WASHINGTON >> That reprieve in NFL labor negotiations will last another week.
The league and the players’ union agreed Friday on a seven-day extension of the collective bargaining agreement. The CBA was set to run out on Thursday before a 24-hour extension was granted.
Federal mediator George Cohen announced the new arrangement, under which talks will resume Monday.
"We are continuing to work hard, to identify solutions," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We believe that, as I’ve said many times before, that this will be solved through negotiations and that’s what we’re focused on."
"We’ll continue to work hard, and we’ll be back next week."
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith noted both sides had committed to giving the talks a chance to move ahead. "We look forward to a deal coming out of that," he said.
Both sides met for the 11th day with Cohen before settling on a plan to keep talking. If the CBA expires the owners could lock out the players, and the union could decertify to try and prevent that through the courts — something the NFLPA did in 1989.
"Talking is better than litigating," Goodell said.
For the moment, talking at least staves off the NFL’s first work stoppage since the 1987 players’ strike. It certainly indicates neither the owners nor the players are ready to make a bold move to shut down a league that rakes in $9 billion a year.
But the extension doesn’t mean the sides have gotten close on the key issues:
— How to divide the league’s revenues, including what cut team owners should get up front to help cover certain costs, such as stadium construction. Under the old deal, owners received about $1 billion off the top. They entered these negotiations seeking to add another $1 billion to that.
— A rookie wage scale, and how much of the money saved by the owners under such a system would go to veteran players.
— The owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games. The players oppose that idea, citing health factors, especially the number of injuries already sustained during a 16-game regular season.
— Benefits for retired players.
"We’ve got very serious issues. We’ve got significant differences," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said.
Still, he added, "there’s been enough serious discussion to warrant both sides taking this step." Pash also said he wouldn’t be surprised if NFL owners were at the sessions next week, a step that would strongly indicate discussions were reaching a critical stage.
President Barack Obama urged the sides to keep talking when asked Thursday about the NFL labor dispute.
"I’m a big football fan," Obama said, "but I also think that for an industry that’s making $9 billion a year in revenue, they can figure out how to divide it up in a sensible way and be true to their fans, who are the ones who obviously allow for all the money that they’re making."
Smith was cautious when describing the tenor of the talks. Asked if he thinks the league has been negotiating in good faith, he said, "When you say something about trust or when you raise issues about things like confidence, none of those things are repaired quickly."
Reaction from around the league was swift and mildly upbeat.
"It’s good they’re talking. … I don’t know exactly what’s being done or what’s being said or why it’s being extended, but at least they’re talking," said Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski.
"Whether it’s done by next week, I’m not sure about that," he said, "but at least it’s moving."
Added player agent Ralph Cindrich: "Any time you have an extension in a negotiating process, it is positive. All the more so now because there is a mediator involved."
For another week, at least.
AP Pro Football Writer Howard Fendrich and AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington, and Sports Writer Dave Skretta in New York contributed to this story.