By Tom E. Curran
Pete Kendall hasn't played in the NFL for two seasons. The billions currently being fought over by the NFL and its players association aren't going to adorn his pockets to a great extent.But the former first-round pick (21st overall in 1996) and Weymouth native madehis NFL reputationon three things during a 12-year career with the Jets, Seahawks and Redskins. He was tough. He was smart. And he had integrity.When NFLPAExecutive Director DeMaurice Smith asked Kendall if he would be a part of the union's negotiating teamKendall agreed. And he went allin. Kendall spentabout three weeks away from hiswife and three kids in Marshfieldso that he could be in DC andtry to help in negotiating a new CBA. Unlike attorneys on both sides or the executive directors or chief legal counsels, Kendall isn't doing this because his job. He's doing it because he feels it's his responsibility to the game.How does he feel now that a parade of NFL owners and executives, in the wake of Friday's events, are accusing the players of angling to decertify all along?"I'm incredibly disappointed," Kendall said Saturday. "It's completely false. The outcome we have today is the outcome the owners sought starting in 2007 when they hired Bob Batterman (the labor lawyer who was at the center of the NHL lockout that wiped out an entire hockey season). Owners started talking publicly about a lockout in 2008 and evidence in the Doty trial (in which the league was found to have squirreled 421 million away for itself in lockout insurance) made it clear owners planned to do a lockout in 2011. No other conclusion can be drawn."The people on the players' side were more than willing to sit down with ownership and be convincedof the real problems," Kendall continued. "The only way the owners could convince the players was to demonstrate it. Not just say it. The owners said, 'Trust us.' After everything revealed in the lockout insurance case, how could we do that? Now we have a lockout. So who got what they were positioning for?"The prime hangup to getting a deal done was financial disclosure. The players wanted to know why they were being asked to give the owners additional credits that would amount to 2 billion off the top of league-generated revenues. Why were they being asked to settle for less than 60 percent of 7 billion or so in revenue instead of the 60 percent of 8 billion? The league said - ambiguously - in a statement Friday night: "The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs."Jeff Pash, the NFL's chief legal counsel, said the players were being given "unprecedented" information. "The NFL said they offered us unprecedented financial disclosure?" said Kendall."Let's stop right there. Where are they moving from on that financial disclosure? From zero as it relates to non-player costs and all of the issues that we sought clarity on. "For them to move to showing us league-wide profitability over five years? And to tell us simply the number of clubs that had declined in profitability - declined in profitability - not suffered losses. They were going to give us two numbers and they call that unprecedented financial disclosure. Well, yes, I guess that's technically true. Is it substantial? Is it sufficient? Is it meaningful? Our business people told us no. Some owners maintained for a long time that the business people needed to be involved. Ours said that those numbers weren't sufficient. Regardless of if they were unprecedented or not."Kendall said that the NFL's tightly-held financial secrets would have remained so. "We were more than willing to agree to confidentiality in that," Kendall pointed out. "The results could have been blinded so we didn't know which team's were declining in profitability."Kendall said the closest the two sides were turned out to be when the first extension was granted a week ago last Thursday. That was on the heels of the lockout insurance ruling by Judge David Doty that kept the 4 billion in TV money in legal limbo for the foreseeable future. Owners showed up en masse to negotiate. It was the most productive day of negotiations. And then they left, leaving just a few owners behind to negotiate with a phalanx of players. And, of course, the attorneys."The week of extension was a week that went backwards," said Kendall. "From where we were on Thursday as the deadline approached to where we were yesterday, we went backwards.Personally,I was disappointed with thelevel of involvementfrom ownership."
There's a point to consider there. On Friday, the day the extension would expire, there was a story that Peter King wrote noting that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had been given latitude by owners to "move drastically" to get a deal done. While that was taken as a sign the NFL was bending over backwards, it raised the question among the PA of what Goodell's marching orders were before the owners - for the most part absent from the negotiations except by phoneon that climactic day - gave him that latitude. Were the players negotiating in vain with Goodell, Pash and the rest if the decision-makers weren't even there? It was a feelgood story that made the NFL look good in the public eye - Goodell now could ride to the rescue - but it made the other side wonder whether the league's No. 1 man's hands were tied by men not even in the room. Kendall had more details on the financial gap between the two sides which we'll get into in another post..AOLWebSuite .AOLPicturesFullSizeLink height: 1px; width: 1px; overflow: hidden; .AOLWebSuite a color:blue; text-decoration: underline; cursor: pointer .AOLWebSuite a.hsSig cursor: default
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran