Jeff Pash speaks Dan Leberfeld
Here is what the NFL’s lead labor lawyer, Jeff Pash, had to say on Friday.
“The deal we had on the table, which we did not put out there as a take it or leave it, we didn’t set a deadline saying, ‘If you don’t accept it by this time we are going to lock you out.’ It was meant to keep the negotiations going and keep the process going. It would have paid the players over the next four years, 2011-2014, somewhere between $19 and 20 billion. It would have increased pay from 2011-2014 by $640 million on a league-wide basis, $20 million per club. It would have reduced the amount of work that is required in the offseason. We got rid of five weeks of the offseason program. We cut OTAs from 14 to 10 days. We made changes in the preseason. We put limits on full-padded practices in the regular season. We increased days off.
“We increased retirement benefits so that more than 2,000 retired players would have gotten almost a 60 percent increase in their pension benefit. We offered players the opportunity to have lifetime coverage in our medical plan. We offered for the first time to revise our disciplinary system so that they get a third-party neutral arbitrator on all the drug and steroids cases. We offered improvements in the disability plan, the 88 Plan, the post-career benefits, not just for medical but for post-career education and career transition programs. There was a lot on the table here. That would have been significant improvements. To say it was the worst deal in the history of sports suggests a lack of familiarity with a number of professional sports deals starting perhaps with the hockey deal in 2005 where players lost an entire season of pay and then went back to work with a 25 percent pay cut.
“Unfortunately, we are not where we wanted to be,” Pash said. “We were hoping, frankly, that we would still be with the federal mediation service in dialogue with the union and continuing to make progress, but obviously that is not what happened, so we are in a bit of a holding pattern.
“We offered so that any current player when he retired would get five years of post-career medical that is paid by the clubs,” Pash said. “We offered after that to allow players to continue to participate in the medical plan by paying the premiums. If they bought the insurance, they could participate. One of the benefits that was created in the last agreement, which we would be continuing, was a health savings account where players, over the course of their career, can build up hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a benefit fund, sort of like a 401k, but for medical expenses which they could then use to pay the premium to stay in the medical plan so there would be no issue of preexisting conditions.
“There would be no issue of trying to buy insurance as an individual or having to pay the higher rates when you are outside the group. You’d have the same quality of care and the same network all over the country. We thought that the reaction of the players and the reaction of union officials to that proposal was really very positive. That is obviously the first time that the opportunity has been available from the NFL.”