The owners have said all week that they are ready to resume negotiations. Mixed messages, at best, have come from the players.
A report from Adam Schefter of ESPN, citing an unnamed NFLPA* source, indicated that there was “no chance” of additional talks before the April 6 hearing on the players’ motion to end the lockout while the Brady antitrust lawsuit proceeds. Since then, men like NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith have indicated that talks may continue through the lawyers representing the players in their lawsuit. Seahawks guard and NFLPA* players’ rep Chester Pitts, after initially insisting on Twitter that no talks of any kind may occur now that the case has landed in the court system, ultimately agreed that talks could happen that way.
Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel, a named plaintiff in the lawsuit but also a member of the NFLPA* Executive Committee, potentially undermined the union’s decertification effort by telling ESPN that “we” want to negotiate directly with owners like Robert Kraft, Jerry Jones, and Jerry Richardson. On Saturday, the NFLPA* told Commissioner Roger Goodell that, if the owners want to continue negotiations, the league should contact the lawyers handling the Brady case.
Now, another NFLPA* Executive Committee member has provided the ultimate mixed message.
In the same interview during which (as Rosenthal pointed out earlier) Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth said that the players are fine with never being a union again (it’s impressive that he has been able to ask all of them that question), Foxworth explains that “we’ve expressed that we’re ready to begin talks as soon as they’re ready.”
So who is the “we”? Foxworth isn’t a named plaintiff in the Brady case, he’s a member of NFLPA* leadership, the entity that has renounced its ability to negotiate with the NFL and, per Foxworth, never intends to do it again.
Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, a member of the NFL’s negotiating team, said recently on PFT Live that the league could resume talks pursuant to an agreement that would allow the NFLPA* to be involved without that involvement being used against the players in conjunction with the argument that decertification is a sham. Frankly, the NFLPA* need to request that, in exchange for the immediate resumption of talks, the league also won’t use any of the statements made by Vrabel and Foxworth as ammunition in the “sham” argument.
Time is of the essence. With the league’s brief opposing the motion to lift the lockout due Monday, the lawyers for the two parties need to get together quickly to negotiate the terms of a re-engagement. And the NFL should agree to whatever it takes in order to get the talks going again, without attempting to score a concession by agreeing not to beat the NFLPA* over the head with any statements suggesting the union still is a union, even if the union indeed still is a union.
Either way, it’s time for action. Currently, the NFL and the NFLPA* are lined up against their respective walls like the boys and the girls at a junior-high dance. It’s time for someone to make the first tangible move.