By Tom E. Curran
Still head-scratching over why the players wouldn't take the NFL's final offer on Friday? Blame the NFLPA for that. The owners have painted themselves as the most magnanimous set of billionaires a person could ever encounter in the past few days and the players haven't ably shown why, in actuality, they aren't. On Saturday, I asked former player Pete Kendall - who was in the three weeks of negotiations - what the biggest problem was with the owners' offer. He said, to boil it down, the owners wanted to pocket 100 percent of the money any time they exceeded the league's projected revenue. And the owners were trying to project the revenue at artificially low levels. We're going to get into some complex stuff here, but before doing so I'll illustrate what Kendall explained to me as simply as I can. If the owners "pegged" revenue for 10 billion in a season and then exceeded that projection, they wanted all the money to go into their pockets. The players were willing to give them the first 1.5 percent free and clear (in the 10 billion case, 150 million). After that, they wanted a 50-50 split. Some more damning details? The NFL has grown in revenue at an average rate of 7.5 percent over the past five years. Yet the projected growth numbers the NFL wanted to work off of between now and 2014 were 4 percent, 4 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.5 percent. The NFL made about 9.3 billion in revenue in 2009. A4 percent gain over that is an additional 320 million. A 7.5 percent gain? That's 700 million. The owners proposal would have them pocketing all of the 380 million difference. Again, that 7.5 percent growth is the average. The owners were proposing to make it a 4 percent growth target and - later in the deal when TV contracts were being renewed and huge sums were flowing in as a result and revenue shot up, the owners were going to cut the projected revenue growth to 2.5 percent. And that was in addition to the salary cap rollbacks the owners wanted to impose. Their 2011 proposed cap was 114 million per team. The last time there was a cap in was nearly 129 million per team. That's a 330 million savings league-wide on salaries in 2011 alone. Our friend Mike Florio goes into greater detail and complexity over at Profootballtalk.com on this and you'll find words like "peg" and "true up" that you can wow your friends with (or put them to sleep). But this plan for keeping the projected revenues artificially low and pegging the salary-cap numbers so that they were linked to the projected revenues and not the real revenue was a real killer for the players.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance.
Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season.
"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go.
Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play.
"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."
Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.
At this point, there may be no getting out of it.
Roger Goodell chose to visit Atlanta twice in as many weeks during its run to a Super Bowl, and in the process he opted not to check in at Gillette Stadium for either the Divisional Round or the AFC title game. But once the Patriots won Super Bowl LI, many felt as though Goodell would simply have no choice but to attend the 2017 regular-season opener in Foxboro.
There are those who are itching to have him visit. There are those who hope he stays away. In an interview with ESPN, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't put himself in either camp, but he seemed to suggest that it might not be the best idea for the commissioner to show his face in New England.
"To tell you the truth, I really don’t think so," Gronkowski said when asked if Goodell could come back to Foxboro any time soon. "The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what. They have Tom’s back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."
Goodell hasn't been to Gillette Stadium since Deflategate, but he said during Super Bowl week that he'd be happy to visit if he was invited.