FITZ BEAT By Larry Fitzgerald…The NFL is back in business!

It’s finally over after more than four months of tough negotiations between the NFL owners and the Players Association (NFLPA). The agreement is 10 years and $150 billion with a salary cap set at $120 million per 32 teams.

All the terms of the deal have not yet been released, but that is its foundation. The NFL owners in Atlanta last Thursday, July 21, voted 31-0 to end the four-month lockout they imposed on the 1,900 players and agreed to a new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Problem was that the NFL players’ executive committee headed by DeMaurice Smith had not voted on the agreement, even though, as you read in my column last week, Smith told Arizona Cardinals star, my son Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., “You and your teammates have been great leaders. We are a completely different group.

This is history in the making.”

It’s the richest deal ever signed by a sports league with its union players.
Re-certification of the NFLPA has to take place first. The players decertified as a union to best legally battle the owners and even the negotiation field. There were many legal maneuvers by both sides. By decertifying, the players put anti-trust pressure on the owners. It was an economic weapon.

Some legal minds contend that there is no difference between a lockout and a strike. I disagree. The big difference is that the NFL owners opted out of the last contract; the players did not. It was the 32 NFL owners who were not happy with the last deal, not the players.

The NFL owners did what they did by voting 31-0 last week and announcing the lockout was over. The owners and Roger Goodell, the league’s commissioner, put public-relations pressure on the players. It lacked compassion, and it clearly disrespected the players.

All 32 teams and Goodell knew the terms and conditions for a settlement were in place last week, but the players had decertified and had to vote first on the CBA and then recertify as a union body, the NFLPA. Most owners think the players’ decertification was some sham; in the last CBA, the owners demanded the players recertify. This time the players said that won’t happen again: “We are going to show you.”

The revenue-sharing plan agreed to by the owners in this deal is the biggest difference in this CBA. That is the big surprise that the players did not know. It allows the owners to grow the game by investing. The owners of the 32 teams get 52 percent and the players get 48 percent of the proposed $150 billion.

The NFL owners played hard knocks with the players. No emotion — it was strictly business. This lockout has been stressful on both sides
Many gains were made on both sides. The biggest financial gain is eight percent. The players were getting 52 percent of gross revenues in the last deal; now the owners get it. That’s significant!

The 2011 rookies coming into the league got hosed in this deal. The wage scale for drafted rookies was cut by 50 percent off the top, because NFL owners made mistakes and drafted stiffs like quarterbacks Ryan Leaf and Demarcus Russell, giving them $30 million guaranteed and they never produced.

This system is a win-win for the owners. They closed the escalator options on rookie contracts. The players win was in benefits and increased cap dollars, and this year veterans have a huge advantage.

They know what they are doing. Remember, 120 practices have been lost. This is not their first rodeo, and rookies and undrafted free agents are playing catch-up. They are not ready. They had no mini-camps, no meetings or walk-throughs, no film study. They have not been with their teams’ position coaches. They need to learn terminology.

The season is here. The games will count soon. The rosters will start at 90 players per team, and they will trim them down to 53.

With over 500 NFL free agents and nearly 300 drafted rookies, the next two weeks starting immediately will be like a new frontier. Mass signings and contract offers — instead of a shower of activity, it will be more like a storm. It’s going to be intense. There will be star wars.

So the most successful sports league, the leader of the pack, the NFL is back. Whew!

Fitz Notes & Quotes
Somebody explain to me why Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pays well over a $1 billion to build the new Texas Stadium? It seats over 100,000 fans with all the bells and amenities. The New York Jets and Giants paid well over a $1 billion also to build new Giants Stadium. The owners have been crying about debt service on stadiums.

The Arizona Cardinals five years ago built the finest stadium in the NFL with a retractable roof and retractable grass field. It seats 80-85,000 fans. It cost only $350 million.

The Vikings want this proposed Arden Hills site that’s $1.5 billion You see where I’m going with this? It’s the NFL owners that make the major mistakes financially over paying to build these stadiums and then blaming the players because they as owners can’t balance their budgets.

There’s a big difference between $1 billion and $350 million.

Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2), and you can follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.