As part of the NFLPA’s #LETUSPLAY day, they held a conference call this afternoon that I was able to be apart of. George Atallah, the NFLPA Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs, led the call and was also joined by NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, although he came in a bit late.
New York Jets safety Jim Leonhard and Miami Dolphins long snapper John Denney were also apart of the call.
Atallah made some brief opening remarks, before opening up the call to questions. Below is a summary of the question and answer session.
NOTE: If you have a free 30 minutes or so and would like to listen to the call in its entirety, please move to the bottom of the post for the audio.
The first question was a very broad, yet important one. Leonhard was asked about the level of optimism that a deal would get done. He replied by saying that players are optimistic about a deal getting done, although they feel like they may be a long way from it. He also added that the game is in a great place right now and that he doesn’t want to see that get messed up.
With today being the official #LETUSPLAY day, Attalah was asked about the strategy behind a social media push and getting players to do promotions through their Twitter accounts. He noted that it’s a fans game and the players truly believe that. Players know they wouldn’t be on the field if it wasn’t for the fans, and he felt this was a meaningful way to reach out to the NFL’s fan base.
As a follow up, he was asked if there was an immediate response. Attalah said he believed there was a good response from the fans as #LETUSPLAY was a trending topic on Twitter today.
Attalah was also asked about the collusion case that was recently filed and if it was a sign that the gloves were starting to come off. He told us that he could not get into detail about the case, and could only confirm that one had been filed. Although Atallah said he doesn’t believe the gloves are coming off, he did note that someone recently went on the record, saying that they were hired to go after a lockout. He added that it was “not good times.”
With free agency approaching, Attalah was asked about how an expiring CBA would affect that. He said that no one is really sure what the rules are going to be and that’s part of the problem because teams don’t know what the rules are.
With all the items that go into getting a new deal done, Attalah was asked about what the top priorities are in working out a new deal. He questioned why the owners want an 18% return back and the 18 game schedule. In terms of the 18% mark, he noted that there is no financial justification behind it. The owners keep asking for rollbacks, so the players keep asking for data to justify it.
With the extended regular season schedule, Attalah referenced Leonhard and how he suffered a season-ending injury this year. He also added that one owner has come out and said that adding two more regular season games would not have an impact in more injuries. However, Atallah noted that there was no information provided to back that up (honestly, how can you?).
Attalah was also asked about the possibility of removing the revenue sharing program. He went on to talk about revenue sharing as well as the salary cap and said the championship match-ups this weekend (with two small market teams and two large market teams) exist because of revenue sharing and the salary cap.
Next, Atallah was asked how high of a priority it was for the NFLPA to not allow an 18 game season to happen. He made remarks about various NFL superstars around the league who opposed it because their bodies physical can’t take it. Also, he added that he believes Super Bowl champions may not always be the best team. Rather, they are the team who stays the healthiest at the end of the season.
With NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell saying that a a deal wouldn’t come down to the end, Attalah was asked about his feelings towards this remark and Goodell himself. Attalah noted that everyone will be measured by whether or not an agreement is made. Revenues, ratings, and sponsorships are at all time highs, so there is no reason to not come to an agreement.
At this point, Mawae entered the room and weighed in on the same topic. He said that getting a deal done prior to expiration has been the goal since day one. He said he’d like to get everyone locked into a hotel room where no one can leave until an agreement is made, but that won’t happen. With recent owners meetings, he expects to hear from Goodell within a day or two.
After Mawae’s comments, Attalah chimed back in noting that the NFLPA website will soon be publicly posting a list of comments that have came from various NFL owners so that fans can decipher their statements for themselves (that should be interesting).
When asked about involvement with Congress, Attalah noted that it could provide opportunities for players to meet congressmen and discuss issues in a real and meaningful way. However, he noted that NFL lobbyists have said that the players want a lockout and was highly confused by that statement.
Mawae was asked if there were to be any shows of solidarity from the players in this week’s championship games. He said that he wasn’t aware of any, but if the teams decide to do it, more power to them. Attalah went on to add that himself and Mawae don’t sit in a room and try to think of ways for players to show their support against a lockout.
In closing, Attalah said that he will continue to host these types of calls. Although he says some people find it annoying, he knows that we want to stay in the loop of what’s going on.
If the audio player below doesn’t work, click here.