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Former Bengals WR Cris Collinsworth on the NFL Labor Situation, Carson Palmer and More

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Cris Collinsworth
Cris Collinsworth

On Monday, former Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Cris Collinsworth joined Mike Florio on Pro Football Talk Live to discuss the current state of the NFL's labor situation and why he feels the season may have already been lost. He also shares his opinions about the Carson Palmer situation.

Click the jump to read the interview.

On Collinsworth's prediction of when football will return:

"But you're talking about, you know, the possibility, there's two strong suits here going -- the anti-trust litigation, that I think the players have a lot of things on their side that they're probably going to win on, if it ever does get resolved in the court of law, and the lockout from the owners' standpoint, which the owners are absolutely correct. I was involved in a couple of different strikes, the players may be able to make it a month, maybe a month and a half, but ultimately they're going to fold and have to go get a paycheck again. Well of course, in my opinion, the owners are going to settle this thing short of the players capitulating on the anti-trust lawsuit. And I can't see the players capitulating on the anti-trust lawsuit any time soon.

"They both think they have a winning hand, and, in many ways, I think they do both have a winning hand. You're (Florio) a much better attorney than I would ever hope to be, and I did graduate from law school, but never practiced a day in my life. But, I was actually cheering for the owners to win on their side because I thought if they didn't have the right to a lockout, there wouldn't be that balance that would create a negotiating possibility. Now I think that the players have a hammer with the anti-trust, I think the owners have a hammer with the lockout, and my hope is, that they both realize the strength of the others hand and it leads to a settlement. 

"My problem with the whole thing is, that I've negotiated enough with the NFL over the years, I've watched enough television negotiations, of course, but I've negotiated with Mike Brown and the Bengals and various entities within the NFL, and I can tell you that they will not put their best offer on the table until the players lose a paycheck. Now, would the players be willing to capitulate to some degree and take a lesser deal during the months that would be training camp? Possibly. But I don't know what's in it for the players from that point of view, because all they'll be missing is training camp. And remember, they dont' get paid during training camp. They may get $1,000 a week or something, but obviously, for those guys who make that much money, it's not much to speak of. So now there's no motivation to have to give in until they have to get a paycheck, which is opening day. If opening day comes and there's no deal struck, let's pick a number. Let's say it takes three, let's say it takes four weeks, and maybe they come to a settlement. So that takes us somewhere close to the end of September, first of October. 

"Now remember, unlike in prior work stoppages, there has been no training camp, no preseason and no regular season games. The two that I were involved with, we went all the way through training camp and we played two regular season games along with all the preseason games. So, when they flipped the switch, we were ready to go back in and play, and I was like 'we're back, okay. Now next week let's go and have a game.' Well, that's not happening. We don't even have the roster set. We haven't even gone through free agency, neither on the NFL side nor on the college side, so let's give that a week. 

"Now let's say let's really accelerate this. Let's say we go two weeks of training camp. Let's say we have one preseason game just to get everybody ready. Well there's another four week, that takes us to November first. So if this thing doesn't begin, if it's not settled, if the negotiations don't really start until that first paycheck is missed, in my wildest imagination, I cannot imagine the league getting started before November first. And then you have to begin to say, okay if it's November first, what is the true drop-dead date, at which they can still go through this process and have some semblance of a season, and hopefully have the playoffs. 

"And, you know, it get's a little depressing to talk about it. When I put some of this stuff down on paper, or on the Internet, people got really mad at me. You know, and they were already upset, and I said, well, you tell me where the deadline is, because negotiations will not start until there is a deadline. Maybe there's a soft deadline at the beginning of training camp, but the hard deadline comes when opening day passes and that's when it's going to get serious."

On the difference between this work stoppage and the ones that Collinsworth was involved in:

