The retired NFL players are pawns in the CBA negotiations.

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Media loves to turn everything that happens into a crisis and to point out victims of our free enterprise system. If there was an asteroid headed toward Earth the headline of the New York Times would read “Earth to end tomorrow. Women and children to suffer most.” Retired players have become a hot topic in the media because most NFL fans remember the men fondly that built the league to what it has become today. But in this case, there are real victims and they are the retired players.

The salaries have come up dramatically in just the last few years. Players that were active in the 60’s through the 90’s were paid next to nothing compared to the salaries today. In the 1960’s a star might get 10K a season. By the 80’s a star might get 75K per season. To give you a feel for how much salaries have increased in recent years, here is a statistical comparison. In 2000, the average of team’s median salaries was $497,782.26 for the 31 teams in the league. By 2009 that number was $909,235.72 for the 32 teams. In just 9 seasons the average team median salaries nearly doubled. It increased 83% in just 10 seasons!

The only reason that the fate of retired players is a topic of discussion now is the NFL and NFLPA trying to get public support during their negotiations. Both NFLPA Ex. Dir. DeMaurice Smith and NFL Commissioner Goodell are working hard to build public support for their organizations. Public support will be critical if the 2 sides can not come to an agreement because the Congress and the courts will undoubtedly become involved.

In response to an inquiry from the Congress Comm. Goodell sent a letter to Congresswoman Sanchez that said in part “I have said publicly that there will be no agreement without improvements for retired players. On the contrary, when the union last week informed us that it was willing to make a new deal under certain conditions, there was no mention by them of increased benefits for retirees. The union leadership was willing to make a deal without any improvements for retired players.”

Goodell added “In the meantime, I restate the commitment that I have made on numerous occasions – no matter what course collective bargaining takes in the near term, we will not reduce in any way the benefits paid to retired players, will continue to accept new retirees into our benefit programs, and will continue to look for ways to improve services to retirees while simultaneously negotiating a new agreement with the NFLPA.”

Don’t let this magnanimity fool you. The NFL is simply looking for a PR bump and consider all money that goes to active or retired players as part of the “player pool.” They are willing do anything that would reduce the risk of giving huge amounts of cash to players that have never played a down in the league.

The PR factor is critical going into negotiations for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFLPA. The league has some options that do not require the union’s agreement to continue football in 2011 and beyond. I will outline those on Monday on NFL News, Notes, and Rumors at NFLDraftDog.com. But all those options require public support. They also require actions that will keep the NFL owners under the radar of the federal courts.

The union has a love-hate relationship with the retired players. When the retired players represented by Coach Ditka and others complain about the league not doing enough, the union agrees. However, the goals of those groups are not always similar.

In February 09, a federal court ordered the NFLPA to pay 28.1M into the retired player fund. The union filed an appeal. The suit concerned the retired players percentage of money from EA Sports games. In June of 09, the two sides settled for a 26.25M payment.

The problem between active and retired players is simple. The NFLPA represents the active players in negotiations with the owners for a new CBA. The active players are more concerned about maintaining their percentage of NFL revenue than about the retired players.

The retired players have been forced to take the crumbs from the tables of both the owners and players. The quality health care and concern for injury now are much better for the players than it was even 5 years ago. Retired players are suffering from injuries and physical deterioration due to years of having even major injuries ignored by the coaching and training staffs. The retired players were often forced to play with injuries because they would lose their jobs if they refused to go back on the field.

Hopefully, the new CBA will produce a fund that will better serve those that have build the game.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Your fantasy football doesn’t have to be over. Run a pro football franchise all year long for free at . Tell them Coach Smith sent you.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He is a regular contributor on Cleveland Sports Radio http://www.sportstalkcleveland.com/ Monday afternoons at 1 Eastern. He has also published several novels on

and edits .

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Tuesday Morning QB for 09/22/09

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The Steelers running game is struggling – Steeler RB Parker tweaked his hamstring and did not play in the last half of game 1. He carried 14 times for 47 yards in game 2. His injury is contributing to the problem but is far from the cause. The fact is that the Steeler O line is the weak link in the team. LT Starks is the best of the group and he is barely above average. QB Roethlisberger has been sacked more often that the Whopper. The running game is struggling. It won’t change anytime soon. Look for the Steelers to pass more. If they fail to get to the Super Bowl, the O line will be the culprit.

Things are a little tight in Titanville Tennessee is now 0-2 after losses to both Pittsburgh and Houston. They are now going to play the Jets. Last year the Jets were the first team to beat the Titans. They are now 2 games behind Ind and have injuries to deal with. The problem is this—if they go 0-3 they will have to win 10 of the remaining 13 games to have any chance to make the playoffs in the AFC.

Other teams in trouble –

Dolphins – At 0-2 the Fish are 2 games behind the Jets and the Jets have already played NE and won. The D is solid but the O is struggling to score TDs rather than FGs. I predicted that they would be a better team with a worse record in 09.

Eagles – Philly without McNabb is a 6-10 team. The O doesn’t go without him. Kolb is not the answer and neither is Vick or Garcia. McNabb is going to be out for another 4 weeks. If the team is 2-4 it is going to be a tough road back to the playoffs.

Panthers – Other sites had Carolina winning the NFC South. I told you before game 1 that the Panthers were a flawed team that would not make the playoffs. Delhomme is a bad QB and you can not win with a bad QB.

The NFL Changes the blackout rules—sort of. Comm. Goodell announced that the NFL Channel would broadcast any games that were blacked out after midnight Sunday. That would be a really nice idea except that those that can’t afford a ticket to the game aren’t likely to be paying $85 a month for Direct TV or Dish Network.

Dallas game almost blacked out The game was nearly blacked out because Jerry Jones Inc. had not sold all non-premium seats prior to 72 hours game time. Dallas was requiring seat licenses for around 5K each for those seats. The only way JJ was able to get rid of them was to sell them for face value without the license fee to allow the game to be shown on TV locally. Now there are rumors that those that paid the license fee will sue JJ to get their money back.

WR Crabtree (Tex. Tk) is still unsigned. His representatives say he may sit out the entire year rather than sign for the offer from the 49ers. The fact is that he will fall in the draft next year because NFL GMs won’t want to deal with his inflated sense of self value.

The NBA may use replacement refs. No matter where they get the new guys they can’t be much worst than what we saw last year. Refs that think they are the show are a problem. Refs that become the show with bad calls or no calls depending on the relative star power of the players involved are a crisis.

Comm. Goodell can eliminate the rookie salary pool in a non-capped year. One of the things that the league is considering is the elimination of the rookie salary pool if a new agreement can’t be signed before the start of the 2010 season. That will cost the vet players some money but won’t stop the Cowboys and others from trying to buy a championship.

That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.

Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .

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