- The Washington Times - Friday, May 13, 2005

After 45 years as a pro football owner, Buffalo’s 86-year-old Ralph Wilson has earned the right to be heard. So when Wilson says the NFL’s ongoing collective bargaining agreement discussion is more of a club vs. club than league vs. union problem, it requires some attention.

As an owner in one of the NFL’s smallest markets, Wilson doesn’t like the growing disparity in revenue between the big-money clubs and the rest of the league, nor what he perceives as the richer group’s disdain for the less wealthy majority.

“There’s about eight or 10 of the high-revenue clubs that seem to be united in a bloc,” Wilson said. “They want to keep the disparity. They want to knock us down and have us get up at the count of nine, so they can have another fight and knock us down again.”

Forbes Magazine estimates the Washington Redskins, the NFL’s top revenue producer, earn nearly twice as much as the Indianapolis Colts. Although revenues from television, merchandise and ticket sales are shared, money from luxury boxes, club seats, naming rights, advertising, sponsorships, parking and concessions generally isn’t.

“We just want to have enough revenue under the new collective bargaining agreement that gives us a chance to field a competitive team,” Wilson said. “If we don’t get that, then along the line the league is going to be totally unbalanced. It’s not going to be the league it used to be.”

As to the belief the rich clubs feel handicapped by dividing TV money equally with their less wealthy brethren, Wilson said the Bills’ research shows the NFL’s six smallest markets had larger TV audiences for Sunday night and Monday night games last season than those of the six highest-revenue clubs.

Owners like Washington’s Dan Snyder and Dallas’ Jerry Jones would argue they shouldn’t have to share more revenue derived from their relentless marketing efforts with their counterparts who don’t work as hard and operate on a shoestring budget.

Wilson appreciates that viewpoint and would make some allowances, but he added, “If there’s not a compromise, I guarantee you there will not be an extension of the CBA. There will be [uncapped] free agency [in 2007]. Because even though there’s no formed bloc, there are enough owners that see this picture.”

If that scenario isn’t scary enough, Wilson warned the NFL could wind up with its first strike since 1987.

Winslow not wise — Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow didn’t know or care that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. His ugly motorcycle accident occurred on a bike way too powerful for a novice rider like himself, especially without fully strapping on his helmet.

The Akron Beacon-Journal reported that when Winslow left a bike superstore in Canton after a 60-mile ride, he did a wheelie while going between 40 and 50 mph. The bike can reach speeds of more than 170 mph. Winslow wiped out the next night and suffered injuries that could cost him his 2005 season.

The signing bonus Winslow received as the sixth pick in the 2004 draft also is in jeopardy because his contract prohibits him from partaking in dangerous activities like riding motorcycles.

What’s with the weight? — That’s what Dallas coach Bill Parcells wants to know about first-round choice Marcus Spears.

“He’s got to lose a little weight,” Parcells said. “I’m not playing Chubby Checker at defensive end.”

Miami’s Nick Saban, who coached Spears at LSU, said his former defensive end is up 13 to 20 pounds from his best weight because he can’t stay away from Cajun specialities like catfish and jambalaya.

“I really have been eating healthy,” maintained Spears, who was at 305 pounds in minicamp. “I’ve just got to cut down on the portions. They tell you to eat baked chicken, but they don’t tell me I can’t eat six pieces, so I’ve just got to cut that down to maybe two.”

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