NFL's Regimented World Would Be Disrupted By Work Stoppage
If NFL owners and the NFLPA do not agree on a new CBA by March 3, the "meticulously regimented world of the NFL will be stuck in suspended animation until one gets done," according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. There will be "no free agency, no player trades, no football activity of any kind other than preparations for the draft in late April, the last event built into the current labor deal." Even now, teams "have been slow to re-sign their own players ... until they know what rules and salary cap will govern activity in a new deal." The uncertainty is "so acute" that the league has called a meeting of head coaches and GMs for today at the NFL Combine to "brief them on what to expect in the off-season if there is no deal by March 3." Rookies and coaches "have no idea when they will open a playbook together," so agents are "making plans for ... rookie clients to work out at specialized facilities." Agents "do not know when they can negotiate rookie contracts ... and they do not know what kind of rookie salary scale might be in place as part of a new agreement." CAA's Tom Condon: "It certainly is different. Everybody just goes into limbo. Rookies in the past would go to the off-season program. There's no place to go" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/24). In Indianapolis, Mike Chappell notes it is "uncertain when, or in what form, veteran free agency will occur." NFL Network's Mike Mayock: "You don't even know what free agency is going to look like this year. Four years (to be unrestricted)? Six years? What's it going to be and who's going to be available?" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/24).
THE WAITING GAME: ESPN.com's John Clayton cited sources as saying that the "seven days of federal mediation" between owners and the players' union "were productive but that no new CBA is expected to be agreed upon at this time." Clayton: "What needs to be clarified in the next week is whether owners feel good enough about the seven days of mediation that they might delay a lockout of players, declare an impasse and operate under their last offer or whether they might simply lock out the players" (ESPN.com, 2/23). In Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann wrote the "act of sitting with the mediator for several consecutive days is not, in and of itself, a sign that good things are happening, or that progress is being made." The two sides "cannot leave until the mediator dismisses them, or until the end of some time limit that was agreed upon beforehand; there has been reporting that this time limit was 7 days." The reason for this is the "unfair labor practice charge that the NFL filed recently with the NLRB, accusing the union ... of not taking bargaining seriously." As soon as that charge was made, the "mediator stepped in." Hofmann: "The act of staying should not be read as a sign of true optimism. They're staying because they have no choice" (PHILLY.com, 2/23). In Seattle, Danny O'Neil writes, "While representatives for the players union and ownership are meeting under the supervision of a federal mediator, everyone -- from fans to prospective free agents to the 32 franchises -- waits" (SEATTLE TIMES, 2/24).
STILL NOT CLOSE? ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported he has “not gotten the sense from anybody that that deal is anywhere close at this point.” Schefter: “I'd love to be wrong ... but more and more it's looking like we're going to miss at least the start of the new league year on March 4, and the big question is how soon they can get a deal down. I think right now it’s days, if not weeks and maybe even months" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/23). CNBC's Darren Rovell said a CBA "is not going to get done until there is some sort of urgency and that urgency won't come until we're close" the start of the season ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 2/23).