Remember too in '82 and '87, the players were on strike. In this case, essentially, the owners are on strike. They're the ones with the lockout. And also in '87, we had the replacement players. So, it was very interesting to see, after probably three or four weeks, we went down and our picket line was outside the stadium when the Bengals and the Browns were playing, and fans would come up to us and say, 'hey, my kid doesn't know the difference and he wants to go to the ballgame, we're going to have a hotdog.' You know, what can you say to him? Another one of my buddies told me something more telling, which I had never thought of before, and he said, 'Cris, this is over.' I said what are you talking about. He said Vegas was starting to make a legitimate betting line. So all the office pools are back in action again, the gamblers are out there watching these games with their money on the line, and because the games are close, it doesn't matter if the quality of football is there, if nobody knows the difference. And they're right, when the Bengals and the Browns were battling to a 21-20 game and it was the Bengals jerseys and the Browns jerseys it didn't make any difference. What we should have done, in retrospect, was let about eight full teams go across the picket lines and kick the crap out of those guys week in and week out and make the joke it was. But I didn't think of it at the time, only 20 years later. But you're absolutely right, because the owners are not going to settle this thing until the players give up on the anti-trust suit and probably come to some long term resolution, because they don't want that thing hanging over their heads for every future negotiation, and I cannot imagine the players every giving that up just to settle this thing for a bad contract. I mean I just have to put myself in D. Smith's place and as long as I can keep my players together, you know, I'm not giving that up. And even if it means going through the whole season, I'm not giving up the one thing that I have that over the years has kept some balance in these negotiations. I'm not giving that up. So, I'm having a really hard time figuring out where the break in this action is and I think the owners are thinking that if the players miss enough paychecks and have the possibility of missing the season, they're even going to be willing to give up the lawsuit."

On the minimal amount of games the NFL would play in a season:

"I think some time in November would be the drop dead date. I just don't think you can have fewer than eight games and really call it a season. We played nine (in '82) and they expanded the playoffs to 16 teams, which didn't help us because I think the Jets were one of the teams that wouldn't have gotten in and they beat us in the first round of the playoffs, but that's what they did with the thing. But it was legitimate, nobody looks back on the Washington Redskins Super Bowl victories, I think they won it in '82 and '87 -- both strike years, as not being legitimate. So, the regular season is certainly important but I think as long as maybe by the end of November, if they've come up with a way to play football games, I still think it's possible."

On Carson Palmer's Trade Demand:

"Well that's what he (Mike Brown) did (refuse to trade a player that wanted out of Cincinnati) with Chad Johnson, or Chad Ochocinco, or Chad the Bull Rider, or whatever his name is now. You know, he said, Chad, you can retire, I don't care, it doesn't make any difference to me, because he knew Chad was going to come back. Carson seems to be a different story, and what really seems bizzarre about it is that everything that I can learn from this is that Mike Brown, the owner, really loves Carson and he's told people that he's one of his favorite guys that he's ever had, and really wants him back. So it doesn't sound like the dispute is really with Mike Brown, the owner, which is what typically happens in Cincinnati because Mike is so front and center on contract negotiations. And it's not about money, which is what it usually is. So now you just have to go down the list.

"Is it the fact that he couldn't stand playing with Chad and Terrell Owens? Well, there's a good chance that neither one of those guys is going to be here and they drafted the No. 4 player overall in A.J. Green, who by all accounts should be a great receiver coming into the NFL. They have great young receivers, a great young tight end. There's a lot of reasons why a quarterback would want to play here than somewhere else. So, you know, we've all heard the stories of the garbage on the lawn after the games and people would boo Carson Palmer and they've done these horrible things to him, and I hate to say it, but those things are NFL light in Cincinnati. No matter how bad it is, I hope he doesn't sign with Philadelphia or New York or you know one of the places where they really kind of let you know right away what they think about you.

"So, there's no soft landing spot if you're a quarterback in the NFL. You have to have that sort of thick skin and it sounds like maybe it's his family who's being impacted more than maybe it is Carson, because Carson's not the type of guy who seems to react in an over-the-top way when he gets criticized."

Where Collinsworth could see Palmer if Mike Brown does trade him:

"I mean Arizona, Minnesota, San Francisco. I've heard Miami a little bit. I mean, is that what you're really willing to do to kind of jump start it. I don't know. Carson's been through a lot physically. He's gone through an arm issue, he's certainly had the major knee issue. He wasn't a mobile guy to start with. All I can tell you, and remember this is a team that went to the playoffs a year ago and went undefeated in the division. They had a bad year last year. Maybe the mix of Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco was a bad one and maybe you hear about their undisciplined routes, that he never knew where they were going, that he threw interceptions throwing the ball where he was supposed to throw it and they weren't in the right spots. Well that's not a factor this year, so it's really become hard to put your finger on what is it then -- what will make you happy? What has you so upset? Is it the way Marvin Lewis is handling those players? I don't know because we haven't heard from Carson, but it has been one of the stranger things that I've been through because it's usually the quarterbacks, if this were happening in New York it would be on headlines every day. But here it's just what happens in Cincinnati, I guess, and it's sort of flying under the radar."