Both sides in the ongoing NFL labor dispute met before a federal mediator for the 12th time today, as the league and the NFL Players Association attempt to head off a protracted legal battle by agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement.
Mediator George Cohen had the two sides take the weekend off to rest and regroup in advance of this week’s meetings, which could determine whether there is a settlement, or whether the stage will be set for a scenario where the NFLPA decertifies and the NFL orders a lockout. If that scenario materializes, it will set off costly legal maneuverings by both sides potentially imperil some, or possibly all, games in the 2011 season.
The two sides met for a little more than four hours before breaking off for the evening. Talks are set to resume tomorrow at 9 a.m.
The NFL and the players association agreed last Friday to a seven-day extension of the talks, giving them until this Friday to work out a settlement. If significant progress is achieved by then, they could agree to a further extension if not all the loose ends are tied up. But if significant hurdles remain, it’s possible the two sides will again be at the same precipice as late last week, when each side appeared ready to take drastic action against the other.
In keeping with Cohen’s request that the talks be kept confidential, representatives from both sides declined to offer any details about the talks. Cohen asked the two sides to meet separately on Monday night and then return to his offices in downtown Washington tomorrow morning.
Among those player representatives attending today's session: NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, Colts center Jeff Saturday, Ravens cornerback Dominique Foxworth, former Bills linebacker Cornelius Bennett, Jets fullback Tony Richardson, and former Jets and Redskins guard Pete Kendall. The NFL contingent included commissioner Roger Goodell, chief NFL negotiator Jeff Pash, outside attorney Bob Batterman, and Giants co-owner John Mara.
One notable absence was NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler, who has become a lightning rod during the talks. Many people on the ownership side believe Kessler is determined to lead an effort to have the union decertify and embark on legal battles against the league. Kessler said he had previous commitments with other clients. It’s uncertain whether he’ll re-join the talks on Tuesday.