Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead attorney and chief negotiator in talks aimed at a new collective bargaining agreement, said today that he hopes his counterpart with the NFL Players Association will make a concerted effort to forge a new agreement before the current deal runs out March 3 and precipitates what could be a lockout.
Pash, commissioner Roger Goodell and other key negotiators on both sides will sit down on Saturday for the first in a series of face-to-face talks aimed at a new agreement. The meeting will include NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, who has characterized his union's struggles against the league as being "at war."
Pash said it was urgent that the talks proceed quickly to avoid a work stoppage. And he said the most important people to consider in any deal: the fans.
"The financial consequences alone should be sufficient to compel the parties to get together," Pash said. "But beyond that, we have another point, which is another factor we have to be mindful of which is if we don’t reach agreement and there is interruption in NFL football, we have failed to honor the commitment that our fans have made to this league and to this game. Our success as a league and the economic rewards that everyone enjoys only come about for one reason, and that’s because of the passion and support that tens of millions of people give to this game. Their commitment is something that we cannot ever lose sight of. It’s something that a commitment that’s made not just to the clubs and the players. It’s a commitment made to a game that’s bigger than all of us. The time has come for both parties to make a shared commitment to devote all their energy to accomplishing a successful negotiation by the beginning of March."
Pash said he believes the players association, as well as the club owners, are convinced that the current deal works too much in the favor of the players, and a readjustment is necessary for the long-term stability of the sport.
"We’re just about to have an agreement expire that I think everyone on both sides recognizes is unbalanced and one-sided," he said. "I don’t think there’s a serious debate about that any longer. We are not looking to replace one one-sided, unbalanced agreement for another. We are not looking for an agreement that will swing the pendulum as far in our direction as far as it currently has been swung in the direction of the players. We’ve told the union, we don’t want four or five years from now you to feel about the agreement the way our clubs feel about it today. We want something that is fair, something that works for both sides, something that encourages growth in the game and something that allows both parties and the fans to benefit from what we accomplish at the negotiating table."
Smith will hold a press conference on Thursday to discuss the union's side of the negotiations