I hate to begin prefacing every article with "if there's football in 2011," but that seems to be a viable option as each day brings us one step closer to the Mar. 4 deadline and no new collective bargaining agreement between the National Football League and its players.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said this week that it will take a "sustained and disciplined commitment and round-the-clock talks" to get a new CBA in place on time to prevent any work stoppage.
On one hand, it's encouraging to see the observance by the commissioner of a ticking clock. But on the other hand, it doesn't appear both sides are taking this matter as seriously as they should be. Because to my knowledge, there are no 24/7 discussions happening. In fact, according to Jeff Pash, the NFL's executive vice president and general counsel, there hasn't been a formal bargaining session since before Thanksgiving. That doesn't sound like a sense of urgency to me. It sounds like an impasse.
So who's to blame? Well, as I understand it, the league is available anytime the union decides they are ready to get serious and start negotiating. But the NFLPA feels the demands of the owners—which are primarily stuck on revenue sharing—are so far out of whack it doesn't even make sense to talk without a change in the thought process by the league. Thus, the union is not optimistic about progress until the league changes its stand.
Of course, the assumption here is that by acting on an unwillingness to negotiate, it's going to force the owners into lockout mode where the union would then have more leverage. Terms like "decertification" and "anti-trust litigation" are being thrown around. Or should I say strategized by the union?
So, with six weeks to go before the Mar. 4 deadline, it's pretty clear the owners are going to have to adjust their demands or the players are going to have to accept them as is if any progress toward a new CBA is going to be made. The key word here is compromise and it doesn't appear either side is willing to.
My guess is things are going to get ugly before they get any better.