The NFL isn't the only pro football league with labor issues on the horizon.
The United Football League has incurred the wrath of its players with one of its policies -- one that could affect the status of this weekend's final two regular-season games.
Commissioner Michael Huyghue's insistence that any UFL player signed to an NFL active roster could be subject to a $150,000 transfer fee could cause a player revolt, multiple sources told AOL FanHouse on Thursday.
According to two sources who asked not to be identified, players may refuse to take the field this weekend and some may even fake injuries in order to get out of playing.
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"It will kill the league," said one person who has intimate knowledge of the situation but spoke on the condition of anonymity. "There could be a walkout or a player might just tell the coach he has (an injury) and can't play."
The issue came about on Tuesday evening, when a report from Pro Football Talk said that commissioner Huyghue was enforcing a $150,000 transfer for players who wish to join NFL teams after the UFL season ends next week.
Within the following days, a huge uproar ensued among players and coaches around the league. Early Thursday morning, at least two agents and one player said that they were under the impression that the league was planning to reverse the policy following a conference call between league officials and coaches.
"From what I've heard there's quite an uproar (among the players)," player agent Ryan Slaton said Thursday afternoon. "I would definitely expect the policy to change. It's a fluid situation."
But Thursday evening, the league released a statement from Huyghue reiterating that the policy remains in place:
The outrage continued."Players currently under contract to the United Football League until February 1 (sic) are permitted to leave for National Football League clubs at the end of the season.
The transfer fee applies only to those players who are signed to active NFL rosters. Those who join NFL practice squads or are signed to NFL Futures contracts will be allowed to do so and their fee will be waived. This is not a change in policy."
"The players are pissed," said one source, who added that some players were meeting Thursday night and deciding whether to play this weekend.
Peter Schaffer, a player agent who has at least a half-dozen clients in the UFL, said earlier Thursday that he also was optimistic that the transfer policy would be reversed. Otherwise, he said the league is going to "have their problems."
Calling himself a staunch supporter of the UFL, Shaffer said all players and agents want to see the league succeed. But he noted that it's not fair for the UFL to dangle a carrot -- the NFL in this case -- in front of the players and then not allow them the chance to be signed to an active roster without the transfer fee.
That's why Shaffer's among those who expect to see some players refuse to play this week -- and not by feigning injuries.
"I don't believe in that phantom injury stuff. They're just going to say they're not playing," Shaffer said. "If you're upset about it, let's just tell them why."
According to the Pro Football Talk report earlier this week, the NFL recommended that its teams refrain from signing players on UFL rosters if the transfer fee remains in effect. Players who are signed to a practice squad are not subject to the fee.
Josh McCown, the quarterback for the Hartford Colonials and an eight-year veteran of the NFL, said players were under the impression that they would be free to sign with an NFL team once the UFL's season ended on Nov. 27.
Players are under contract in the UFL until Feb. 1. To the UFL's credit, having them under contract until then, and not the end of the UFL season – which ends Nov. 27 -- makes it somewhat obvious that there was going to be restrictions/policy if they wanted to end their contracts and go to the NFL.
"Think about it, the contracts would be through Nov. 27 if there was never a plan to enforce a transfer fee," a UFL source who wished not to be identified told FanHouse.
Additionally, the UFL has made it clear with their actions that they did not want to be known as a feeder league to the NFL.
That was the case with two players; quarterback Jeff Garcia of the Omaha Nighthawks and kicker Nick Novak of the Florida Tuskers. Garcia was rumored to possibly be headed to the Eagles back in October. However, when asked if such a deal would be possible, the UFL told FanHouse at the time that that it was not, since no UFL player can join NFL teams in the middle of the season.
Meanwhile, Novak was reportedly sought after by an NFL team in October that also wanted to offer him a deal. However, commissioner Huyghue rejected it from happening.
But McCown said the contracts were drawn up that way to prevent players from bolting the league during the season, not after the UFL season was over.
"More than anything it wasn't what we were told," McCown said of the transfer fee. "I think that's why there was such a stir."
Last year, the commissioner waived the transfer fee and allowed 43 players to move to NFL clubs. In his statement, Huyghue gave his rationale for the fee.
"As we continue to grow the value of the UFL, we invest time and resources in our players and the transfer fee is a component of the business model of our league. If a player is going to play a role with a NFL team, we need to be compensated for helping to develop that player. This is an incremental movement from last year when we chose to waive all fees.
Allowing players to sign with NFL teams effectively removes them from our rosters for next season in the event they are in training camp with those teams and therefore unable to return to the UFL."
Under similar circumstances, that number could more than double this season, Colonials general manager and coach Chris Palmer said.
A longtime NFL coach who is in his first season with the UFL, Palmer said the league's other coaches have told him the level of competition was much better in Year 2 and predicted that 80 to 100 players could have landed on an NFL roster.
Speaking before the league released its statement Thursday, McCown said it appeared the commissioner was going to reverse his position -- if for no other reason than good business sense.
"For the overall good of the league it's the best thing," McCown said. "You hope they hold up their end of things. ... Otherwise, there's no way I'm going to recommend the league to another guy."
McCown said he was sure the NFL would not even consider paying the $150,000 fee for a player who basically will be the last man on a 45-player roster – a sentiment echoed by Slaton.
"They won't even look at it," Slaton said of NFL teams. "It will kill the (UFL)."
McCown said he would honor his contract and plans to play in the season finale Saturday, but he can't say if that will hold true for all other players.
"There are some players who were pretty upset. That wouldn't surprise me."