George Atallah

NFL Staff Notes: McDonough, NFLPA, Chiefs, Packers, Gruden, Philbin

It’s been nearly two months since former Cardinals executive Terry McDonough first filed an arbitration claim against team owner Michael Bidwill accusing Bidwill of cheating and gross misconduct. The claim specifically levied accusations of breach of contract, retaliation after engaging in protected activity, intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and civil conspiracy. The Cardinals’ public relations consultant, Jim McCarthy, released a statement in return containing several personal attacks on McDonough.

The original complaint stemmed from a situation in which McDonough claims Bidwill had devised a plan for McDonough and then-head coach Steve Wilks to communicate with then-suspended general manager Steve Keim through burner phones. McDonough asserts that after voicing his concerns about the plan, he was written up for insubordination and, eventually, demoted.

McDonough has reportedly added more accusations in an amended arbitration complaint this week, accusing Bidwill and the Cardinals of defamation and invasion of privacy in response to McCarthy’s statement, according to ESPN’s Tisha Thompson. He called the statement “untrue and reprehensible,” and his wife, Lynette, called the statement “the most bizarre and dishonest thing that I have ever heard.” The new complaint also states that McDonough will prepare to pursue a civil complaint against McCarthy and his group, CounterPoint Strategies, for “grossly defamatory statements.”

The NFL recently selected Jeffrey Mishkin to arbitrate the employment dispute, according to another report from Thompson. Mishkin is the former chief legal officer for the NBA, leading the Association’s in-house legal department for seven years. He will determine the schedule of events, which are expected to last for several months.

Here are a few other rumors concerning staff positions in the NFL:

  • Earlier this month, Mike Florio of NBC Sports reported that the league’s Players Association was moving closer to selecting a new executive director. The final candidates are not yet known, but we’re not completely in the dark. Previously this year, The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan identified candidates Matt Schaub, the former quarterback, Kellen Winslow Sr., the former tight end, Teri Patterson Smith, the NFLPA chief operating officer, Don Davis, the NFLPA senior director of player affairs, George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant director of external affairs, and Dominique Foxworth, the former NFLPA president. A couple weeks ago, Jim Trotter, also of The Athletic, reported that no internal candidates made the cut, eliminating Smith, Davis, and Atallah. Foxworth is also expected to no longer be in consideration. Former wide receiver and former member of Congress Anthony Gonzalez has been mentioned but not confirmed as a candidate. The NFLPA is proceeding with the process with the utmost confidentiality and plan to bring it to a close sooner rather than later.
  • After previously participating in the Chiefs‘ Norma Hunt Training Camp Fellowship Program last year, Madison Aponte was hired on as a player personnel assistant. According to Neil Stratton of, while Aponte’s title hasn’t changed, she will continue acting as the team’s college scouting coordinator, a role she’s held since the start of the 2022 season.
  • Stratton reports another addition, this time by the Packers. According to Stratton, Green Bay has hired Joey Laine in the role of salary cap analyst. Laine was a longtime presence in the Saints’ building after working with the team for more than ten years. He eventually left, following Ryan Pace to Chicago and working as the Bears’ director of football administration for eight seasons.
  • Finally, two former NFL head coaches have taken minor roles with new teams this season. According to Jeff Duncan of, the Saints have brought in former Raiders head coach Jon Gruden to assist in the integration of new quarterback Derek Carr in the Saints’ offense. Carr played his best statistical seasons under Gruden during their time together and Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael welcomed Gruden’s assistance with open arms. The second former head coach is former Dolphins’ skipper Joe Philbin who, according to Pete Thamel of ESPN, has been hired as an offensive analyst at Ohio State.

Latest On OTA, Training Camp Negotiations Between NFL And NFLPA

Phase 2 of the league’s offseason workout program kicked off yesterday, and with it came the news that negotiations between the league and the union with respect to that program are officially dead (via Albert Breer of Of course, the union advised players to stay away from team facilities for voluntary offseason activities, and the NFLPA and NFL were ultimately unable to come to an agreement on a number of key points.

