In a Thursday appearance on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike in the Morning, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash spoke at length regarding the status of labor negotiations, and some of the specific issues with which the two sides are wrestling.
As to the point about which we all care the most, Pash said a deal between the NFL and the players’ union will be reached. But he acknowledged that, in the end, it’s a matter of when, not if.
And the “when” possibly can come in a piecemeal basis. Pash advocated an approach we recently suggested,
initially in a segment on Monday’s edition of The Dan Patrick Show
(guest-hosted by a certain Internet hack) and reiterated in writing
later that day.
“Why don’t the NFL and the union try to work out agreements on smaller
issues,” we said, “in the hopes of building some momentum by establishing common
Speaking of the importance of building “momentum, and confidence, and trust,” Pash told the two Mikes, “[Y]ou do that perhaps by taking some small steps and, hey, let’s see if we can reach an agreement on testing for growth hormone. That’s one step. Let’s see if we can reach an agreement on [compensation for] rookies and retiree benefits. That’s another step. Let’s see if we can reach an agreement on forfeitures of signing bonuses when players go to jail and breach their contracts. That’s another area. And if we can do that, then we can build progress, and the tougher issues might not be so tough at the end.”
Pash also did a great job of doing exactly what we have suspected that the league will be doing with some of the various issues that resonate with the fans: Using the subjects on which the fans agree with the league as leverage to get the fans behind the league on all issues. So instead of talking about the fundamental disagreement regarding the size of the slice of the pie the players will continue to receive, Pash spoke about competing visions for the sport, honing in on fan-friendly issues like players in jail keeping signing bonuses, hGH testing, and reducing the preseason from four games to two.
But here’s the potential impediment. The union has been using its desire to preserve the current 59.6-cents-on-the-dollar share as leverage regarding the various non-economic issues. Basically, the union can say, “We’ll agree to all these other things you want, if you don’t reduce the size of our total cut.” If the NFLPA works out deals on these other issues independently of working out a deal as to the core issue — money — the union will have no leverage left once all other issues are resolved.
Still, we think that the two sides should start trying to knock out smaller deals. Too many issues exist between the parties, and more issues keep coming up. The best way out of the forest could come from cutting down some of the trees that are blocking the path.