WASHINGTON » Timeout, NFL. And NFLPA.
Buying time to try to close big gaps on big issues, the NFL and the players’ union agreed yesterday to extend the deadline for negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement by a week.
The current labor deal had been set to run out Thursday night. But the sides used an initial 24-hour extension to discuss and vote on the second, lengthier delay. Now the league and union will take a break over the weekend to assess their positions, resume mediation Monday, then have until the end of next Friday to talk.
KEY ISSUES IN THE DISPUTE
» Money: Players get 59.5 percent of the $9 billion in revenue after the owners take $1 billion off the top for operating expenses. The owners want another $1 billion off the top.
» Expanded season: Against the players’ wishes, the owners want to expand the regular season to 18 games from 16 while reducing the preseason to two games from four.
» Rookie wage scale: Both sides agree there should be a rookie wage scale, but they differ on how to implement one.
» Benefits for retired players.
» Full financial disclosure: The players want the owners to open their books and prove that the status quo will lead to financial disaster, as they say. The owners say the players have all the information they need.
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune
"We’re obviously having a lot of dialogue," commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday, the 11th day that he and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith have spent time at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. "We met for a lot of days. And we are going to meet for more."
Although the seven-day extension is the first true signal that owners and players might avoid a protracted legal skirmish and work stoppage, it’s clear they are not close to a new CBA.
"It’s a challenge," NFL general counsel and lead labor negotiator Jeff Pash said. "We’ve got very serious issues. We’ve got significant differences."
Most significant: money.
One person with knowledge of the negotiations told the Associated Press that the NFLPA has not agreed to any major economic concessions — and that the NFL has not agreed to the union’s long-held demand that the league completely open its books and share all financial information.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because mediator George Cohen asked everyone involved not to comment publicly on the substance of the talks.
No one would say whether yet another extension would be possible if no new deal is reached by next Friday.
While Goodell and Pash declined to discuss any details as they spoke to reporters outside Cohen’s office, Smith did the same on a sidewalk in front of the NFLPA’s headquarters about three city blocks away.
Referring to next week’s round of bargaining, Smith said: "We look forward to a deal coming out of that."
But when asked whether trust between the sides has been rebuilt, Smith replied: "When you say something about ‘trust’ or when you raise issues about things like ‘confidence’ — none of those things are repaired quickly."
If the sides hadn’t extended the CBA, the union was prepared to decertify Thursday, meaning it no longer would represent the players, who would be giving up their rights under labor law and instead take their chances in court under antitrust law. The NFLPA took that course in 1989.
The owners, meanwhile, could have locked out the players, raising the specter of games lost to a work stoppage for the first time since the players’ strike in 1987.
"This is going to get resolved through negotiations, not through litigation," Goodell said. "So talking is better than litigating."
That willingness to continue meeting with the mediator certainly indicates neither side was ready to make the drastic move of shutting down a league that generates $9 billion a year and is more popular than ever. The last two Super Bowls rank No. 1 and No. 2 among most-watched TV programs in U.S. history.
Cohen said that since he began mediating talks Feb. 18, he has been able to encourage the sides "to fully, frankly and candidly talk to each other" and that they are having "constructive discussion."
|Plaxico Burress will
have served 21
months of his two-
Burress will leave prison in June
NEW YORK » Former New York Giants receiver Plaxico Burress is to get out of prison in June, after he had about three months shaved off his time behind bars in a gun case.
A committee of prison-system staffers decided Burress was eligible for time off for good behavior, so he can be freed after serving about 21 months of his two-year sentence, system spokeswoman Linda Foglia said.
With Burress’ release date now set for June 6, his agent and lawyer said he’s looking to return to football — and a number of teams are looking at him.
"He’s counting the hours," lawyer Peter M. Frankel said. "He’s extremely positive."
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has ruled that Burress would be reinstated and eligible to sign with a team upon completing his sentence.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese has said the team will keep its options open with Burress.
McCarthy signs multiyear deal
MILWAUKEE » Mike McCarthy embraced Green Bay’s culture from the first day he arrived as coach of the Packers. After his first Super Bowl championship, he’ll stay in the NFL’s smallest market for years to come.
McCarthy signed a new multiyear contract yesterday, less than a month after the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 for Green Bay’s 13th NFL championship.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed. McCarthy’s previous contract ran through 2012.
In five seasons, McCarthy has led the Packers to three playoff appearances, including this year’s Super Bowl and an NFC title game in 2008, while also deftly handling the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers.