With the "threat of a lockout looming," neither NFL owners nor the NFLPA "appears to have made headway in the dispute over how to divide the league's $9 billion in revenue," according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. All-day meetings scheduled for Thursday "were abruptly canceled, raising doubts that the two sides were any closer to reaching a compromise." A source involved in the talks said, "We certainly don't want to have another meeting like [Wednesday]." Ravens CB and NFLPA Exec Committee member Domonique Foxworth on Twitter said he was "sorely disappointed" that Thursday's meeting was canceled. Belson notes the NFL also "canceled an owners meeting planned for next week," and NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello said Commissioner Roger Goodell "did not see a need for it right now." Both sides "continue to talk in smaller groups or by phone." Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "have met privately even when full meetings were not scheduled" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/11). In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote there are "plenty of legitimate issues here: player safety and health, retired player benefits, a rookie salary cap that will control the ridiculous amount of money going to unproven players, Roger Goodell's controversial plan for an 18-game season." However, it "all comes down to one thing: finding a way to split the $8.9 billion." The owners "already are allowed to take $1 billion off the top before the players get their nearly 60% share," and "now the owners want to take another $1 billion off the top." Myers: "Clearly, there is a compromise in here somewhere, but first there is a game of chicken that must be played. ... The sense of urgency to avoid a lockout begins March 1. The next sense of urgency isn't until Aug. 1" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/11).
MAKING SOME PROGRESS? ESPN's John Clayton said there likely will not be a deal by March 3, but he reiterated his belief there is a "reasonable chance they can get something done by March 15." Clayton: "I know it seemed to be a little bit doubtful when all of a sudden both sides broke apart on Wednesday, but when you look at the idea that the players are willing to make a 50-50 cut, that's progress. Is it the final deal? No. But in the end, it gives something that now the owners can contemplate on, come back with a counter, get a re-counter coming back from the players" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 2/10). However, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, who played 10 seasons in the NFL, said, "We all know about players who have been suspended for violating the personal conduct policy. How about some owners get suspended right now for violating the business conduct policy? To walk away from negotiation this important at this point at this juncture shows that they have, not only confidence in their leverage point, but arrogance in their leverage point" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/10). Comcast SportsNet's Ray Ratto said, "The NFL doesn't want a quick solution to this because they still think they've got leverage over the players, and they also don't have all their ducks in a row as regards to the high-revenue owners versus the low-revenue owners. They need the players to capitulate so badly that the guys who want total revenue sharing would be willing to give that up for a deal in which the players get crushed. So they're not ready to negotiate on this" ("Jim Rome Is Burning," ESPN, 2/10).
ALL ABOUT THE MONEY: FANHOUSE.com's Dan Graziano wrote issues such as the 18-game season and rookie-wage scale "can't be dealt with until the sides agree on the framework of the revenue split." And "as long as there's such dramatic disagreement on that issue, it's practically impossible to imagine a deal getting done before the current one expires March 4." The owners' insistence on "increasing the amount of revenue they don't have to share with the players serves as more evidence for the union's claim that their intent all along has been to lock out the players and squeeze them in an effort to secure a deal very favorable to the owners' side" (FANHOUSE.com, 2/10). The AP's Jim Litke wrote the "early deal-breaker appears to be the owners' demand to take $2 billion from the pot -- instead of the $1 billion set out in the last deal -- even before discussions start on how to split the rest of the economic pie." The owners are "smart enough not to plead poverty," so they are "arguing they need the extra billion or so to set up a rainy-day superfund to cover the rising costs of everything, from buying and improving stadiums to supplying chalk for locker-room bulletin boards" (AP, 2/10).
SOMETHING ELSE TO WATCH: ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported he has been told by "more than one management person that this current CBA has to expire because they want it out of the jurisdiction of the Minneapolis court where Judge David Doty has presided because of that Reggie White anti-trust lawsuit case." He also noted there is a "lot of resistance" from the NFLPA regarding an 18-game schedule ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/10).
NO END IN SIGHT: Indiana Univ. School of Law Dean Gary Roberts, Editor-in-Chief of The Sports Lawyer, said, "These types of labor negotiations in any industry, nine times out of 10 they don't get done until the last minute. I figure the deal won't get done until early September. That's when the season is at risk. Neither side wants to blink first" (USA TODAY, 2/11). NFL Network's Jason La Canfora said, "Until we get closer to March 4, we don't know what's posturing, we don't know what's bluster and we won't know what's truly on the table" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/10). Former NBA Deputy Commissioner and current ESPN legal analyst Russ Granik said, "The real, real deadline is a few weeks before games would start so that teams could train and get ready to actually play" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 2/10). In Jacksonville, Scott Kendrick wrote, "Until both sides shackle themselves to a conference room table and get something done, both sides will, and should, feel a tremendous amount of heat" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 2/10).
SUGGESTION BOX: NFL player agent Don Yee "believes 18 games mean more bodily punishment," and he had several suggestions for "making the change more acceptable." First, "increase the roster from 53 players to 58, and make all eligible to play on game day; currently, only 45 can play." Also, "institute a rule that prohibits any player from appearing in more than 16 games" (AP, 2/11).