The mediated bargaining sessions between the NFL owners and players ended Thursday with no agreement on a new collective bargaining situation, making a lockout on March 4 almost certain.
And the only people who were breathing easy about that Thursday were the assistant coaches for the Giants and Jets, and the 300 college stars who were invited to the annual NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
According to NFL Coaches Association executive Larry Kennan, the two local teams were among just a handful of franchises who have promised their assistants will not endure immediate pay cuts or furloughs in the face of a work stoppage. Kennan told the record 450 credentialed media people covering the Combine on Thursday that the Giants and Jets have told their coaches, “They’re going to do the right thing by their employees, whatever that is, for as long as they can.”
The Jets last week announced furloughs for their business-side personnel. The Giants have not planned any cutbacks for anyone, though Kennan said 15 to 30 percent of the remaining NFL assistants will see pay cuts if the lockout lasts 30 days.
Avoiding a stoppage seems impossible now, as the sides remained far apart on key issues such as the rookie salary cap, the 18-game season and benefits. Federal mediator George H. Cohen said in a written statement that the seven consecutive days of meetings yielded “some progress,” but that “very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues.”
Cohen said the parties will reconvene in his office March 1 for one last shot to avert a lockout.
Shutdown or not, the nation’s top draft prospects began their workouts at the league’s annual stopwatch/tape measure festival, which went off as planned despite some early rumblings of an agent boycott. Instead, the NFL Players Association made its annual agents briefing mandatory for the first time to explain the rules the league will operate under in case of a lockout.