Football is back -- NFL players approve CBA


Football is back -- NFL players approve CBA

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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
The longest work stoppage in National Football League history is, well, history.The NFL's owners and players agreed Monday to a new collective bargaining agreement that guarantees no regular-season games will be missed and could create labor peace for at least 10 years.The owners announced an agreement to a proposal on Thursday by a 31-0 vote, with Raiders owner Al Davis abstaining. The players initially reacted with disbelief that the proposal contained a "supplemental revenue sharing" system for the owners that was never discussed in negotiations with the players.EXCLUSIVE: NFL lockout transition rules
But after two days of continued negotiations to settle on the final elements of the day, the players' executive committee re-convened in Washington on Monday to vote to ratify the CBA.""I know it has been a very long process since the day we stood here that night in March," NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith said. "But our guys stood together when nobody thought we would. And football is back because of it."
Both Bay Area football teams were originally scheduled to open training camp this week. The Raiders, scheduled to open the exhibition season Thursday, Aug. 11, at home against the Arizona Cardinals, were originally scheduled set to open training camp Wednesday in Napa.Meanwhile, the 49ers were scheduled to open training camp Thursday in Santa Clara. The 49ers' first exhibition game is set for Friday, Aug. 12, at the New Orleans Saints.Thus concludes the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987. The labor dispute had been brewing since the owners informed the players in May 2008 they would exercise their contractual right to opt out of the deal they signed two years earlier.As a result the final two years of the CBA were voided. The only official NFL activity since last season was the annual draft, as the owners imposed a lockout on March 12.RELATED: Letter to fans from 49ers president Jed York
After CBA talks were initially extended beyond March 3, the scheduled end of the 2010 league year, negotiations stalled. The NFL Players Association, led by executive director Smith, decertified as a union.The owners' side, represented by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, imposed a lockout, which prohibited team employees from any contact with players.Ten plaintiffs, headlined by Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, countered with an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL. Both sides agreed on one thing, though: The dispute would ultimately be settled at the negotiating table.And that is exactly what happened.The new CBA brings back many of the rules that were in place through the 2009 season. (The rules were altered for 2010, which was an uncapped year after the owners' opted out.)The salary cap returns to the NFL. The sides have agreed on a 120.375 million cap for 2011 per team. All teams will have approximately 3.5 million in what would otherwise be performance-based pay available to fund veteran player salaries. And for the first two years of the agreement, clubs may "borrow" up to 3 million in cap room from a future year, which may be used to support veteran player costs.The players accepted 142.4 million per team in player costs, as owners will contribute an additional 22 million per team in benefits.There will be unrestricted free agency for unsigned players after four accrued seasons. Clubs will still have the ability to use the franchise and transition tags to limit key veterans.The biggest issue that the owners and players resolved was the split of the revenue pie. The league grosses approximately 9 billion annually. But with the NFL's television contracts expiring after the 2013 season, the money is expected to sky-rocket in the coming years.In the previous CBA, the owners received 1 billion off the top and then the players got 59.6 percent of the rest of the money generated by the NFL.The owners initially sought an additional 1 billion, while the players offered to take 50 percent of the league's earnings without the owners receiving the 1 billion credit.Ultimately, the players agreed to a split of at least 47-percent of all revenue for the 10-year agreement.One aspect of the salary cap is that there is also a salary floor. Teams are prohibited from investing too much or too little on player compensation. For the 2013-2016 seasons and again for the 2017-2020 seasons, the clubs collectively will commit to cash spending of at least 95 percent of the cap.Other key elements of the deal include:--Offseason programs were reduced by five weeks, and the number of organized team activities -- or offseason practices -- has been reduced from 14 to 10. The league has also limited the on-field practice time and contact allowed during those practices. Teams will no longer be allowed to conduct two padded practices per day in training camp. There are an increased number of days off for the players. Also, a 50 million per year joint fund has been established for medical research, health care programs and NFL Charities, including NFLPA-related charities.--The NFL and its players agreed to additional funding for retiree benefits of between 900 million and 1 billion. the largest amount, 620 million, will be used for the new "Legacy Fund," which will be devoted increasing pensions for pre-1993 retirees.--The sides agreed on a new rookie wage system to reduce the size of contracts for the top picks. Last year, quarterback Sam Bradford, the top overall pick, received a six-year, 78 million contract with 50 million guaranteed from the St. Louis Rams before playing a down. The size of top rookie contracts this year will be approximately half. All drafted players will sign four-year contracts. Clubs will have the option of extending the contract of a first-round pick for a fifth year, based on agreed-up tender amounts. The compensation levels of the drafted rookies will be largely fix, thus there will not be much negotiations involved.--The regular season will remain at 16 games, with four exhibition games, until at least 2013. Any subsequent increase in the number of regular season-games must be made by agreement with the players' approval. However, the league can unilaterally reduce the number of exhibition games.

Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players


Day after retiring, Anquan Boldin challenges owners, execs to help protesting players

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Anquan Boldin didn't decide overnight he was going to quit football in order to speak out against longstanding concerns over inequality in America.

The recent deadly and racially charged conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, did, however, become the tipping point that caused Boldin to reassess his priorities and led to the Buffalo Bills receiver's decision to retire after 14 NFL seasons.

"I think anybody with any sense can see how divided we are as a country, and Charlottesville only magnified what we were already seeing," Boldin told The Associated Press by phone Monday.

He was disturbed by the hateful messages directed at African-Americans, Jewish people and the LGBT community during a rally involving neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups in which a counter-protester was killed and two Virginia state police officers died on Aug. 13.

"That's not the America that I want to live in," he said. "And I think the only way that this America changes is that we as a people stand up and change it."

Boldin spoke a day after abruptly informing the Bills he was retiring some two weeks after signing a one-year contract with a base salary of $1.75 million.

The NFL's 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, Boldin is no stranger to activism and humanitarian causes. He oversees the South Florida-based Q81 Foundation, which offers educational support for underprivileged children.

He has lobbied for criminal justice reform at the state and federal levels since his cousin was killed by a plain-clothes police officer along the side of a Florida highway in October 2015.

Difficult as it was to walk away from football, Boldin felt he could no longer stand silent on the sideline.

"There's not enough money in this world for me to continue to allow the things that are going on to continue to spread," the 36-year-old father of two boys said.

"I will not feel safe leaving this earth and having my kids have to live in the America that we have today."

Boldin then challenged NFL owners and executives to use their clout to demand change and back many of their players who are already doing so by protesting during the anthem.

"You have your players crying out for help. That's the reason why guys are taking knees during the anthem," he said.

"Just because we're professional athletes doesn't mean we're exempt from the things that go on in society," Boldin said, noting his position as an athlete couldn't save his cousin from being shot.

"If I'm an owner and I see one of my family members - players - hurting, I'd do whatever I can to make sure that my family is OK."

Boldin's decision to retire coincides with what he witnessed during the anthem before Buffalo's preseason game at Philadelphia on Thursday. Eagles defensive end Chris Long showed his support by putting his arm around cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who stood in silent protest with a raised fist. Bills backup lineman Cameron Jefferson was so inspired by what he saw that he also raised his fist on Buffalo's sideline.

Boldin ranks in the top four among active receivers with 1,076 catches, 13,779 yards receiving and 82 touchdowns receiving.

He spent last season with Detroit, where he had 67 catches for 584 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 games.

The former Florida State star spent his first seven NFL seasons with Arizona, then played three years with Baltimore and three with San Francisco. He helped the Ravens win the Super Bowl in February 2013.

Lions safety Glover Quin credited his former teammate for having the courage for ending his career while knowing he can "have a bigger impact to do something else."

"I tip my hat to him," said Quin, one of several NFL players who joined Boldin in addressing Congress last year. "One day, we'll be able to look back on it and say, `That was the start of something great.'"

A day later, Boldin feels he made the right choice and pays no mind to those who suggest he simply stick to sports.

