Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
The NFL Players Association's recent election of DeMaurice Smith as its new executive director has brought the league's tenuous labor situation back into the spotlight. As a showdown approaches over a new collective bargaining agreement, you can expect at least one significant participant with NFC North connections.
Last summer, the NFL added Green Bay president/CEO Mark Murphy to its powerful Management Council Executive Committee. In essence, this is the bargaining group that will negotiate with the union.
Murphy could serve an important role as a consensus-builder given his background as a former player and union employee. In fact, he was a player representative during the 1982 strike and later served as assistant executive director of the NFLPA from 1985 to 1988.
Murphy, however, was careful to avoid overplaying that experience during a recent interview with Rick Braun of Packer Plus:
"... I think it's helpful because I know what players are going through and have seen issues from their perspective. But that was 1982, so it's 27 years ago. But I'm looking forward to it. From a broader perspective, the labor peace that we've had has been good for the game. Since 1993 there's been tremendous growth in revenues and salaries and popularity of the game. But these are going to be difficult negotiations, there's no question about it."
Representing the NFL's smallest market, Murphy has a particular motivation to preserve the salary-cap system. He said the Packers are planning as if the cap will be suspended in 2010 but expressed hope that teams would not veer dramatically from their current financial practices.
We'll be getting into this issue more next week at the league's annual meetings. Stay tuned.