Moments before Thursday’s live portion of ProFootballTalk Live went live, word emerged that the seven-day mediation between the NFL and the players’ union has ended.
The news isn’t as good as we’d hoped.
“Some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties,” mediator George Cohen said in a statement released by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
In other words, pack a lunch. And another lunch. And a few more.
The mediation will resume Tuesday, March 1 — five days from now and less than three days before the current labor deal expires.
So if “some progress was made” in seven straight days of talks, how can the “very strong differences [that] remain” be resolved in only three more days of talks? It most likely won’t happen.
The best hope for avoiding a lockout comes from the possibility that enough progress will be made on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of next week to prompt the two sides to extend the deadline for the expiration of the deal. Cohen, for instance, may be able to talk them into bumping the date back by a week. Or maybe two. If significant progress is made, another extension could arise.
Then, the talks would continue, hopefully without another four-day break, as the parties move toward an agreement or impasse.
With the process over for now, the commitment to silence continues. The challenge for both sides will be to find a way to comply while at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, both in any meetings that occur or in any casual hallway conversations. Everyone likes to tell at least one other person a secret in confidence, and once a member of the media is the person to whom a CBA secret is told, the secret inevitably will be published.
In his statement, Cohen said that the parties demonstrated “mutual respect,” a quality that reportedly had been missing from past meeting. He also said that the parties met in committees and subcommittees, with “discrete, technical issues” relegated to the smaller groups.
A day after the mediation resumes, owners will commence two days of meetings in the Washington area. The presence of the owners in the immediate vicinity of the mediation could result in one or more of them attending the upcoming sessions.
The first order of business next week will be to re-establish the mood of progress and cooperation after the parties have had four full days to reflect on their positions, and possibly to harden them.