Northwoods Labor Talk … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs

From River Falls, Wisconsin

DeMaurice Smith is the new executive director of the NFL Players Association. He’s the guy the players elected to replace Gene Upshaw.

And he was a visitor here in the northwoods Wednesday morning, taking in a Chiefs practice session with three others from the union, including Raytown South and former Chiefs safety Jason Belser who works as a senior regional director for the association.

Smith is touring all the training camps this fall because looming on the horizon are hard negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners. Several preliminary sessions have already taken place, but there are many, many more sessions to come.

It’s a battle over billions of dollars, with ownership intent on keeping more of the money and the players trying to maintain status quo when it comes to what revenues roll into their pay checks.

Smith did not get a chance to address the team as a whole on the current situation, but he talked with several players as they came off the practice field.

“We’ve made the rounds of 26, 27 teams,” said Smith. “We’ve got a battle coming as it relates to our collective bargaining agreement.”

OLB Mike Vrabel, who is a member of the NFLPA’s executive committee was asked what the union leader would have told the team if given a chance to speak to them as a group.

“Just be one team,” Vrabel said is the message. “We are 32 teams in this league, but as players we are one team. We have to stay together. If we split the other side will win.

“Right now, that’s the unfortunate side of our business. There are owners and there is everybody else. We are everybody else and we need to stick together.”

What’s ahead if a new agreement is not reached is a 2010 season without a salary cap, and possibly an owner’s lockout in 2011. Smith has said there will be no strike by the union, that if football comes to a halt it will be a decision made by the owners.

First is that uncapped season next year. If that happens, it will also create many new rules for players, pushing unrestricted free agency from four years in the league to six years. That affects a number of players, including ILB Derrick Johnson who is in the final year of his rookie contract. This is Johnson’s fifth NFL season. Under the old rules with a salary cap, he could become an unrestricted free agent after this season. But without the salary cap, the new rules say he could become a restricted free agent.

In the 2009 off-season, no restricted free agents changed teams.

“I’m aware of that, but I really haven’t spent any time thinking about it,” said Johnson. “That type of stuff takes care of itself.”

The looming labor situation has not been major topic of conversation around training camp according to Vrabel.

“Guys are really trying to focus on the task at hand and that’s the season,” he said. “Maybe it will pick up when things come into focus during the season. But right now guys are trying to make this team and help us out.

Added Johnson: “If Vrabel told you everybody’s just thinking football then take what he says as gospel. I’m just trying to figure out how to make myself and this team better for the 2009 season. There’s not time for anything else.”

But soon there will be and that’s why DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA rode into River Falls. Keeping the players together and the lines of communication open will be key for the players. With victories in federal court, they were able to establish real free agency with a salary cap back in 1994. They’ve retained a solid front since then with several new agreements with the owners.

Only that kind of solidarity will work with the players this time, whether it’s this year, next year or two years from now.

The clock is ticking. Football fans just have to hope it’s not a bomb that eventually goes off.


  • BILLS – WR Terrell Owens remains out of practice and is considered “day-to-day” with a sprained toe.
  • BRONCOS – released RB Ryan Torain, who re-injured the knee that he hurt last season.
  • BUCCANEERS – Reports out of Tampa say P Josh Bidwell could miss the season because of a hip injury.
  • COLTS – FS Antoine Bethea has a cracked bone in his right hand and is out indefinitely; SS Bob Sanders continues to miss practice because of a knee injury.

On August 13, 1973 the Chiefs dropped a pre-season game to the Detroit Lions 17-16 at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs scores came on offense, defense and special teams. QB Len Dawson threw a 10-yard TD pass to WR Elmo Wright on offense. The defense provided a TD when CB Emmitt Thomas ran 58 yards for a TD with lateraled interception from S Mike Sensibaugh for TD. K Jan Stenerud added a 29-yard FG. The Chiefs had just 188 in total offense.

On August 13, 1988 the Chiefs beat the Atlanta Falcons 27-13 in a pre-season at Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium. Just 23,369 fans showed up to watch these teams play. The Chiefs scored first, with a 44-yard TD run by RB Herman Heard. Later RB Paul Palmer ran 61 yards for a touchdown and WR Ambrose caught a 24-yard scoring pass from QB Steve DeBerg. K Nick Lowery added a pair of second-half FGs. Palmer ran 12 times for 106 yards.


Born on August 13, 1936 in Waco, Texas was DT Rufus Granderson, a member of the original Dallas Texans. He played in six games with the Texans during the 1960 season. That was his only taste of professional football, as he did not make the Texans roster the next season.

Born on August 13, 1940 in Mission, Texas was DB Bobby Ply. He joined the Dallas Texans in 1962 after playing quarterback at Baylor University. Ply ended up spending six seasons (1962-67) with the Texans-Chiefs, appearing in 73 games. In his rookie season he had seven interceptions and finished with nine picks over his career with the franchise. Ply left the Chiefs during the ’67 season and played four games with Denver and three with Buffalo.

Born on August 13, 1964 in Louisville was CB Cris Dishman. He joined the Chiefs for the 1999 season after playing 11 years in the league with Houston and Washington. Dishman started all 16 games that season, intercepting five passes and returning one 47 yards for a TD, and recovering a pair of fumbles. He played one more season in 2000 with Minnesota before ending his 13-year career with 43 interceptions

Born on August 13, 1967 in Taft, California was LB Tracy Rogers. He joined the Chiefs in 1990 and spent seven seasons with the team (1990-96), appearing in 75 games with 19 starts. Rogers made his biggest contribution over the years on special teams; in 1995 he tied for the team lead with 23 tackles in the kicking game.

