John from Casablanca, Morocco
I am a businessman and spent most of my career in mergers and acquisitions. I have never been involved in a deal that we didn't ask and receive and give audited financial statements with complete notes and footnotes to the other party in the deal. I do not understand why the NFL owners refuse to give the club's audited financial statements to the union. It seems SOP to me. Can you help me understand this?
Vic: You’re mixing apples and oranges, John. This is neither a merger nor an acquisition. This is a negotiation between ownership and labor and it’s not standard operating procedure for ownership to share its most intimate financial information with its employees. Let’s start with this: Under labor laws, you are only required to provide full disclosure when you’re not able to pay. I think you would agree the league has paid its players quite handsomely. Be that as it may, the Packers’ books are open for all to see. Packers President Mark Murphy told me on Saturday that the league offered transparency but the players weren’t interested in what the league offered.
Don from Wausau, WI
Without a CBA at draft time, can the teams negotiate with or sign any draft picks?
Vic: A draft in 2011 was provided in the CBA that just expired. There will be a draft but teams may not sign draft picks to contracts without a new CBA in place because there would be no rules (minimum salary, years of contract, etc.) by which to frame the contractual agreement.
Eric from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, something I've always wondered about the split of football revenues: Is the 59 percent the players receive split up evenly between all players? Is it something they get on top of the contracts they sign? Or is that 59 percent the money teams are allowed to allocate for player salary? I've never quite understood how those percentages work.
Vic: The players’ percentage of the gross that was provided in the CBA to which both sides agreed in 2006 was reflected in each season’s salary cap. The cap was the designated percentage of the gross and teams were required to spend to a cap minimum.
Jim from Appleton, WI
We keep hearing the safety concerns about an 18-game season. The players are worried about their health over the 18-game schedule, but if you are watching the players, they give up personal protection; thigh pads, knee pads, etc. They claim it’s for more speed. That knee pad could stop another player from having a concussion when the knee hits a helmet. If health and safety is the concern, why do they pick speed over the overall safety of all players on the field?
Vic: They wanna win. They are committed to winning. Don’t ever think the players aren’t 100 percent dedicated to the pursuit of victory. Be that as it may, you make some very good points, especially about how not wearing equipment affects others, such as an unpadded knee to the head. In my opinion, we’ve reached the point that the league must make wearing specific articles of equipment mandatory. There’s too much personal creativity permitted in the equipment the players wear. They need to be protected from their own sense of indestructibility.
Larry from Belvidere, IL
I grew up in a house with four sisters who never seemed to care at all about football. They all married Bears fans and they are now loud and annoying Bears fans. Is there any hope we can bring them over to the Packers’ side, short of a stay in a sanitarium? Other than this character flaw, they seem to be nice people.
Vic: Forget about ’em. They’re lost.
Andrew from Waukesha, WI
If you had a say and it were up to you, how would you design the Packers XLV Super Bowl championship ring?
Vic: I’m the last person that should ever design a Super Bowl ring. If most of the pants in my closet weren’t khakis, I couldn’t get dressed in the morning. I think a Super Bowl ring should be real big and real expensive. That’s all that matters.
Ron from Pensacola, FL
Will the NFL still announce a 2011 schedule in the absence of a CBA?
Mark from Mankato, MN
Should fans not panic about a lockout until the lockout forces games to be missed?
Vic: A long time ago, when I was a young reporter trying to carve out my niche, I covered a training camp that was highlighted by a couple of holdouts by prominent players. I won’t name them but they wore numbers 58 and 47. Anyhow, the war of words got intense. Coaches and management talked strongly about playing the season without them. The two players’ agents ripped ownership for not being more agreeable to working new contracts. I made a terrible mistake; I allowed myself to get emotionally involved in the process. I actually started to believe the rhetoric I was quoting and I told my readers the team really might play without these two guys, both of whom were big stars. Well, just before the season began, I got a call to come to a press conference, at which one of the two players got up in front of the media, smiled and gave ownership a hug for the camera. A day or two later, the other player did the same thing. The two guys had their new contracts and were back in the starting lineup, even though coaching had insisted they couldn’t miss all of training camp and just step back into the lineup. Yeah, sure. Me? I was left to feel like a fool. I’m glad I learned that lesson early because, as Chuck Noll liked to say, “Never again.” Ain’t my life, ain’t my wife. Don’t let this get to you, folks. They’ll work it out. It’s their problem, not yours.
Jeff from Austin, TX
Reading press of the lockout, writers keep saying the blame should fall on the 32 owners that refuse to open their books. Shouldn't they all be saying 31 privately-owned teams?
Vic: Yeah, the Packers’ books are open, but let’s get back to the other 31 teams. Who opens their books for others to see? What company divulges its strategy for doing business? Do you think there might be leaks to the media? What person doesn’t protect the privacy of their checkbook register? What idiot invites the IRS into their life? Come on, aren’t we being a little naïve about this? Hey, how many players open their books, huh? We all have a right to privacy. If there’s one charge that holds no water with me, it’s this open-the-books thing. Come on, let’s get past that. That’s just for show. It’s insulting to think anybody would listen to that. The union knows what the revenue flows are.
Joel from Waukesha, WI
Does the NFLPA represent the practice squad players just the same as those that make the 53? If so, how is it that the league minimum salary, which is based on accrued seasons, does not apply to them? Even if a practice squad player never tallies an accrued season, he certainly has no fewer seasons than a rookie player who is guaranteed $325,000 minimum salary.
Vic: It was actually $320,000 last year, but what’s five grand, huh? The difference between a rookie on the final 53 and a practice squad player is that the practice squad player isn’t on the final 53. That’s the line of demarcation. You have to make the team to get the league minimum. Practice squad players are not on the team. They are, at all times, free agents that are free to sign with any team in the league, provided the team that signs them puts them on its 53-man roster. Yes, practice squad players belong to the players union – or at least they did belong to the union, when there was a union – but their dues are significantly less than those of players on the 53-man roster. Practice squad players were paid $5,200 a week last season, which means they had the potential to earn $88,400 for a season on the practice squad.
Frank from Oak Creek, WI
Does the losing team in the Super Bowl get a ring?
Vic: That’s up to the team. It’s been my experience that the losing team in the Super Bowl presents its players with a conference championship ring.
Eric from Sunnyvale, CA
Who do you think the potential impact quarterbacks might be after the first round, or at least not on your value board? I know you have written about Christian Ponder before, but what about a guy like Colin Kaepernick or Pat Devlin?
Vic: The quarterback crop has lost a lot of its luster, but I still like what I see because I see a lot of guys with talent; they just didn’t have great years, for one reason or another. Ponder had a bad arm. Jake Locker had a bad team. I like Ponder, Kaepernick, Devlin and Andy Dalton, too. A little birdie called me on Saturday to tell me Dalton had a killer pro day, and that means that any teams that were thinking of taking Dalton in the second round can probably cancel those thoughts. Quarterback is “The Man.” You gotta have him. Shortly after the first quarterback is selected in this year’s draft, the run will begin and, all of a sudden, Ponder’s arm will be fine and Kaepernick won’t need as much development as thought and even though Devlin played at small-school Delaware, so did Joe Flacco. I’m not saying these guys fit on the first page of the value board, but that’s where they’re going to get picked because of the importance of the position.