Posted by Josh Katzowitz
In case you missed it, CBSSports.com’s own Mike Freeman reported that negotiations between the players and the owners to end the lockout and establish a new Collective Bargaining Agreement are 80-85 percent complete.
Which means that confidence is at an all-time high that a new CBA will be struck sooner rather than later and the NFL season will begin on time.
As Freeman writes, “That doesn't mean the negotiations can't revert back to the primordial days of disgust and hatred, or that the talks can't implode. It does mean, however, that the discussions are in such a good place it would be difficult for even the most selfish, destructive personality to affect them.”
And as one source told him, “It's going to be very difficult for this to get screwed up.”
That said, here are three ways the negotiations can, in fact, be screwed up (not that I’m hoping for this to happen).
Let the lawyers back in for major negotiations: It’s funny, isn’t it? When the attorneys for both sides aren’t in the negotiating room, significant progress is made. Three weeks ago, the pessimism about a new CBA was extremely high. I’m not saying the attorneys are solely to blame. But Jeff Pash for the NFL and Jeffrey Kessler for the NFLPA didn’t help matters. Not only did the attorneys make life more difficult for everyone at the negotiating table, but the owners didn’t trust Kessler and the players didn’t trust Pash. Three weeks ago, there seemed little reason to hope. But after secret meetings in Chicago (without lawyers present), followed by more meetings in New York last week (without lawyers) and more talks this week (with lawyers), all of a sudden, it seems like we’re very close to ending our long national nightmare. All of a sudden, we get real optimism. Obviously, the lawyers will need to be in the room at some point in order to help write the CBA – and reports said they were in there today – but if they can stay out of the major negotiating points (and it sounds like they have), that would be a big help.
Let the combatants open their mouths: When Roger Goodell or DeMaurice Smith (or any of the lawyers, as mentioned above) start popping off to the media, phrases get highlighted. Like when Smith congratulated the NFL for being the first sports league to sue to stop games from being played (not entirely true) or when the NFL kept sending letters to players to get the union back together and to negotiate even after the NFLPA had disbanded (not entirely helpful). Those words and actions simply don’t help the cause. As a member of the media, I hate it when there’s some kind of blackout where a group of people are not speaking with the press. But in this case, I think we’ll all take it if it means a deal is struck between the two sides and no football is missed and non-football personnel can get back to work with salaries fully implemented.
Let the court system make the decision: Maybe Goodell was right after all. He’s been saying all along that a new CBA would be generated at the negotiating table and not in the courtroom. And maybe the NFLPA chose not to believe him, because, historically, the courts have sided with the players. But when the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the NFL a permanent stay in order to keep the lockout in place, it was a major blow for the players. And when Appeals Court judge Kermit Bye told both sides they’d be better off solving the labor situation themselves, maybe both sides saw his point. Yes, the players might have been more desperate after the court ruling (especially when you saw how much the Appeals Court questioned the District Court’s decision), but the owners also seem ready for this storm to slip out to sea.
As is just about everybody else in the free world. Here’s hoping somebody doesn’t screw this thing up.
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