Hall of Fame defensive end Carl Eller, a named plaintiff in an antitrust suit against the NFL that was eventually joined with the Tom Brady et al lawsuit, attended today's negotiating session in New York and came away hopeful that a Collective Bargaining Agreement can soon be struck.
"I think it will wrap this week," said Eller, the former Vikings' star and a member of the famed Purple People Eaters defensive line. "I think that the talks are progressing along to have a season and start a season. I think there is still a lot more work to do in terms of what the retirees need to do. It's really good to be back in contact with the attorneys and the league. But there's still work for us to do. I thought we'd be further along then we are right now for our (retired players) part of it."
Asked if some of the retired player issues can be resolved after a settlement, Eller said: "I think it's something we'll have to continue to deal with post-settlement. I think that it will probably be in stages. We'll move along with the agreements for the current players and we'll continue with the retirees. There are just a couple of obstacles there that we still have to work on. I'd have to sum it up as saying there's some progress. At least we are talking, the retirees. I feel good that I think we have let the system know that, for the retirees, there are some issues that are real critical issues that need to be dealt with and we don't think they have been dealt with in all fairness and all openness. So, that's kind of disappointing."
Eller admitted to being very frustrated at not previously being involved in negotiations. There has been longstanding friction between the NFL Players Association and retired players, with the NFLPA frequently indicating that the union - which decertified in March - mostly represented active players.
"No, we weren't happy and we hope it doesn't go back to that," he said. "We hope that we stay active in the talks and we hope that we continue to have meaningful talks. But this clearly lets us know that there is more work to be done. And by not being part of the talks we were hoping that we had, for our part, made more progress. But obviously, we needed to be at the table while their talks were going on. So it just goes to show you that being at the table is really criticial for us."
As for overall progress on a new CBA, Eller said: "Very definitely. On the overall talks, I think the commissioner, the league, the players are really determined to really get this football season going. We're very happy about that and you should know that that's what their focus has been on and it kind of, in a sense, puts us on the backburner. But that's the nature of the game. And so, they want to get these games going and they want to have a season. That's their focus. Our issues are very, very critical, very important. But they don't really have much to do with whether the game goes or not unless there's some other kind of obstacles."
In the end, Eller said the retirees wouldn't interfere with a settlement. "No, we wouldn't stand in the way of a settlement but we do want a settlement that's pertinent to what our own basic needs are."