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View Full Version : Clayton: New discliplinary rules favor players


chefsos
03-16-2006, 04:47 AM
Wow. I hadn't seen this before; sorry if a repost. The NFL really caved on this one.

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=clayton_john&id=2369487&campaign=rss&source=NFLHeadlines

Owens' suitors should be wary of new rules
By John Clayton
ESPN.com
Archive

No wonder Terrell Owens feels immune to NFL discipline. With only one exception -- his showdown against the Eagles that cost him half a season in 2005 -- Owens has been given a license to get away with his acts of selfishness without penalty.

The NFL didn't help itself when it bailed Owens out when he was late to file the paperwork that would have voided his 49ers contract in 2004. This was clearly a T.O. screwup, worse than a four-drop game or a Texas Stadium midfield celebration. He had every right to void the final year of his 49ers contract. Whether it was Owens or his ex-agent, he didn't get the paperwork in to the league and technically remained a 49er until they traded him.

The 49ers worked out a trade to the Ravens. Owens whined and whined and whined. He complained about how he was deprived of his chance to be a free agent in the land of the free and the home of the brave. The league stepped in and allowed him to work the trade he wanted to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Thanks to the infighting among NFL owners for revenue-sharing prior to the collective bargaining agreement extension, T.O. will get a TKO if his new team doesn't like his antics and wants to discipline him. For almost a week, general managers have been fuming about the revised disciplinary rules. Virtually all the discipline-related grievances teams won in 15 years of the salary-cap era went back to the players.

Owens might not be totally invincible in the revised system, but teams won't have the double hammer used by the Eagles last season of suspending him and making him inactive for the remainder of the season.

Front-office execs read in horror the new rules as they apply to discipline. The forfeiture provision for new contracts favors the player, not the team.

Teams can't get back signing-bonus money if a player voluntarily retires; that has to be negotiated into a player's contract. In the past, teams could ask a player to pay back the proration of the remaining part of his contract if he retires in the early stages or in the middle of the contract .

A player can lose only 25 percent of his signing bonus that year if he acts in a way that "undermines his ability to fully participate in an exhibition game or a regular season game." A second occurrence could cost him the remaining 75 percent, but how many players get two Terrell Owens-like suspensions?

Teams can't do a Ricky Williams and go back and collect signing bonuses, performance bonuses or escalators earned in past years. Williams quit the Dolphins to live a temporary life of smoking dope and healing holistically. The Dolphins gave him an $8.4 million bill because of the forfeiture language in his contract. Not anymore.

If a player retires and skips a good portion of the season against a team's wishes, the team must take him back under his existing contract and can't force him to give back any of the signing bonus. If the team wants to fight him for portions of the signing bonus, it has to release him and give him a chance to find another team.

A player can't be ordered to lose signing-bonus money if he fails to participate in voluntary offseason workouts. Players can't lose portions of their signing bonuses if they make adverse public statements. That's right: The NFLPA won back the conduct rule the Cincinnati Bengals tried to implement when Corey Dillon and Carl Pickens blasted the team. The Bengals had written contracts that forced players to pay back their signing bonuses if they blasted the team.

The new CBA prohibits teams from inserting forfeiture clauses for violations of the NFL drug and steroids policy. A player loses game checks if he is suspended by the league, but the league can't get back more money than the pay for the games he misses.

Clearly, this isn't a "Get Out of Jail" card, but it's a major win for players, and T.O. is a big beneficiary.

Remember last year's painful season with the Eagles? He acted up in training camp because he wanted a new contract. The Eagles knew the forfeiture rules and started to build a case against him.

They let him leave training camp without penalty. Owens thought he had gotten away with something. But the Eagles knew they would have a strong case to silence him if he acted up again. When he blasted Donovan McNabb and coaches, the Eagles brought out the documents and suspended him for the four-game maximum. Then, they piled on legally by deactivating him the rest of the season. They also threatened to go after his signing-bonus money.

Now, the worst Owens can expect on his new team is a four-game suspension and maybe a release. General managers and coaches are just shaking their heads.

It's easy to see why this happened. As much as the league didn't admit it through the process, revenue-sharing was vital in the new six-year agreement. The high-revenue teams couldn't agree with the low-revenue teams.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said it best last week when he talked about one of his axioms in negotiation. He says if you're going into a negotiation where you know you'll get kicked in the teeth, you delay until the deal has to be done. In this case, the high-revenue teams were going to be kicked in the teeth because they were going to give millions of their profits to the lower-revenue teams.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue knew the only way to get a deal was to submit Gene Upshaw's last proposal. That meant there was a deadline to either get the revenue-sharing or lose the salary cap. After two days of grinding, the CBA came together, but the players cleared the slates on a lot of their lost grievances.

To be honest, things were a little one-sided in the past. Barry Sanders had to pay the Lions past signing-bonus money. The Dolphins were able to force Williams to pay back signing-bonus money he collected from the Saints. The more the NFLPA tried cases under the old system, the more it lost ground.

Even the Bengals' penalties for negative comments about the organization were a little much. America does have free speech, and back in those days, it was hard to say good things about the Bengals. They were always losing. Now, only a fool would say something bad about the Bengals because Marvin Lewis has made them a winner.

Owens' release Tuesday will put him in the spotlight for the next month while he milks the publicity machine to find a new home. Agent Drew Rosenhaus knows T.O.'s market is limited to the Cowboys and Broncos at the start, so he will take a month to build more interest, and that will probably happen.

Owens will go to a new team, and he knows teams can't negotiate too many penalty clauses into his contract. Certainly, it will be hard for him to get a lot of guarantees. Owens isn't a bad guy, but he's all about Owens. That won't change.

But teams know they can't do much financially to discipline him if he acts up, and his chances of acting up under an incentive-laden contract are high. If he doesn't like it, he can try to force a trade or a release.

It's "buyer beware" for the team that gets him; good luck trying to discipline him if he acts up.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Tribal Warfare
03-16-2006, 04:55 AM
A player can lose only 25 percent of his signing bonus that year if he acts in a way that "undermines his ability to fully participate in an exhibition game or a regular season game." A second occurrence could cost him the remaining 75 percent, but how many players get two Terrell Owens-like suspensions?

:shake:

whoman69
03-16-2006, 07:18 AM
Sounds like the nuts are now running the asylum. The NFLPA has watered down the misconduct rules. I'm sure next they'll get the drug suspension rules watered down so that Ricky Williams can become the next Steve Howe.

Chiefnj
03-16-2006, 07:38 AM
The new CBA prohibits teams from inserting forfeiture clauses for violations of the NFL drug and steroids policy. A player loses game checks if he is suspended by the league, but the league can't get back more money than the pay for the games he misses.

At first glance this looks like a win for a player, but in reality I would believe all it does is make it very difficult for a player with a previous drug/roid violation to land a new job and get a decent signing bonus.

Cave Johnson
03-16-2006, 07:50 AM
I'm sure next they'll get the drug suspension rules watered down so that Ricky Williams can become the next Steve Howe.

Ricky Williams does coke?