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Murphy Sees Packers Playing Role In CBA Negotiations

Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told the team’s annual gathering of shareholders on Thursday at Lambeau Field that the Packers could play a key role in the ongoing negotiations with the players’ union on a new collective bargaining agreement. - More Mark Murphy Press Conference Transcript


Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy told the team's annual gathering of shareholders on Thursday at Lambeau Field that the Packers could play a key role in the ongoing negotiations with the players' union on a new collective bargaining agreement.

In his President's Report to a rain-depleted gathering of roughly 7,500 shareholders, Murphy included a brief history of the NFL Players Association and the past negotiations and agreements with the league owners, some of which Murphy lived through as a player, player representative, and executive with the NFLPA.

While acknowledging that the negotiations on a new CBA will be difficult - the owners opted out of the current CBA last year, setting the stage for an uncapped final year in 2010 if a new agreement isn't reached before March of next year - Murphy believes the Packers could be a key voice at the bargaining table for multiple reasons.

First is the team's one-of-a-kind structure and status within the league itself.

"We're very unique, and we're a very small market, the smallest market in the NFL," Murphy told the crowd in the stadium bowl. "But we're one of the higher revenue teams in the league, and that combination can help us. We can serve as a bridge (between the large- and small-market clubs)."

Reinforcing those remarks to reporters in a press conference following the shareholders' meeting, Murphy noted that since the Lambeau Field renovation in 2003, the Packers have ranked anywhere from eighth to 11th in overall revenue in the 32-team league. That status has resulted in the Packers paying into the league's revenue sharing pool (the top 15 teams contribute), the type of pool many thought a team like the Packers in such a small market would always be drawing from for survival.

In addition, Murphy is on the owners' negotiating committee, allowing the Packers' unique structure and successful business model to be ever-present in the negotiations with the union.

"We're unlike any other team in the NFL, and we're also viewed as being very pure," Murphy said. "Some other teams might have different interests in maybe trying to generate revenue or profit, but for us it's all about winning and all about football. When we make decisions and we make comments at these meetings, we can be helpful in bringing the parties together."

Murphy said the two sides have had two negotiating sessions so far, but termed them "early stages."

The first key pressure point in his view comes in the next eight months, when the league will enter a year without a salary cap in March 2010, unless a new agreement is reached. In addition to the salary cap going away, free agency rules also change to the detriment of the union, so the "poison pills" in the expiring CBA are designed to get the two sides to the bargaining table.

All those potential scenarios - a year with or without a salary cap, with or without a new CBA, and with or without new rules in free agency - have the Packers making future plans under various contingencies. It's the challenging way all teams have to view such an uncertain near future at this point.

{sportsad300}Murphy also said it's difficult to predict how the league owners would react and conduct business without a salary cap. Given the current economic conditions, different owners might react to an uncapped year in different ways.

"I think the union's view is that if you get to an uncapped year, it would be a spending spree," Murphy told reporters. "I just don't see that. I think most of the teams are going to look at it and say, number one, our revenue is not what it has been, we're challenged economically. I think you're probably going to see player costs go down in the uncapped year."

The rise in player costs outpacing revenue increases is the issue that prompted the owners to opt out of the CBA last year. Murphy said a key issue for the owners in the current negotiations is getting recognition for the costs and debt service incurred in order to generate the gross revenues upon which the players' salary cap is based.

Other issues Murphy pointed to as part of the negotiating process included rookie pay, retired player benefits, and a restructured season that could result in 17 or 18 regular-season games.

"It's going to be a difficult process, but I'm very hopeful and optimistic we can reach an agreement with the players," Murphy said in closing. "We want to have a system in place that works for the owners, the players and allows us to grow the game."

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