NFL and NFLPA Respond to Bengals Owner's Statement That Players Only Care About Money

Cincy Jungle reported earlier in March that Bengals owner Mike Brown expressed his disappointment in the NFL Players Association's decision to decertify the union and take the differences that exist between the players and owners from a board room to a court room. This occurred after the owners made an offer to the players, which included reducing offseason workouts, increasing the salary cap over the next few years to meet the number the NFLPA proposed, helping retired players and allowing current players to keep their current health plans for the rest of their lives.

While airing his frustrations about the current state of the NFL, Brown went as far to say that he felt that the union only cared about money and nothing else.

"It came down to the obvious point that all the union cared about was the money and these other things certainly didn't matter enough," Brown said. "It's a tremendous situation that they have and it has become burdensome for the teams. Yes, we're asking for some relief going forward. I don't think that was unreasonable."

On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to be included in a conference call between SB Nation writers from across the country and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the NFL's lead negotiator Jeff Pash who were willing to speak to us about the lockout and what they're doing to attempt to right the situation, as well as a myriad of other topics.

Because of the amount of questions coming from different writers about the lockout, about allowing bloggers access to NFL press boxes and about the new proposed rule changes for player safety, I was only able to squeeze in one question before the conference call came to an end. I asked how they felt about Mike Brown's statement that the players only cared about money and if that was a sentiment that many of the owners around the NFL shared.

"I don’t know if that’s what many owners around the league feel, but I think Mike was reflecting what he heard in the mediation session late Friday afternoon where in responding to the comprehensive proposal  we had made to them, they didn’t want to talk about anything other than what the cap numbers were," Pash said. "They didn’t want to talk about the health and safety improvements, they didn’t want to talk about benefits, they didn’t want to talk about improved pensions for retired players, they didn’t want to talk about the drug program or the steroid program, they didn’t want to talk about disciplinary matters. The only thing they wanted to talk about was the cap number. I think Mike was reflecting what he heard from the players."

Then on Friday, SB Nation writers had the opportunity to talk with NFLPA lead negotiator DeMaurice Smith. During the interview, Smith was asked about Pash's comments about the players only being interested in money and not the other core issues, such as benefits for retired players, player safety and a 16 versus 18-game season. Smith responded to Pash's comments by saying he only has a casual relationship with the truth.

"Jeff only has a casual relationship with the truth," Smith said. "Jeff knows that the NFL's deal was an all-or-nothing deal. They did not present an a la carte menu to the players of the NFL. They didn't sit down with us and say, 'Why don't you select the things you like, reject the things you don't, and let's move forward.' Jeff knows that their deal was inextricably tied to every point on the deal. Put it this way: if a deal that's being put to you is mutually contingent on all 16 parts, do you have the option of saying 'I like and we accept issues 8-16, but we don't like issues 1-7,' do you have a deal at that point? I'm very careful about language: do you have a deal if you don't like half the points that have been presented to you? You don't. It's not even probably, you don't. The first point of the NFL deal would have been us to accept their economic proposal at the same time we would have to accept everything else. Does that make sense?"

After reading these two comments, it's clear that the two sides are just as far apart now as they were months ago. While Goodell and Pash reassure fans that the lockout will not jeopardize the 2011 season, I'm not so sure. While the two sides argue back and forth about who cares about what and who doesn't know the truth, the fans who fund the game patiently await the news of whether or not their favorite sport will make the Sundays in fall and winter more than just the day before Monday.

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