Instead, players and coaches negotiated their own structures, and per Dan Graziano of, roughly 15 teams have implemented some sort of change as a result of those conversations. Browns center and union president J.C. Tretter predictably approved of the modifications, saying, “The offseason program has gotten out of hand. OTAs have been ratcheted up year after year, and they’ve turned into — especially for big guys and guys on the line of scrimmage — legitimate full-contact, non-padded practices. Nobody puts any restraints on them; they let guys go at it.”

Some teams are even making changes to the non-voluntary sessions. According to Fowler, the Packers moved their mandatory minicamp up a week, which could mean that a week of OTAs gets canceled, and as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes, the Colts and Eagles have canceled mandatory minicamp altogether. Interestingly, although the Broncos were the first team to support the union’s stance on OTAs, Mike Klis of reports that over 70 Broncos players showed up for the first day of Phase 2. The off-site injuries suffered by former Broncos Ja’Wuan James and DaeSean Hamilton and the potential money battle that could ensue may have played a role in that attendance figure.

The initial push from the union to have players boycott OTAs was due to persisting COVID-19 concerns, but as that situation improved in this country, NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah says the union began to shift focus. He says that, despite the complete absence of OTAs in 2020, injuries were down and the quality of the games remained the same (Twitter links via Lindsay Rhodes of the NFL Rhodes Show podcast). So, as Tretter implied, a permanent modification of OTAs into a purely mental exercise is appropriate.

Rhodes asked Atallah if the union is essentially attempting to renegotiate the CBA on the fly, and he conceded as much (Twitter link). And players are also pushing to make last year’s approach to training camp the new normal. Tretter said the ramp-up period that was instituted out of necessity last summer was widely embraced by players, who felt better both going into the regular season and coming out of it.

To be sure, the issue of the quality of the games is a subjective one, and whether there is a direct correlation between the ramp-up period and the absence of OTAs and any data showing a decrease in injuries is debatable. But, if everything was clear-cut, there wouldn’t be much need for negotiation.

In related news, masks are no longer required for fully-vaccinated players, coaches, or staff members, as Ian Rapoport of tweets. And teams will once again be permitted to hold training camp away from club facilities (Twitter link via Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network).

Is The NFLPA Still Preparing For A Lockout?

We learned back in May that the NFLPA’s board of representatives had approved a plan that would set aside millions of dollars into a “work-stoppage fund,” allowing the players to make some money if an NFL season is cancelled or delayed. Now, it sounds like the Players Association wants the athletes to start saving up their own personal money as they prepare for a potential lockout in 2021.

George Atallah“We wound up in a situation where unfortunately [savings] didn’t happen across the league as much as it could have happened,” spokesman George Atallah recently said on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Mike Florio of

“In 2009, we were faced with a major sort of signal that the owners were going to try and lock players out. We were trying to get as many players prepared as possible. . . We need players of every generation to really help the young guys understand what it takes to go through some labor strife. For the players who went through it in 2011, the union administration and player leadership did everything it could to prepare players across the league. I think it needs to happen again with the same sort of fervor.”

This game plan is easier said than done. Florio notes that a solid portion of the potentially impacted players are currently in college or high school. Therefore, it might be especially unrealistic to expect these kids to be financially conservative after they finally sign their first NFL contract.

Alternatively, Florio suggests that the NFLPA could find a clever way for players to make money during a potential lockout, thus providing them with some leverage as they’re negotiating with the league. There were talks in 2011 of unaffiliated exhibition games, and the writer believes the players should start the process of determining these specifics now (as opposed to down the road).

The union already has more than $314 million in net assets, and that doesn’t account for the $90MM they’re expecting from that previously-mentioned “work-stoppage fund.” 2016 royalty money will still be handed out to players this fall, with the “equal share” starting to see an impact for the 2017 campaign

The NFL has reportedly approached the NFLPA regarding a renegotiation multiple times, but to no avail. “Stadium credits” will surely be atop the list of sticking points, along with how money is allocated via the lucrative television deal. Offseason practice rules and Roger Goodell‘s “authority over discipline” will also presumably be discussed.