In any complex negotiation, it's inevitable that each side will have to give up things it desperately wants, and cede things it would rather not have. In the NFL's last collective bargaining agreement, the NFL and the NFLPA each had to bite down on a few major points to get the CBA done in time for the 2011 preseason to go off without a hitch -- were that not the case, and the preseason money was affected, we're looking at a very different 2011 season, and not in a good way.
In the wake of the New Orleans Saints' bounty hearings, appeals, lawsuits, and other goofiness, various NFL players are wondering why the NFLPA didn't do more to have their backs when it was time to negotiate the player discipline process. The question has been asked by many fans as well. Truth is, the Players Association went with a slightly nebulous concession to commisioner Roger Goodell in the player discipline section of the CBA, just as the league ceded its desire for an 18-game schedule and HGH testing.
Players were made aware of the details during the negotiation process, but it's safe to say that nobody on the union side could have seen the Saints disaster coming. The effects of the bounty investigation have a lot of people wondering just how much protection the players have against Goodell's system of justice. Former Houston Texans and current Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Eric Winston recently told USA Today's Nate Davis that he's one of many who are not happy with where things stand.
[Related: Eric Winston on Yahoo! Sports Radio]
"Obviously we don't want Roger Goodell having absolute power," Winston said. "In a lot of this process, it seems like he does. It's unfortunate. It seems like he's running amok with it and deciding to do what he wants and it really doesn't matter what the evidence says. Unfortunately, we don't have an alternative option to appeal to."
And that's the problem. If you don't like the justice handed down by Goodell and Jeff Pash, you can always appeal to ... Roger Goodell and Jeff Pash. If that sounds to you like the Faber student court in "Animal House," you're not alone.
"I can't imagine how frustrating it is for those players," Winston said of the Saints players who were seemingly suspended without due process and sufficient individual evidence. "In that CBA bargaining process, you're not going to get everything you want. That's not to say we weren't trying to curb some of that [power]. To say we weren't trying to do something about that is false.
"Just from what's been told to me, there were attempts made. And there's a tradeoff. To do that, we probably looked at sacrificing playing less games, so you always look at the risk and reward. And try to juggle that."
Some other players are less understanding. Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White recently went off on the NFLPA, insinuating that he and other players have been sold a bill of goods.
"Players complaining that Roger Goodell is 'judge, jury and executioner' are a little late to the party," White said via Twitter on Monday, as all the appeal drama was happening. "Players allowed [the new conditions] in July. Don't know why we complaining we did this to ourselves I applaud Roger [Goodell] for brokering a hell of a deal and I blame NFLPA for failing us. Whoever is the head of the baseball union that's who we need to hire they never have problems ... not our real problems.
"Ok they have had problems but not on the same issues that where problems before they signed a new cba as a union the nflpa fixed. Sold us a great dream about how good the deal was I didn't even want to sign that card because I knew the deal we signed was terrible."
Winston, speaking on Yahoo! Sports Radio on Tuesday, was less than impressed with White's take. "I don't want to be lumped in with Roddy White," Winston said. "Roddy White is a guy I respect, and he's a great player, but he wasn't in any of the negotiations. I don't think he realizes how hard it was to get some of this stuff."
Again, in a major negotiation, everybody's going to lose certain things. White may not have liked the deal, but it's important to understand that the CBA had to be fast-tracked to avoid a doomsday scenario, and that any alternative would have hurt the league immeasurably. Would things have been different in those negotiations had the NFLPA seen the Saints drama coming? In any good-faith negotiation, hindsight is 20-20.
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