NFL Labor Talks Almost Blow Up

I hope everyone enjoyed their Fathers Day weekend. Here is something that some of you may have missed.

After what seemed like some significant progress regarding negotiations to end the NFL lockout, word has it that they came very close to blowing up again.

Two weeks ago, as I reported here on LSS, there were some secret meetings taken place, reportedly without any lawyers present – just the player representatives and owners.

The Washington Post reported that a framework to an agreement was being laid out and that the lockout could come to an end within two to three weeks.

Unfortunately, on Saturday reports began to filter in that not only were the rumors as positive as had been projected, but that all talks almost broke down after lawyers were invited back to the bargaining table.

Adam Schefter of ESPN explains,

At a time when many are waiting for and anticipating a deal between owners and the NFL Players Association, there was a point Tuesday when talks clearly regressed.

One person close to the talks even went so far as to say, “This almost blew up yesterday.”

How close it did is a matter of opinion. Fact is, the moment came shortly after lawyers from both sides were brought back into the process at an undisclosed location in the Washington, D.C., area. As tensions rose and anger grew, two sources said NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith instructed his lawyers to “stand down.”

With the lawyers removed from the direct negotiations, the process was said to get back on track and to a good spot. The scenario is an example of just how tenuous these talks can be and how quickly they can be derailed.

Multiple sources familiar with the talks said progress is being made, but they cautioned there’s “a lot of drama and a lot of room for mistakes left.” 

To say this is going to be done in two weeks, one source said, “is borderline insane.”

Not So Secret Meeting Brings Players and Owners Back To Bargaining Table

Roger GoodellIt’s been a difficult offseason for Cowboys fans this year, mostly because of the ongoing lockout. The Cowboys news has been so sparse that most blogs will post just about anything including Felix Jones’ favorite Ninja Turtle (Donatello), Tony Romo’s choice of cake for his wedding, J-Rat’s new diamond studded toothbrush, Dez and his attempted jewel heist, and the world’s largest scoreboard getting a tune-up.

Well – maybe the days of rehashing the same old and tired rants or posting about silly non-football stuff will soon be coming to an end. Maybe, in a week or so, we can start posting about real Cowboys news again… Real Cowboys trade talk based on sourced information and not speculation… Real Cowboys news that we’ve been craving for nearly four months now…

There’s some news floating around that the owners and the players are talking again, in what might be the most unsecretive, secret meeting since FDR, Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin got together at Yalta.

Dallas Cowboys team owner Jerry Jones was among five NFL owners that met secretly with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, the head of now decertified NFL Players Association (NFLPA), in Chicago on Wednesday according to several reports.

Federal mediator Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan was in attendance and he canceled scheduled mediated sessions next week so the players and owners can continue to “negotiate in secret”.

The secret meeting is so secret that both sides released a joint statement (in secret of course) regarding their progress.

“The parties met pursuant to court mediation. Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan. The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions.”

One source said any potential deal still was a ways away; however, the hope would be that the two sides could reach an agreement sooner rather than later, potentially even later this month.

The key words there being “sooner rather than later” and “later this month”.

This sounds like a ground breaking achievement considering all the rancor that we’ve seen from both sides thus far. Any negotiation can only come from both sides getting together to discuss the issues, and it looks like both sides were willing to do just that, albeit in secret (not really).

Of course, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is knee deep in all of this and while everybody else involved refused to comment, Jones as always had something to say,  “We’re trying. I think the fact that we’re meeting is good.”

One unidentified player added, “That was the point of the meeting. No lawyers.”

We can only hope that some substantial progress comes out of this and that this black cloud hovering over the 2011 NFL season is finally lifted and we can start talking and blogging about real football again soon.

Stay tuned…

NFL Draft Day 3 – Live Chat

Welcome to our exclusive NFL Draft Coverage Thread here at Lone Star Struck.

For complete coverage of all the big news, signings and trades, keep it right here as we will keep updating this thread with everything you need to know.

We also invite you to join us at our live Draft Chat where many members of our staff will be discussing the day’s events and answering questions.

LONE STAR STRUCK CHAT

 

Join the conversation or just stop in and say “Go Cowboys!” Let us know who you think the Cowboys should draft with the first pick.

It’s going to be a great weekend and I bet there will be a few surprises with Jerry Jones running the show.

