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NFL owners in force as negotiating deadline nears

Woody Johnson

Woody Johnson Credit: Getty Images

A judge’s ruling that NFL owners secured guaranteed TV revenues in violation of the current collective bargaining agreement caused that group to send a show of force to Wednesday’s four-hour mediated bargaining session in Washington.

Whether the presence of commissioner Roger Goodell and the league’s 10-owner negotiations committee, or the screwball who paraded outside the federal mediator’s offices wearing a big John F. Kennedy head and holding a sign that read “Heard you had a crisis. Here to help. Call me,” produced enough movement to avoid a work stoppage after 11:59 p.m. Thursday was anybody’s guess. The owners committee then met with the rest of the owners to update the situation and discuss the ramifications of a lockout.

NFLPA president Kevin Mawae offered only a lukewarm response to questions about potential progress. “We’re talking,” he said. “That’s better than not talking.”

That morning, the league’s lead negotiator, Jeff Pash, said stopping the clock was definitely an option. But he also said Judge David S. Doty’s pro-player ruling that owners illegally insured themselves against a stoppage with $4 billion in TV payouts would not affect the owner’s objectives “one iota.”

Another session is scheduled for Thursday, after which it is believed the union will ask to be decertified, to which the owners will probably answer with a lockout.

Doty’s ruling would throw the TV money into escrow in the event of a lockout, where owners would not have access to it. Without that money, teams might have a tougher time paying debts and keeping their office operational during a prolonged work stoppage. A hearing on paying the players damages is also upcoming.

New Orleans quarterback and NFLPA executive committee member Drew Brees, who attended the session, said he’d welcome a negotiating extension.

“We’re less than two days away from the deadline, so obviously this is crunch time,” Brees said. “There is definitely a sense of urgency on our side.”

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