CBA negotiations described as ‘PR show’

Though the NFL Players Association and owners have gathered for a pair of negotiating sessions in the past two months, the lack of progress sparked DeMaurice Smith’s recent sentiments that players will be locked out by owners in 2011.

“Every time we say, ‘OK, you don’t like this system, what do you want?’ we don’t get a straight answer,” one high-ranking union source said recently.

Said another source indirectly involved in the process: “The negotiations mean nothing right now. It’s a PR show by the owners to make it look like they’re trying and that somehow the players are the problem. … If you know the whole story, the owners aren’t doing anything for awhile.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees(notes), a member of the union’s executive committee, didn’t describe the tone of the negotiations, but said it was unrealistic to expect significant progress at this stage of the process.

“At this point, I’m not sure how much would have gotten done anyway. I think a lot of the issues are being thrown out on the table and discussed a little bit,” Brees said. “I’m sure there’s a little bit of posturing. All I can say is that all I’ve heard is that they’re talking and a lot is left to be done.”

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy disagreed with the notion that the talks are for show.

“We think the talks have been constructive and have every reason to believe the union shares that view,” McCarthy said. “We are focused on securing an agreement that is in the long-term interest of the players and owners.”

In the backdrop are a couple of court decisions the NFL is awaiting. The first is a Supreme Court ruling on the league’s case against American Needle. A decision for the NFL could give the league increased leverage in anti-trust issues the union could raise against the league.

The other decision of major interest is in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. In March, the league and the union presented arguments appealing a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge David Doty that allowed quarterback Michael Vick(notes) to keep approximately $20 million in bonus money, which he had initially been ordered to repay the Atlanta Falcons. Within that appeal was a request by the league to have Doty removed as the judge who oversees the cases that have led to the current collective bargaining agreement. The league has argued that Doty is biased in favor of players. In addition, the NFL has argued that the league and union are no longer in need of court supervision.

If the appellate court agrees with the union, the league could have even more power in the upcoming negotiations.

That led to another source giving an ominous view of what could happen.

“If the owners win in court, they’re going to hammer the players and it could be a long, ugly fight,” a source close to the negotiations said.

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Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Aug 18, 2009