Dallas Cowboys Picks

Round 1, Pick 9 (9) – OT Tyron Smith, USC

Round 2, Pick 8 (40) – LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina

Round 3, Pick 7 (71) – RB DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma

Round 4, Pick 13 (110) – OL David Arkin, Missouri St

Round 5, Pick 12 (143) – DB Josh Thomas, Buffalo

Round 6, Pick 11 (176) – WR Dwayne Harris, E. Carolina

Round 7, Pick 17 (220) (From San Diego) – FB Shaun Chapas, Georgia

Round 7, Pick 49 (252) (Compensatory Selection) – OL Bill Nagy, Wisconsin

 

NFL Draft Order

1. Carolina Panthers

2. Denver Broncos

3. Buffalo Bills

4. Cincinnati Bengals

5. Arizona Cardinals

6. Cleveland Browns

7. San Francisco 49ers

8. Tennessee Titans

9. Dallas Cowboys

10. Washington Redskins


Judge Orders End To NFL Lockout

According to a report from Associated Press a federal judge on Monday ordered an end to the NFL lockout, giving the players an early victory in their fight with the owners over how to divide the $9 billion business.U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said she was swayed by the players’ argument that that the lockout, now in its second month, was causing irreparable harm to their careers.

The plaintiffs “have made a strong showing that allowing the League to continue their ‘lockout’ is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon them, particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction,” Nelson wrote.

The NFL promised an immediate appeal.

“We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the league said. “We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.”

Owners imposed the lockout after talks broke down March 11 and the players disbanded their union. A group of players filed the injunction request along with a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the league.

The owners argued it was their right to institute the lockout and suggested Nelson didn’t have jurisdiction while the National Labor Relations Board considers an unfair labor charge filed by the league that players didn’t negotiate in good faith.

Nelson disagreed, and said the NLRB proceeding shouldn’t be used to affect the court case here.

Nelson heard arguments on the injunction at a hearing on April 6 and ordered the two sides to resume mediation while she was considering her decision. The owners and players, who failed to reach consensus after 16 days of mediated talks earlier this year, met over four days with a federal magistrate but did not announce any progress on solving the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

They are not scheduled to meet again until May 16, four days after another judge holds a hearing on whether players should get damages in their related fight with owners over some $4 billion in broadcast revenue.

I don’t know if things just got better or worse… I guess we’ll soon find out.

Amukamara Visits Valley Ranch, Will He Be The Cowboys To Pick?

Prince Amukamara Western Kentucky v Nebraska

Less than two weeks until the biggest day of the Cowboys offseason, the NFL Draft. One potential candidate whose name keeps coming up in mock draft after mock draft, is Prince Amukamara.

Coincidentally, the talented cornerback out of Nebraska was a guest of the Cowboys yesterday at Happy Valley. He was one of a bunch of players who visited with the team as they get a first hand look at some of the players they may consider selecting in the upcoming draft. However, only Amukamara’s name has figured prominently in what the Cowboys may be looking for with the ninth overall pick.

Currently, the Cowboys go into a new season with the same old cast that features Terence Newman who misses too much time with all sorts of injuries, Mike Jenkins who had a rough season after a breakout in 2009, and the always inconsistent and maddening Orlando Scandrick.

Amukamara is considered to be the best or second-best corner prospect in the draft depending on who you ask, and he would certainly eclipse any of the current Cowboys in terms of explosiveness, if given the chance to wear the blue and silver. He may even slot in better as a safety which would give the team more flexibility in how to best utilize his great talents.

It won’t be long until we find out who we do get, I’m just hoping the focus will be on the secondary, and if it ends up being Amukamara, I’ll be very happy.

Pro Bowl Profiles 2011

The 2011 Official Pro Bowl Program is a beautifully designed magazine that contains articles and player profiles. The program is available  for online viewing as well as download.

Below are the profiles for the five Cowboys originally elected to the 2011 NFL Pro Bowl. (Miles Austin was selected as an alternate therefore doesn’t have a profile in the program.)

The game between the NFC and the AFC will take place tonight at 6 p.m. CT at Aloha Stadium.

There Is A God In Heaven

For years and years I’ve complained about how lifeless and uninspiring former Cowboys head coach and defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips has been for the Cowboys.

He had no dynamic energy that his players could feed off of, and too many times lack of passion after a loss. We all became too accustomed to his post game comments after we had our asses handed to us. His usual “ho-hum, we were outplayed again” message did very little to fire a team up that on paper could rival any team in the league.

