Matt Birk pins much of the blame on Upshaw for the labor standoff.
The Vikings center did not play last year, but he sure delivered a Pro Bowl-sized verbal pancake on the executive director of the NFL Players' union.
Vikings center Matt Birk isn't a big fan of the players union in general and of Gene Upshaw, its executive director, in particular. "Don't put this in the paper ... no, wait, go ahead and put it in," Birk said. "Gene Upshaw is a piece of" well, you know.
Birk spoke as the union and the NFL were about to go Tony Soprano on the goose that lays the kind of golden eggs other sports can only dream about.
Fortunately, both sides blinked. Seven hours before what would have been the beginning of the end of the NFL's salary cap, it was mutually agreed that three more days are required for someone -- anyone! -- to come to his senses and extend the collective bargaining agreement. So free agency will start on Monday, not today.
"It's a joke, it really is," Birk said. "Everyone is making money. A lot of money. You think anyone wants to hear about the money problems of the NFL owners or players? It's bad pub for the league. It's bad for all of us."
Birk was the Vikings' union rep until he couldn't stomach Upshaw's "propaganda and poor leadership" any longer. He has fought Upshaw on other fronts over the years, speaking out against the inordinate distribution of money to unproven rookies and Upshaw's refusal to fight for guaranteed contracts that players in other sports enjoy.
"Someone asked him about me when I was going through my deal last summer trying to get my contract guaranteed," Birk said. "He said he played with a lot of great centers in his time and none of them made $4 million. That's our union rep? C'mon."
Birk doesn't place all of the blame for the CBA mess at Upshaw's feet. But he does blame him for not being forthright while explaining what it would mean to the players not to have a salary cap in 2007.
"When you go to those CBA meetings, you always feel like you're being sold something instead of being given the straight facts," Birk said. "Through all the meetings leading up to this, it was always: 'The owners don't want an uncapped year. We'll get a deal, and if we don't, so what? There will be an uncapped year and there will be crazy money out there.'
"The reality is that's not the case. And you're seeing that it's not the leverage we were told it would be."
While the lack of a salary cap would encourage the richer teams to overspend on certain players, there also would be rules in place that would be unfavorable to players.
Players would become unrestricted free agents after six seasons, not four. Raises would be capped at 30 percent above the previous season. And there would be no minimum salary cap, whereas now it's 54 percent of the defined gross revenue.
"And we'll lose some of our 401(k) and annuities, and some benefits, too," Birk said. "That's a huge deal to the younger guys making the minimum who might not have 10-year careers. Those are guys the union needs to look out for.
"Instead, you go there and it's like some kind of religious revival. You don't feel you're getting the true message. And they're always talking too fast."
Birk wishes the actual players had more power and say in how the union operates.
"Too many guys in the league just accept whatever Gene says," Birk said. "I don't know why no one has called this guy out."
It's hard to believe we're discussing labor unrest when the NFL generates $5.2 billion a year and signed the largest TV deal in sports history. The league gets $3.7 BILLION in TV money this year alone.
"Gene thinks we're making all this money because of Gene Upshaw," Birk said. "No, we're making all of this money because of TV. This sport is huge, and what's going on right now is hurting all of us."http://www.startribune.com/101/s...82098.html
[/b]Yikes! So Upshaw hasn't fought for more guaranteed contracts,...wishes to make unproven rookies automatic millionaires. Birk has just busted the old man's chops and this might be the first sign of Upshaw's demise as the almighty union rep. As Birk points out,...there's plenty to go around when ya talk about $3.7 BIL.[/b]