Born on August 13, 1970 in Fort Valley, Georgia was S Tim Watson. He joined the team as a rookie free agent in 1993 out of Howard University. Watson spent three seasons with the Chiefs (1993-95), appearing in 9 games with most of his work coming on special teams. He went on to play four games with the Giants and Eagles after leaving Kansas City during the ’95 season.

Born on August 13, 1972 in Orange, California was K Jon Baker. He joined the Chiefs near the end of the 1999 season to handle kickoffs for two games. He was a disaster, as he punched a pair of kickoffs out of bounds against the Raiders in the season finale that set up Oakland with good field position. Baker was not seen in the NFL again after that game.

9 Responses to “Northwoods Labor Talk … Thursday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • August 13, 2009  - Rip 'em a new one says:

    Judging from his comments, it would seem Vrabel is positioning himself for a job with the NFLPA after his playing career which is rapidly reaching the sunset time. Nothing wrong with that as long as he maintains focus on his current job which seems to be the case.

    I liked the mindset of DJ in that regard. Labor unrest. It’s like a caged animal clawing at the cage door looking for a way out and from the sound of Bob’s report, it’s now scratching.

  • August 13, 2009  - Josh says:

    LOL “sprained toe”. Come on T.O. is that the best you can come up with? Just so you don’t have to practice.
    Get Real.


  • August 13, 2009  - B in SC says:

    Zach Thomas is still projected to be a starter? Is he hurt for real or are they just trying to keep him healthy for the season? I would think he would need a lot of reps to work in with the other LB’s before being declared a starter.

    As far as the labor thing goes. You can bet on a strike or lockout. Professional sports as an organization knows they can treat the fans however they like and we will always come back with our wallets open. Our own fault.

  • August 13, 2009  - Josh says:

    Yeah, but I have to wonder if the NFL would see the sort of backlash that MLB saw after the 1994 strike. It took the league four or five years to get their numbers up, and they’re still not as good as they were pre-strike.

  • August 13, 2009  - steve says:

    A strike is a very risky deal, it will hurt the teams that arn’t wining more than the top teams. I haven’t watched much baseball at all post-strike or hockey either. Its a big risk that I hope they don’t take its not worth it. Most everyone on both sides of the fence makes way to much money if you make me go without football for a year I might just get used to it and not realy care.

  • August 13, 2009  - gorillafan says:

    Bad thing is if they dont strike, than the players get what they want, which is more money that they already make, ect ect….

    I think the NFL should stand up and do soemthing about these rookies making MILLIONS if dollars before they have even PRACTICED in this league. We need a salary cap, we need to get a handle on the spending on rookie contracts, ect. Im not in favor of the league over the players, I just feel that the players have enough income, benefits, ect, and the rookies that are picked in the first round are set for life, even if they are a bust. I just think thats stupid and something needs to be done. To get that done though, there could be a strike, ugh!

  • August 13, 2009  - Rip 'em a new one says:

    Also not needed for a NFL curtain call from last time:

    The Illeagles
    The counterfeit Bills
    The St Louis Shams
    The Detroit Lyin’s
    (And more that I can’t remember)

    i.e., Another round of the dreaded ‘replacement players’.

  • August 13, 2009  - Rin Tin Tin says:

    Vrabel, Mike – don’t call him Mikey, he won’t eat anything…think Soapy Smith in a jersey with his hand out. Member the NFLPA’s executive committee, vet leadership, salt of the gridiron boardroom.

    “If we split the other side will win.”

    - key words: ‘the other side’, translation: it’s us & them. We’re ‘us.’

    “Right now, that’s the unfortunate side of our business.”

    - key words: ‘the unfortunate side’, translation: ownership. They’re ‘them.’

    “There are owners and there is everybody else.”

    - key words: ‘everybody else’, translation: shell game.

    The NFL downtrodden, the players: ones who get only a paltry 60% of revenues now. How do they live?

    The median salary in the NFL in 2009 is roughly $770,000, up from about $720,000 ’08; a $50,000 raise just don’t go as far as it used to…huh.
    The average (arithmetic mean) NFL salary 2006 – $1.4 million.

    Those be the ‘us’ Mikey V alluded to…who knew slavery/wages weren’t passe.

    ‘Them’ are the ones who provide ‘us’ an gridiron plantation…work in NFL sweatshops. The players have countered w/a union-commissioned study that showed the average value NFL team has grown from $288 million to $1.04 billion over 10 years.

    Yes fans, it’s hard to tell one con (man) from another without an program/suspect lineup. Not that anyone really cares what you think fandom.

    “We are everybody else and we need to stick together.”

    - right Mikey… ‘check’. We feel the weight your burden nee your wallet’s pain.

    Key words: ‘we are everybody else’, translation: I’m not he but you aren’t me as you aren’t we but thank you for patronage.

    One (football) nation, under God (almighty buck), indivisible (Hatfield FIFOs vs LIFO McCoys) with liberty (tolerance) & (in)justice for all (fans) – addicts who keep coming back for another fix.

    :cool: daddy-o

Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Other News