My first wish came true in the form of Jason Garrett who immediately took over a lifeless team and breathed some fire and passion into what was a listless and unmotivated highly compensated roster. The results were startling and dramatic, leaving Jerry Jones no other choice but the obvious one in taking the interim label away from his title.

Now it seems that my second wish will come true and we will fill the defensive coordinator position with another fiery type in Rob Ryan, brother of Jets head coach Rex Ryan.

Getting Ryan to run the Cowboys defense would be a major coup for the team. Ryan has the energy and passion to get these players to elevate their performance and leave it all on the field for every game. And by every game I mean all four quarters of the game, not just the first two followed by the usual Cowboys defensive fade in the second half.

This team has needed a personality transplant for a long time, and with Garrett and Rob Ryan calling the shots, we can expect to see a team that will be 100% charged up and ready to win for every opposing matchup next season.

I applaud both of these bold moves by Jerry Jones and I hope to see some more of this aggression in the draft as well as free agency.

Go Cowboys!

LSS Extra Points: Goodbye 2010

After ending the 2010 season a disappointing 6-10, the Cowboys will pick 9th in the 2011 NFL draft. While some would have rather the Cowboys lost the finale and received pick #6, I like what DeMarcus Ware had to say about the situation:

“It’s all about pride. When a fan sees you’re still fighting in the last game of the season and you don’t have anything to play for, you talk about the winning tradition of the Dallas Cowboys.”

***

2011 Opponents are as follows:

Home: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

Away: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, New York Jets.

***

Sam Hurd, who was sidelined at the season finale game due to a head injury, was chosen as the recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award. The Ed Block Courage Award is an annual award presented to selected players in the National Football League, who are voted by their teammates as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship, and courage (Wikipedia).

***

Wide receiver Roy Williams make some interesting comments in the past week.

“I was the go-to guy in Detroit. Coordinators can make who they want to make the star.”

“This is my dream [to stay] here and it started out good. Started out real good, but it fell apart I guess you could say. I love to be here.”

Many believe Williams’ is on his way out of Dallas, and I’m sure he has very few supporters campaigning to keep him a Cowboy. 37 catches for 530 yards and five touchdowns hardly warrants the high priced contract Jerry Jones generously issued back in 2008 (6 years, $54 million).

***

DeMarcus Ware won the NFL sack title with 15.5 sacks on the season. With his three sacks in Sunday’s game, Ware beat out Kansas City’s Tamba Hali by one sack. This is Ware’s second sack title in his 6-year career.

***

Jason Witten and Miles Austin both finished the season with over 1,000 yards. Witten passed the 1,000 yard mark in the final play of the game, ending the year with 85 receptions for 1002 yards and nine touchdowns. Austin finished with 69 receptions for 1041 yards (down from 1320 in 2009) and seven touchdowns.

***

And last but not least…

After the media mania on Sunday morning declaring Jason Garrett the official head coach, Jerry Jones himself denied the rumors.  Jones reiterated that he will honor the Rooney Rule, which states a minority must be interviewed.

“I am really interested in following the spirit of our NFL rules and that’s what this is all about.”

Reports Sunday and Monday say the Cowboys will interview wide receivers coach Ray Sherman to honor that rule. ESPNDallas reports that interview will take place Tuesday. ESPN also believes Jones wants to hire the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys by Friday. Which only leads one to believe that Jason Garrett is Jerry’s man.

Sources Say Garrett Officially Named Head Coach

Several sources are reporting that the Dallas Cowboys have removed the interim tag from Jason Garrett role and have named him the next head coach.

NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi is reporting that the Cowboys have removed the interim label from head coach Jason Garrett.

A high-ranking team source tells Clarence E. Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that “Jason Garrett will likely be named the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach.”

Jason Garrett becoming the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys for the 2011 season has gone from “likely” to definite. – Pro Football Talk

We are still awaiting the official word from the team but it seems the decision has been made.

Congratulations Jason Garrett, the 8th head coach of America’s Team!

Ain’t That A Kick In The Pants

I’ve spent a lot of this season airing my utter frustrations with Marion Barber and Roy Williams, both of whom I see as finished as far as their effectiveness and value to the team goes.

But there is another…

Can we all agree that our big experiment with David Buehler as the Cowboys’ place kicker has been nothing short of an epic and massive failure?

The Cowboys’ offseason to-do list is long and chock full of many needs, but no less important among those needs is finding a reliable place kicker for next season and waving goodbye to David Buehler.

