NFL talks on verge of collapse, last-ditch talks underway
By Mark Maske
Updated: 4:45 p.m.
DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the players' union, said the players gave owners a 5 p.m. deadline to turn over 10 years worth of audited financial records.
As he left the talks, Smith said he was heading back to the union's nearby office to await the union's response.
Smith said "significant differences remain" between the two sides.
It appeared late Friday afternoon that NFL labor talks were on the verge of ending and the union was about to carry out plans to take the dispute to court, sources said. But the two sides appeared to be engaging in one more last-ditch negotiating session to determine if that could be avoided.
A source said players were told on an afternoon conference call with the NFL Players Association that the plan is to decertify the union, a move that would mark the end of the talks. It is not clear whether developments in the negotiations could change the union's posture. Dissolving the union would allow the players to sue the NFL for antitrust violations.
One source said the league made a new proposal Friday to significantly reduce the difference between the two sides on how the NFL's $9 billion in revenues should be divided. Previously the two sides were said to be less than $700 million apart on that issue, and there were some indications Friday that the league was willing to make additional concessions.
It was not immediately clear how productive negotiations were Friday morning. But the renewed seriousness of the discussions raised the possibility that the parties could reach agreement on another postponement of the deadline.
The deadline was postponed twice last week. The sport's labor deal now is scheduled to expire at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
Without another postponement, players are expected to decertify their union Friday afternoon and seek an injunction in court to try to block a lockout by team owners Saturday.
The union's executive director, DeMaurice Smith, had promised to brief players on the negotiations at 2 p.m. Friday, but that informal deadline passed without him appearing publicly.
Hopes for a settlement were buoyed last week when George H. Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, persuaded the two sides to agree to a pair of extensions that extended the bargaining deadline to Friday.
But talks stalled this week with the league and union unable to resolve the issue of how much money should go to players. The union wanted the league to provide additional financial data to justify concessions the players were being asked to make, and the two sides could not agree to the terms by which such financial disclosures would be made. Tensions had mounted considerably by Thursday evening.
As the league's negotiating team walked into the mediator's office Friday morning, the NFL's lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, said: "We'll do our best."
Nine owners on the 10-member bargaining committee attended Friday's meeting.The union's negotiating contingent Friday included roughly two dozen people.
March 11, 2011; 4:12 PM ET
Collective bargaining agreement
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