Last night, word emerged that NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith won’t be attending Tuesday’s mediation session at federal court in Minnesota. due to a family medical emergency.
Now, Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that NFLPA* outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler won’t be there, either. No reason has been given for his absence.
The non-asterisked NFLPA benched Kessler for several days of mediation in March. He has a reputation for taking aggressive legal positions and alienating the owners with a level of zeal that is perceived by the league to be excessive.
With Smith and Kessler not present, the players’ effort on Tuesday will be led by outside counsel Jim Quinn, local counsel Barbara Berens, outside counsel Tim Thornton, and named plaintiffs Ben Leber and Mike Vrabel.
Still missing from mediation is named plaintiff and NFLPA* Executive Committee member Drew Brees, who wasn’t present last week and who recently said he’ll “likely” attend future sessions.
The future apparently isn’t now. And that’s unfortunate. Brees and the other named plaintiffs need to be there, and all of the owners need to be there. Until they are, there’s no reason to take these talks seriously, no matter how many times the parties claim that they’re taking the talks seriously.
As a certain Internet hack turned Internet broadcast flunky mused on Monday, it could be that the two sides are hoping to dog-paddle their way through mediation until the draft has come and gone, in order to minimize the wrath that could be unleashed on the Commissioner, on the invited players, and on anyone else who walks onto the stage at Radio City Music Hall if the talks break down between now and then.