Buehler has been frustrating to watch this season.

Some may say he had an impressive game against the Cardinals on Saturday night by nailing two long field goals of 42 and 53 yards while we were trying to comeback from being down 14 points early in the game.

But I’m sorry, that missed extra point was the last straw for me.

Football is a game of probabilities. And it is incumbent upon any team to improve those probabilities in every aspect of their game as they look to build a championship caliber team.

Whenever a critical kick is the difference between winning and losing, you can’t hand your game over to one as unpredictable and unreliable as our own David Buehler.

Easily, Buehler’s failures this season contributed to at least four losses that could have instead been thrilling victories for the Cowboys.

Imagine how much different this final regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles would have been if the Cowboys were 9-6 and one win away from the Wild Card, instead of 5-10?

Oh, and don’t think for one moment that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hasn’t thought about that, especially when he saw Buehler miss that extra point.

“I don’t even want to talk about it,” he said. “I don’t even fathom missing an extra point. I don’t even fathom it. I just can’t even think about an extra point. That’s a freak thing when we miss an extra point.”

The Cowboys put their fate in the hands of David Buehler, needing only an extra point to take a three-point lead, and even with a simple task like that Buehler could not deliver.

After the game, Buehler admitted that he has hit rock-bottom. Sounds like Buehler nailed it.

No Late Season Comeback For Tony Romo

Yesterday, Jerry Jones made it official; Tony Romo will not return to the lineup this season.

The news is a little bittersweet as many of us wanted to see the season end on a high note even if it meant getting out on the field for a quarter or two.

Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo who suffered a broken collarbone in Week 7, will not get a chance to take a snap for the Jason Garrett led Cowboys, and we still don’t know if he ever will.

The reason to keep Romo on the sidelines is based mostly on continued pain and tenderness in the area of the injury. The decision to keep Romo out is a good one as it would be foolish to send him out there at less than 100% when there is nothing to be gained by it.

It’s not like the team has suffered much by Romo’s absence as they have performed well under backup quarterback Jon Kitna and have won four of their last six games. Kitna also has four 300-yard games during that stretch.

Ironically, Romo still goes out on top in a way as he currently ranks third in the NFC with a 94.9 passer rating, second only to Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers.

My only regret is that now we will have to wait an entire offseason before we se if there are any adverse effects to Romo’s performance from the injury. I would imagine Romo would have loved to go out knowing that he finished the season on the field and that any concerns were now behind him.

Get well soon Tony, and we’ll see you in training camp.

Jason Witten Is Efficient As Always

It’s been a season filled with ups and downs, but mostly downs. After the devastating loss of quarterback Tony Romo, I like many others thought we’d be in for some ugly football the rest of the way.

When Jason Garrett took over as head coach, I was optimistic that we might see some inspired play by our team, even though any chance to earn a playoff spot was already shattered.

What we’ve learned under Garrett is that this team has a lot of fight in them and a lot of character as well. Each passing week, Garrett continues to gain the respect of his players and fans as well, and calls for making him the permanent head coach are getting louder as the season comes to an end.

During the Cowboys recent inspired play, one player who continues to carry the load and perform at a high level is tight end Jason Witten.

I recently read an article on ESPN that discussed effectiveness inside the red zone, a long-time problem for the Cowboys going back about three seasons now. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Cowboys have made some huge strides in that area this season, and you can credit Witten for the bulk of it.

Through 13 games this year the Cowboys are seventh in the NFL in red-zone efficiency with 23 touchdowns in 38 trips.

Witten is having a remarkable season despite how bad the team has floundered. After putting up six touchdown catches in the last two seasons, Witten now has six touchdown catches this year, and is only one score away from matching his career high set in 2007.

He is currently tied for third in the NFL among tight ends in TD catches, trailing only Antonio Gates (10) and Marcedes Lewis (9).

For some strange reason, Witten had become an afterthought in the red zone last season and for the first part of this season, but clearly the Cowboys have seen the error of their ways and have implemented Witten as a primary weapon again, especially in these situations. I give Jon Kitna much of the credit for his resurgence in the second half as well.

In a strange twist regarding the Cowboys red zone efficiency, the Cowboys have only five rushing touchdowns from inside the red zone. Only Miami with four has fewer.

By the way, does anybody else want to scream whenever Felix Jones is asked to stuff it up the middle on first, second or third and goal?