For anyone who actually thought that the NFL and the NFLPA would come to an agreement before a lockout could possibly happen on March 4 at 12:01 a.m., we have an interesting reality check to impart. After meeting for 10 hours in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the two sides cancelled talks for Thursday and more scheduled meetings for next week because nothing was being accomplished.
Neither side would comment specifically on the reasons for the cancellation. "We are not confirming, denying, or commenting on CBA meetings at this point. We are focused on finding a way to get an agreement," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told ESPN after the announcement.
But as Adam Schefter said on ESPN's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" show on Thursday, these initial disagreements are as much about establishing positions in the early stages of what promises to be a long war. "You can read into it any which way you want, and you're going to get a lot of posturing between now and whenever here's collective bargaining agreement. There is a tremendous mistrust between both sides, and there's a tremendous distance between both sides, and they're not making any progress ... they were supposed to meet for five hours today, and they see no reason to meet."
Schefter also reported that there are no more meetings scheduled at this time, which only makes sense from the owners' position. Graced with an amazing profit margin, and blessed by a decision from a Special Master that gives them the $4 billion in 2011 TV money as sort of a bridge loan, the owners have all the leverage right now, and they're the ones willing to play "Chicken" with a season to get things back to, in effect, the way they think things should be. Both sides will engage in posturing in the short term, because the effects of a lockout aren't yet felt on either side.
There are several issues involved in this (all of them having to do with who gets the biggest piece of the pie), and it looks as if we'll have enough time to dig into all of them, but here's the bottom line, as things stand right now: When the league's new year kicks in on March 4, there will most likely be a lockout. Players will not be able to report to team facilities for any reason -- workouts, injury rehab, meetings. Team staffs may see their salaries cut, and some may lose their positions for the length of the lockout, or even longer.
The players' health insurance will lapse, and it's entirely likely that players injured on the field will have to arrange for their own medical care. Free agency will not exist until there is a new agreement, and a lot of NFL players will essentially be unemployed.
It's an ugly way to do business. Keep in mind that the last CBA, ratified in March of 2006, was literally signed at the eleventh hour, so there's always hope, but things appear to be more contentious this time. Five years ago, it was about keeping the game going for the good of all involved. Now, it seems to be more about who gets the highest percentage of what. We'll keep you posted as it goes, but right now, things look pretty bad -- and they're probably going to get worse.