SBD/June 15, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 96: New CBA Reportedly Closer To Completion

Negotiations between the NFL and NFLPA for a new CBA "are 80-85 percent complete," according to a source cited by Mike Freeman of CBSSPORTS.com. The two sides, meeting this week outside DC, have "made such fast progress" that it is "catching many of the principals by surprise." Some of the lead negotiators believe that an agreement "will be reached within a matter of days." Freeman noted the negotiations "continue to move solidly into that threshold of a season will be played, not if one will be played." That "doesn't mean the negotiations can't revert back to the primordial days of disgust and hatred, or that the talks can't implode." It does mean, however, that the discussions "are in such a good place it would be difficult for even the most selfish, destructive personality to affect them." The tone of recent meetings "has taken such a dramatic turn it has indeed been like a different set of gatherings." In addition to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith having dinner together last week, "several owners and players have had private lunches together," and these "smaller, informal meetings also have helped" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/14). Sources said that both the NFL and NFLPA are "evaluating and strongly considering concessions on all fronts, and that has led to a belief that a deal could be done in two to four weeks." NFL.com's Albert Breer noted in a "sign of the progress made, the legal teams on both sides have returned to the meetings, after sitting out the sessions" in suburban Chicago and Long Island the past two weeks. Two sources indicated that a framework for a new CBA "could be in place before the owners' meetings next Tuesday in suburban Chicago" (NFL.com, 6/14).

LET'S MAKE A DEAL: Sources characterized the owners and players as "being in a 'deal-making mode' and hope to make significant progress over the next two or three days." Another source said that the "major topic this week is the percentage that goes to players" (ESPN.com, 6/14). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel cited a source as saying that the framework of a new CBA "could be in place by this weekend." The source said, "A June 30 or July 4 announcement is a reasonable expectation." The source added that "negotiations this month have been marked by both comity and urgency" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 6/14). In DC, Mark Maske cites sources as saying that "an accord just before the July 4 holiday appears increasingly realistic." Sources noted that the recent talks "have been marked by a dramatic change in tone," perhaps because "courtroom decisions that favor the owners have affected negotiating leverage and the threat of a shortened season looms if the talks stall again" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/15). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch cites sources as saying that attorneys for both sides were invited to this week's negotiating sessions "to sign off on the numerous line-by-line details of an agreement that could resolve the three-month-old work stoppage by the end of the month -- if not sooner." A source said, "Hope is in the air. It's not a done deal, but it's looking very good" (N.Y. POST, 6/15). However, USA TODAY's Gary Graves notes an "end to the lockout does not appear imminent," and predicting such "would be premature" (USA TODAY, 6/15). ESPN's Adam Schefter cited sources as saying that it is "hard to imagine a deal getting done in the next couple of weeks." However, to keep the "entire preseason in place and to allow time for free agency, they’re going to have to get a deal done by roughly July 14th." Schefter: "There’s a real push now from both sides to try and get this done” (“NFL Live,” ESPN, 6/14).

IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL: In L.A., Sam Farmer cites a source as indicated that "many owners are feeling more encouraged that a deal is within reach than they have been at any other time throughout the process" (L.A. TIMES, 6/15). On Long Island, Tom Rock notes the NFL ahead of next week's gathering in Chicago "has told the owners to clear their schedule and be available not only Tuesday for the meeting but also for the possibility of meetings Tuesday night and even into next Wednesday." While it is "not clear they are opening time for a possible vote on a proposal, it's another sign of promise that the ... lockout could be gasping its final breaths" (NEWSDAY, 6/15). In N.Y., Ralph Vacchiano notes rather than voting on a tentative CBA next week, it "seems more likely the owners would be briefed on the progress, discuss the direction of the negotiations, and then send their negotiating team back in the hopes of striking a deal the following week." The hope is that a new deal "will be in place by early July, which would give teams enough time to conduct their free-agent business so training camps could open on time and the full preseason could be saved." Still, sources "cautioned that while progress is being made, an agreement is still far from complete" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 6/15).

TALKS ALMOST SHUT DOWN YESTERDAY: ESPN's Adam Schefter cites a source as saying talks "almost blew up yesterday." That moment came "shortly after lawyers from both sides were brought back into the process." Two sources said that as tensions "rose and anger grew ... Smith instructed his lawyers to 'stand down.'" The process "was said the get back on track" once the lawyers were removed from direct negotiations. Schefter: "The incident is an example of just how tenuous these talks can be and how quickly they can be derailed. ... To say this is going to be done in two weeks, one source said, 'is borderline insane'" (ESPN.com, 6/15).SI.com's Peter King wrote, "I don't believe the owners meeting will be held to vote on a new collective bargaining agreement. I don't think it's that close ... I think it's more likely we're a couple of weeks away from even a preliminary agreement" (SI.com, 6/14).

A LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE: A Patriots player rep said, "There finally seems to be a level of professionalism about what’s going on in these meetings." In Boston, Manza Young & Bedard note if a "settlement is struck in the first week of July, it would leave time for a shortened free agency period, and training camps could start in early August, a little bit later than they would normally" (BOSTON GLOBE, 6/15). In Michigan, Tom Kowalski wrote, "If this deal really gets done by the middle of July, it will mean that intelligence and common sense trumped greed. Wow. Could it really happen?" (MLIVE.com, 6/14). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote, "I don't know that we gain a settlement soon, but it sure seems as if we'll get a season. And when that happens, people will congratulate commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and tell them how grateful they were that they returned the NFL to us. But I'm not so sure it was either who jumpstarted these talks. I'll credit the calendar, the courts and money instead" (CBSSPORTS.com, 6/14).
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