NFL labor talks with mediator into 6th day
WASHINGTON — NFL Players Association executive committee members Brian Dawkins, Jeff Saturday, Mike Vrabel and Brian Waters participated in labor negotiations Wednesday, the sixth consecutive day of federally mediated talks between the league and union.
Denver Broncos safety Dawkins, Indianapolis Colts center Saturday, and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Vrabel and guard Waters, along with former player Sean Morey, arrived in the morning at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a U.S. government agency.
They joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and their respective negotiating teams for the talks that consumed 35 hours over the first five days. The mediation is scheduled to continue Thursday — making for a full week.
Also on Thursday, at the NFL’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, the league is holding a meeting with general managers, coaches and other officials from all 32 teams.
“It’s a normal part of the combine, which is always filled with meetings galore,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press after ESPN.com first reported about the GMs-coaches session. “There was such a meeting last year. It’s not the first time.”
Still, with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire next week, the NFL is expected to update attendees on the labor negotiations — although Goodell and general counsel Jeff Pash would be in Washington, not Indianapolis, on Thursday.
The union called off a meeting it was supposed to hold Thursday in Indianapolis with some player agents, citing the ongoing mediation. Instead, the NFLPA will host agents on Friday.
The four active players who showed up Wednesday in Washington, and Morey, are on the NFLPA’s executive committee; at least nine of that panel’s 11 members have been present at some point during the talks in the office of mediator George Cohen.
All participants have been abiding by Cohen’s request not to discuss the talks publicly, and no details about what’s been discussed have been revealed by either side.
After months of infrequent and sometimes contentious bargaining, the league and union have been communicating face-to-face since Friday.
They agreed to try mediation in a bid to find common ground before the current labor deal expires at the end of the day March 3. The union has said it believes team owners want to lock out the players as soon as the next day, which could threaten the 2011 season.
The league and union went more than two months without any formal bargaining until Feb. 5, the day before the Super Bowl. The sides met again once the next week, then called off a second meeting that had been scheduled for the following day.
The most recent CBA was signed in 2006, but owners exercised an opt-out clause in 2008.
The biggest issue separating the sides is how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues. Among the other significant points in negotiations: a rookie wage scale; the owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games; and benefits for retired players.