"I think it's absurd to tell a person to stick to playing football when the issues that he's talking about are affecting him," he said.

Earlier in the day in an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Boldin said his decision to retire had nothing to do with the Bills trading their top receiving threat, Sammy Watkins, in a pair of blockbuster deals on Aug. 11 , or how the team's offense struggled in a 20-16 preseason loss at Philadelphia.

He also discounted the notion he might reconsider retirement and choose to play for a contender later this season.

"Do I feel like I can still play? Of course," Boldin said. "My passion for the advocacy work that I do outweighs football at this point, so I'm not coming back to play for a contender or to do anything else. I'm done with the game of football."

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

49ers rookie QB Beathard turns VR into reality

The 49ers made a late-night trade in April to move back into the end of the third round to select an unheralded quarterback from Iowa.

The deal did not come without some second-guessing. After all, why trade away a seventh-round pick for C.J. Beathard, when he was likely to be available five picks later with the 49ers’ next scheduled draft pick?

Beathard has done everything right since his arrival, seemingly justifying the 49ers' decision to make sure they secured him when they did. And a solid showing during training camp has placed him in position to overtake veteran Matt Barkley as the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“That’s for the coaches to decide on and evaluate,” Beathard said. “I’m critical of myself and I feel like there were plays that I can improve on and get better at. That’s part of football. You’re never going to play a perfect game. I’m always trying to get better.”

Brian Hoyer strengthened his grasp on the 49ers’ starting job with an impressive training camp with his arm strength, accuracy, and knowledge and execution of Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

Beathard has saved his best performances for the two exhibition games with and against backup players. Beathard has completed 14 of 23 passes (60.9 percent) for 211 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating is 130.6.

“There were a couple third downs I thought he missed, but it was hard to get anyone in a rhythm that game,” Shanahan said after the 49ers’ 33-14 loss to the Denver Broncos on Saturday. “I think under the circumstances, he did solid.”

Beathard, the grandson of long-time NFL executive Bobby Beathard, led Iowa to a 12-2 record as a junior. His production dropped as a senior, as he completed 56.5 percent of his attempts with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in the Hawkeyes' pro-style offense.

He entered training camp at No. 3 on the depth chart. He and Barkley have been assigned the same number of practice snaps since the team reported to Santa Clara in late-July.

But Beathard has taken advantage of technology to get more and more comfortable in the 49ers’ offense. The 49ers are one of six NFL teams that use STRIVR Labs as an aide in training players via virtual reality. The tool is especially useful for quarterbacks with the camera stationed approximately 10 yards behind the quarterback.

The 49ers have two stations inside Levi’s Stadium with VR headsets, and Beathard has taken full advantage of the resource to train his eyes to read defenses and route progressions. One source told NBC Sports Bay Area that Beathard recently reviewed more than 1,000 practice plays in a week with the technology on his own time.

“You only get limited reps in practice, but you’re able to watch through virtual reality, essentially every rep in practice – all of Brian’s and Matt’s and go back and watch mine, and kind of play things out in your head as you watch practice,” Beathard said.

Beathard's pedigree, football smarts and toughness are what originally drew Shanahan to him before the draft.

Beathard’s toughness was on display in the first exhibition game, when he hung in to deliver a pass down the field to Kendrick Bourne just moments before taking a hit from a Kansas City defensive lineman. Bourne turned it into a 46-yard touchdown.

On Saturday, Beathard executed a convincing play-fake to running back Kapri Bibbs before rolling to his left and tossing to tight end George Kittle, his Iowa teammate. Kittle turned upfield, ran over one would-be tackler, stiff-armed another and managed to stay in-bounds en route to a 29-yard touchdown.

Kittle, who caught two touchdowns passes from Beathard against Nebraska in their final game together at Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium, is not surprised with how quickly Beathard has adapted in his first NFL training camp.

“He is the most competitive person I’ve ever met in my life,” Kittle said. “You’ve got a guy who just cares about football.”