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Steinberg: Timing is everything

Steinberg Says

July 23, 2011|By Leigh Steinberg

Writing a column on the final negotiation process for the NFL collective bargaining agreement on Friday for the Sunday paper may be an act of extreme recklessness, given the roller coaster of events occurring hourly. But as they say, no guts, no glory.

So how does a deal agonizingly close to completion become unhinged at the end? I've said before that closely monitoring sports negotiations is like watching the process of sausage being made. You may love the final product but will be driven to distraction by seeing the bloody preparations.

DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Assn. and Commissioner Roger Goodell and their negotiating teams have spent countless hours together, understand each other implicitly and reached a set of understandings earlier this week. But that is a far cry from having thoroughly prepared their respective constituencies for the reality of signing a 10-year deal.

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Team owners and players are an especially strong-willed and opinionated group to unify. It reminds me of our old family joke that if there are six Jewish guests sitting around a table, there will undoubtedly be 10 opinions expressed.

Timing is everything in deal-making and the agendas of each side didn't meet the expectations of the other. The owners had a league meeting Thursday in Atlanta with the expectation that they would be ratifying a new CBA. Friday all of football attended the funeral of Myra Kraft, the beloved wife of Patriots owner Bob Kraft, so they went ahead on Thursday with a vote and public pronouncement that football facilities would be open Saturday and the league season would begin Wednesday.

This caught the players off guard. They were expecting to be able to conduct an orderly process in Washington of discussing the deal point by point. And so they felt pressured by the owners to rush to deal-making, and they pushed back.

Now I have said for the last year this deal would never occur until training camp and the season was imminent, but that football would have a normal season and never threaten training camp, preseason and a full schedule.

There needed to be more thought put into whether a recertification process for the NFLPA would be necessary to ratify the new CBA, and how that timing would affect the end of negotiations.

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