NFL Owners, Players Association Hold Lengthy Talks With Mediator Over Weekend
Federally mediated negotiations toward a new NFL CBA "lasted about eight hours Sunday, the third consecutive day the sides met to try to find common ground before the current contract expires," according to Howard Fendrich of the AP. The NFL and NFLPA "have met for a total of more than 20 hours since Friday" in front of Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service Dir George Cohen. Both sides are "abiding by Cohen's request that they not comment publicly on these negotiations," so it is "not clear what, if any, progress is being made." But NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash said, "We are working hard, and we're following the director's playbook, and we'll see what we come up with." Fendrich notes NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler, General Counsel Richard Berthelsen, former NFLer Pete Kendall and Exec Committee members including Browns LB Scott Fujita, Steelers QB Charlie Batch and former NFLer Sean Morey were among those representing the union Sunday, and they "began arriving before" 9:00am ET (AP, 2/21). In N.Y., Judy Battista noted a news blackout "designed to lower the volume and reduce the public posturing" was one thing the owners and players "did agree on" at Friday's meeting. Many people, including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith, "declined to comment as they entered and left the building" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/19). NFL Network's Albert Breer reported he received a text from a player "who's pretty high up in the union who said they're talking and that's better than it has been." Breer: "That should tell you where things are right now. This is the beginning, and not the end, of serious talks. At least that's what they hope" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 2/18).
GLOOMY OUTLOOK: Lions DE and player rep Kyle Vanden Bosch said "all signs are probably pointing toward a lockout." Vanden Bosch: "You hope that at this point there's a serious sense of urgency and that some progress is being made. But it doesn't seem that through negotiations or through meetings that any progress has been made" (FREEP.com, 2/20). ESPN legal analyst Roger Cossack said, "I don't see much coming out of this. ... I think they're prepared for a lockout. It really doesn't hurt them to lock those players out until maybe October or November or something like that. I just believe that we're in for a long one here" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/18). In New Orleans, James Varney wrote under the header, "Need For Mediator Reveals How Far NFL, Players Have To Go" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/20). But in Philadelphia, Phil Sheridan wrote, "Maybe, with a grown-up in the room in Washington, a fair deal can be struck without a labor stoppage. Let's hope so, because the alternative just isn't as funny as the jokers who started this." Sheridan added it is "often said that this labor battle pits billionaires against millionaires, and that is partly true." But most NFL players "are not, and never will be, millionaires" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 2/20).
ASSISTANT COACHES TO UNIONIZE? In Boston, Greg Bedard noted since the NFL "allowed teams to opt out of the previously mandated pension plans two years ago, the NFL Coaches' Association has talked about becoming a union." The NFLCA "took a step in that direction five months ago when its executive committee formally voted to explore the union route." NFLCA Exec Dir Larry Kennan said of the CBA negotiations, "It just feels like they're taking a lot of stuff away and they're not giving us any love in return. What I've suggested is, after the CBA gets settled, whenever that is, a couple months later they need to sit down and do something with the coaches because we're valuable, too. They need to treat us that way. I know this: There are a bunch of coaches out there that are angry" (BOSTON GLOBE, 2/20). Meanwhile, in DC, Mike Jones noted assistant coaches "across the league could face significant financial losses if the standoff between owners and players drags on for an extended period of time." The rules "differ from team to team, and in some cases from coach to coach," but officials said that most assistants "could suffer a decrease in pay or even lose their jobs in the event of a lengthy lockout." Kennan: "Of 32 teams, 20, 21 really treat their coaches fair and with respect. There are about 10 or 12 that do not" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/18).