NFL chief negotiator Jeff Pash told members of the media in Dallas today that a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement can get done before March 4 — but only if both sides agree to intensive negotiations over the next.
“The time has come for both parties to make a shared commitment to devote all their energy to accomplishing a successful negotiation by the beginning of March,” Pash said. “We need intensive, serious, ongoing negotiations that are characterized by a commitment to reach an agreement. If we can do that we will honor the commitment our fans have made, we will spare ourselves and our players extraordinary losses and we will have a game and an economic structure that we can all look back on some years from now and say ‘We did a pretty good job, we got it right and it’s better for everyone.'”
Pash made clear that the owners still want a salary cap, and that they want an 18-game regular season, although he offered what sounded like a little bit of wiggle room on that issue.
“An 18-game season could be a part of a new business model — it doesn’t have to be,” Pash said. “The best reason to have an 18-game season is it would be a response to fan interest. The fans have made clear they don’t want four preseason games.”
Pash stressed that the owners view the current deal as one-sided in favor of the players, but he said the league isn’t looking to get a one-sided deal of its own.
“Everyone on both sides realizes it’s unbalanced and one sided,” Pash said. “I don’t think there’s a serious debate about that. . . . We are not looking to replace one unbalanced and one-sided as another.”
Pash said the league will start to feel the pain immediately if there’s a work stoppage.
“The point we’ve been trying to emphasize, particularly in recent weeks is that both sides — and I want to emphasize that, both sides — have very substantial incentives to try to get a deal done by March 4,” Pash said. “We know we’ll have revenue losses that will be significant, they will grow and they will be cumulative in the sense that they will affect not just the 2011 season but subsequent seasons.”
The league is emphasizing that it won’t just be the owners who feel the pinch: Pash noted that about 500 players who would otherwise become free agents won’t if there’s no deal.
To avoid pain on both sides, Pash said it’s just about rolling up their sleeves and getting to work: “We need to get busy.”