Tuesday’s flurry of news and nuggets regarding the labor situation included plenty of broad-brush red meat for casual fans. Unfortunately, a decent amount of nuanced and esoteric details may have gotten lost in the process.
Here’s the most important one we’ve seen, so far.
In comments that, as best we can tell, were noticed only by Clark Judge of CBSSports.com and Howard Balzer of 101sports.com and The Sports Exchange, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash made it clear that the lockout won’t end with the negotiation of an agreement in principle. Instead, the doors will be unlocked only after the proverbial i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed.
“We would have to make sure the documents were fully drafted and approved, then both parties would have to ratify the agreement,” Pash said, per Judge. “We would have to do it, and the players would have to do it. There is some litigation that has to be dealt with, and so we would have to go before the various courts, and that would obviously [have to happen] on a quickened basis, as the court would hear us and have those lawsuits disposed of and resolved. Then we could open up. . . .
“If both sides are going to commit to certain positions and clubs are going to be signing players, large sums of money are going to be changing hands and players are going to commit to multi-year agreements, you would want to have this confirmed — not just in a general way but down to some fairly specific details. [Because the doors would be opened] you’re not going to want to close them again for either side.”
We listed last week the steps that would be required to take the deal from handshake to grave, and we opined at the time that all of the steps couldn’t be accomplished before the season starts, based in part on my own experiences with the settlement of class actions. Even if the parties can somehow expedite the process, it’s going to take a lot of work to turn things around in time for the first two teams who head to camp on July 22 — the Bears and Rams — to have a fair shake at signing free agents and/or their rookies.
The message to all parties? Get to work. Come early. Stay late. Meet every day. Order food in. Brew coffee.
Tell the lawyers to start drawing up the papers. Alert the judges and arrange for hearing times. If there’s any chance of the lockout being lifted by the middle of July, the foundation for finalizing the deal needs to be put in place now.
It also would help to have an agreement in principle. We’ve previously predicted that the parties will get to the handshake stage by June 30. Given everything that needs to happen from that point forward, June 30 could be too late.