NFL negotiators agree to 7-day extension of talks
By Mark Maske
Negotiators for the NFL and its players' union approved a second postponement of their bargaining deadline for a new labor deal Friday, agreeing to talk for seven more days.
The extension increases hopes for an eventual settlement after some progress was made in negotiations Thursday.
Talks were expected to resume Monday. Sources said the postponement became official when it was ratified by the union's ruling executive committee. Union officials previously agreed to the one-week extension of the talks. The NFL agreed to the latest delay at the request of a federal mediator overseeing the talks.
"There's been enough serious discussion to warrant both sides taking this step and the mediators felt it and that's why they requested it of us," said the NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash. "If they believe that we're in a position where we can make progress and get to an agreement, then I think it's incumbent upon us and our ownership feels it's incumbent to make that effort."
"There's a commitment from both sides to engage in another round of negotiations at the request of the mediation service," DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said at an afternoon news conference. "We look forward to a deal coming out of that."
The seven-day period will be governed by the same rules applied to Thursday's one-day extension of the talks. Teams cannot re-sign players or sign players released by other clubs, but are permitted to negotiate with them. The talks remain under the supervision of federal mediator George H. Cohen.
The league and union agreed to the one-day postponement of the deadline Thursday, preventing players from decertifying their union to file antitrust litigation against the franchise owners and the owners from locking out the players.
Some in the sport cautioned that significant differences between the two sides remain, especially on how to split the NFL's $9 billion annual revenue. The second extension does not necessarily mean that a settlement would follow soon.
Thursday's extension of the talks delayed the expiration of the current labor deal until 11:59 p.m. Friday.
Owners, who currently receive $1.3 billion toward expenses before the players' share of revenue is calculated, are seeking another $1 billion off the top. They also want to extend the regular season to 18 games, install a wage scale for rookies and test players for human growth hormone.
Players have said the owners' financial proposal amounts to a significant pay cut for them, and have expresed wariness about the other proposals.
Sources said there was movement by both sides in the bargaining Thursday.
Multiple sources cautioned that the status of the deliberations remained precarious when Friday began. But they agreed that another postponement is a sign that a labor settlement was becoming increasingly likely.
The leverage in the negotiations apparently tilted in the players' favor this week when Minneapolis-based U.S. District Judge David S. Doty ruled in the union's favor in a case involving the league's television contracts.
Doty ruled that the structure of the contracts violated the settlement agreement that accompanies the sport's collective bargaining agreement.
The union had alleged that the TV deals would provide the owners with, in effect, a $4 billion lockout fund during a work stoppage.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Stephen B. Burbank, the NFL's special master, heard the case first and awarded the union only a fraction of the damages it was seeking. Burbank also refused to bar the owners from receiving payments from the TV networks next season during a potential lockout.
But the union appealed the case to Doty, who has overseen the sport's labor deal since the 1993 settlement. Doty agreed with the union that the TV contracts were improper and wrote that he would hold a hearing to determine damages and other possible remedies, such as an injunction.
People on the owners' side previously had said the owners could withstand a lengthy lockout, even one that lasted an entire season, without the TV money.
But Doty's ruling, combined with the imminent 11:59 p.m. bargaining deadline Thursday, seemed to produce a different tone and approach to Thursday's negotiations, sources said.
With union decertification by the players and a lockout by the owners looming within hours, each side showed a willingness Thursday to compromise on key issues.
If there is a settlement, it appears the league and union will find a middle ground on the central economic issue of how much revenue would go to the players under a salary cap system. The owners apparently would be credited with more than $1.3 billion for expenses before the players' portion is calculated, as it was under the most recent system, but they would not receive all of the additional $1 billion in credits they have been seeking.
The union might accept the owners' proposal for an 18-game regular season, sources said, if given concessions related to players' health and safety. According to sources, the two sides probably would agree to a rookie wage scale less restrictive than the one proposed by the league earlier in the bargaining.
Any settlement also would have to address the ongoing role of Doty in overseeing the labor deal, something favored by the union and opposed by the league.
Any breakdown in negotiations would put decertification and litigation by the players and a lockout by the owners back in play. The NFL has had labor peace since a strike by the players in 1987.
This is the 11th day of federal mediation under Cohen at the downtown Washington offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, four of which have been this week.
The first postponement apparently took shape beginning Wednesday night when Cohen spoke with league representatives following a meeting of the owners at a hotel near Dulles Airport. The agreement for the one-day delay was completed around 5 p.m. Thursday, about seven hours before the labor deal originally was scheduled to expire.
By late Thursday night, there were indications that the union was on board with the second, longer postponement and Cohen needed only to secure the league's approval as well.
March 4, 2011; 2:16 PM ET
Save & Share:
Previous: NFL, players talk about stopping the clock | Next: Sources: NFL, players $800 million apart on revenue split
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: ems57fcva | March 4, 2011 11:50 PM
Posted by: chemsafe | March 4, 2011 4:55 PM
Posted by: hansonharley1 | March 4, 2011 3:53 PM
Posted by: iliwai34 | March 4, 2011 2:44 PM
Posted by: squarf | March 4, 2011 1:53 PM
Posted by: gcottrill | March 4, 2011 12:41 PM
Posted by: groundhogdayguy | March 4, 2011 12:24 PM
Posted by: llyonnoc | March 4, 2011 12:07 PM
Posted by: playahatah | March 4, 2011 11:48 AM
Posted by: yeayea911 | March 4, 2011 10:52 AM
Posted by: ozpunk | March 4, 2011 10:48 AM