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NFL Lockout: Roger Goodell and the 10 Most Important People in the NFL Lockout

Tom DohertyCorrespondent IJune 29, 2011

NFL Lockout: Roger Goodell and the 10 Most Important People in the NFL Lockout

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    The men charged with the duty of saving the 2011 NFL season have been battling for over 100 days.

    NFL fans are on the edge of their seats waiting for the latest NFL lockout news. Some days there are optimistic reports of progress. Other days there are warnings of a lost season.

    It's a matter that is out of the fans' control. That's why we are relying on these executives, lawyers and player representatives to resolve the NFL labor dispute that's gone on for far too long. 

    Let's take a look at the 10 most important people involved in the NFL lockout.

10. Mike Freeman

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    CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman has no bearing on the negotiations of the NFL lockout, but his daily insights and columns help fans get a glimpse at the situation's progress.

    More than most journalists, Freeman has made covering the lockout his priority and focus. In my opinion, he's been the most consistent lockout reporter on the Internet, with good analysis and constant updates.

    His work doesn't go unnoticed. The NFL is the most popular sport in the country, and Freeman's columns feed the rabid NFL fans with the updates they crave.

9. Chris Mortensen

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    Long-time ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen has been the face of the NFL labor negotiations on the flagship sports network in the country.

    He's important because he is a very reliable source for information. He knows everyone in the NFL and has spent this entire offseason covering the lockout.

    Whether it's his Twitter, daily segments on ESPN or interviews with various news outlets, Chris Mortensen is important to all NFL fans.

8. Jeff Saturday

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    On top of being an All-Pro center for the Indianapolis Colts, Jeff Saturday has been an All-Pro in the boardroom as one of the NFL player representatives in the NFL labor negotiations.

    Saturday has the even-keeled type of personality that the players need at the forefront of the lockout. He's well respected, a high profile player and a 13-year veteran of the NFL. He knows exactly what the players need in the new CBA.

    Saturday has been the go-to player in interviews regarding the lockout. He is the type of leader who can keep the players united without overstepping their boundaries in the long days of the NFL lockout.

7. Jerry Jones

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    Jerry Jones is without question the most well-known owner in the NFL.

    He owns the Dallas Cowboys, the most valuable franchise in the league, and you can bet that his opinion on the details of a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Player's Association will be held very highly.

    Jones has been instrumental in drumming up excitement and press for the NFL. Since buying the Cowboys in the late 1980s, he has elevated America's team into the richest franchise in pro-football history. The new Cowboys stadium (aka Jerry World) just hosted the Super Bowl and cost over $1 billion to build.

    Say what you will about Jones as a general manager, but he's a great owner and businessman. If the owners are going to sign the new CBA, he will definitely have to approve it first. 

6. Jerry Richardson

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    The players' No.1 enemy in these negotiations has been Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

    Richardson was visibly upset when the owners agreed on the 2006 collective bargaining agreement, and he has made it his personal mission to ensure that the owners get their revenge in 2011.

    Richardson played in the old-school NFL, where players didn't make much and injuries were eaten like candy. He doesn't care for the bargaining power that rests in the players' hands.

    He has held firm on all of his stances during the lockout, hindering further negotiations. Despite the fact that his Carolina Panthers are one of the worst teams in the league, Richardson held a press conference recently in which he committed to his business partners, not his team. 

    He will likely be unhappy with the new collective bargaining agreement no matter what, which will prevent the owners from approving the contract—that gives Jerry Richardson a whole lot of bargaining power. 

5. Robert Kraft

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    The leadership of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft holds more weight than any of the owners in the NFL. 

    Unlike many of the league's owners, Kraft has been one of the cooler heads in the boardroom. He's earning the respect of his colleagues and dragging the owners toward progress in these intense negotiations.

    The NFLPA will want to talk to Kraft, as he slowly becomes the voice of the NFL owners. His optimism about completing a deal is a great sign for fans that maybe things aren't so bad after all.

    He's the most important owner in the league right now. For the fans' sake, we better hope that he can convince the owners to sign a CBA sooner rather than later.

4. Bob Batterman

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    Bob Batterman is the outside legal counsel for the NFL and a strong presence in the labor negotiations for the NFL owners.

    Batterman is one of the most experienced lawyers in sports law in America. He has represented all of the major sports leagues in dealings with players unions, including representing the NBA in their inevitable lockout this summer.

    He's going to be a reliable source for the NFL, which hasn't had a work stoppage since 1987. No one knows how to negotiate with player unions better than Batterman.

3. DeMaurice Smith

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    Since taking over for the late Gene Upshaw, NFL Players Association president DeMaurice Smith has led the union into the lockout with fierce determination.

    Smith rubbed some of the owners the wrong way early in his tenure, but since the lockout was imposed on the players he has been a strong and reasonable presence in all of the negotiations.

    He has the tough responsibility of trying to earn a good deal for the players, while inevitably taking a pay cut. But with his relationship with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell vastly improving, it seems that Smith is winning over the NFL owners.

    De Smith's job is to win over the owners and get the players back on the field in 2011. And it looks like he is doing that job pretty well.

2. Jeffrey Kessler

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    Jeffrey Kessler is the lawyer representing the players and he's an individual the players should be very grateful to have on their side.

    Kessler has represented every major sports' player union since the early 1990s, including the NFLPA many times before. It was his leadership that prevented an NFL work stoppage in the 1992 labor negotiations.

    Kessler, like Bob Batterman, knows the dealings of these types of lockouts more than anyone else. He's more important than almost anyone in the NFL lockout because he has the most power in convincing the owners to sign a new deal.

1. Roger Goodell

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    Let's face it: There's no one more important to the NFL lockout than NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. 

    Goodell took over as NFL commissioner in 2006, when the last collective bargaining agreement was signed. Goodell has overseen the most successful five-year period in NFL history, resulting in the biggest television contracts in American sports history.

    The NFL lockout will be the defining moment in Goodell's tenure. He needs to steer this ship down the right path—or else he risks ruining the biggest cash-cow in sports history.

    If he can save the 2011 football season, fans will forgive him; Goodell could go on to become one of the most successful commissioners in sports history. 

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