Ravens cornerbacks closely covering NFL labor situation

Foxworth is staying busy at home while keeping teammates informed

Carr, who plans to become a lawyer, is gaining insight on litigation

March 24, 2011|By Ken Murray, The Baltimore Sun

Domonique Foxworth has juggled knee rehab, labor negotiations and family obligations this month in his diverse role as cornerback, union leader and father. As with the knee injury that made him invisible last season, he worked mostly behind the scenes.

As a member of the now-defunct NFL Players Association's executive committee, Foxworth was at the epicenter of the NFL's labor dispute. He attended mediated negotiations with owners in Washington in early March, then hurried home to care for his 31/2-month-old daughter Avery while his wife, Ashley, attended law school classes.

The juxtaposition of it all was not lost on the veteran Ravens cornerback.

"During the day, I'd be sitting across from [Dallas Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones and [New England Patriots] Robert Kraft," Foxworth said, with a chuckle. "When I'd get home, the baby still got handed to me."

Foxworth was ever-present during that 17-day siege of labor forces at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services building. He was one of as many as 10 executive committee members in Washington every day.

There is no doubting Foxworth's commitment to the cause. In 2007, when he was voted in, he became the youngest member of the executive committee. Now 28, he absorbs the lessons of labor law as if they were techniques for playing in the secondary.

"I've been across the table in more negotiations than anybody," he said. "I have gained a tremendous amount of experience. The first step is getting them to respect you. I think I've earned that respect."

Since the union dissolved March 11 — and the owners instituted a lockout a day later — Foxworth has worked with teammates Chris Carr, Derrick Mason and Matt Birk to keep Ravens players informed about what comes next. All four went to Marco Island, Fla., for a recent annual meeting of union leadership, now technically a trade association.

Carr has special interest in the proceedings because he plans to go to law school when his NFL career ends. He'll also be an unrestricted free agent when a new collective bargaining is reached.

"I feel like I'm an opinionated guy," he said. "If we were going to have this dispute, and we were going to have these negotiations, I wanted to be able to have some input. I can honestly say I really feel everybody involved has been doing this with the best interests of the players. … We just want a fair deal."

Carr said he considered it "disingenuous" when owners suggested the players walked away from the negotiating table — and a good offer — in Washington two weeks ago.

"It's been very clear that we're the ones who want to negotiate," Carr said. "Every single player on the executive committee was at the mediation every single day. We always had people with influence there. They had nobody with decision-making capabilities until after we won the court case" that barred the owners from receiving television revenue this season if there are no games.

"Most of the time, most of the owners weren't even there. … Any proposal we made, they'd have to leave the room to make a million phone calls," Carr added.

Carr said the owners' final offer was not one the players could accept.

"If we want to screw over the players who get in the league when we're done, we could sign this and I'll be happy," he said. "But it was just not a good deal at all. … Some of the stuff looked OK in it, but like [DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the union] said, it wasn't an a la carte deal, it was all or nothing. It was crazy how [the owners] talked about it."

It is a cold war that appears destined to be decided in the courtroom or with a collapse by the players. In Florida, Foxworth said, the players were ready to negotiate a settlement of the class action antitrust suit filed by nine players, including Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.

But the owners countered by saying they will not talk to lawyers about a settlement, they will only talk to the reorganized union in typical labor negotiations.

That likely means there won't be any dialogue until a federal judge in Minneapolis hears arguments April 6 about the players' request for a preliminary injunction to remove the lockout.

"I do feel fairly confident that we will win the injunction," Carr said.

An injunction sends the NFL back to football business as usual. Short of winning the injunction, either in Minneapolis or on appeal, the fight could be decided on the solidarity of the players.

Carr said the players are all on the same page.

"The reason we're so united is that players are knowledgeable about what's going on," he said. "I was talking to a lot of players who used to be reps. Matt Birk said, 'Eight years ago, we didn't have any information. Nobody knew anything.'

"With how it is now … we know exactly where we're at, and we know that we've done everything to try to get a deal done."

Foxworth, meanwhile, has a better grip on the process after watching things unfold in Washington two weeks ago.

"It's more about integrity than anything else," he said. "I understand when you take shots at the big, bad NFL, you also expose yourself to those same kind of shots."

ken.murray@baltsun.com

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