintiffs if the NFL does elect to enforce a lockout. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would be his courtroom associates in the reported scenario.
It might actually happen, as even though the NFL and NFLPA will postpone the collective bargaining agreement’s expiration by 24 hours, both sides remain very far apart.
Ordinarily Atlanta Falcons fans would squawk at being represented in court by a member of the New Orleans Saints, but it’s really, really hard not to like Brees. Besides, his function would be mainly PR anyway. He’s not a lawyer, people. The whole thinking behind putting popular players in suits on TV, however, would be this: do you really think the general public would side with Jerry Richardson in a courtroom battle against America’s sweetheart?
For more on the NFL lockout, visit SB Nation’s NFL hub.
Arthur Blank, who's been among the NFL's quietest owners during the battle over the collective bargaining agreement and impending NFL lockout, Thursday said that he believes negotiations are over, according to CBS Sports. That doesn't imply a solution has been reached, just that everyone is throwing up their hands for the moment.
However, NFL Network's Jason La Canfora says the parties will continue talking until at least 5:30 pm ET. This could all mean that talks are still technically ongoing, but practically done with as far as production goes.
The current CBA is set to expire a minute before midnight Thursday night. The two parties could agree on an extension that would give them more time to negotiate, but the players union is reportedly hesitant about that proposal. If the lockout does go down, the union will likely opt to decertify, which would let them hang onto Judge David Doty, who's already overseen their biggest win yet.
Also interesting that Blank is reportedly talking now, because the NFL had issued a gag order for all team owners on Wednesday. If Blank, no troublemaker, is talking about the negotiations, they must indeed be concluded for the time being.
For more on the NFL lockout, visit SB Nation's NFL hub.
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