First Day of High Stakes NFL Labor Talks Mainly a Formality
Union representatives weren't making any comment, and the league said it would only confirm that the meeting took place and was "the first of many." But according to a person familiar with the meeting, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and new NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith were both present. The meeting was described as "procedural." Nothing was resolved, of course, and there is currently no date set for the resumption of talks.
FanHouse's Calvin Watkins outlined many of the relevant issues in this earlier post. Smith has said in multiple interviews that he doesn't think the talks can begin in earnest until the NFL shares its audited financial statements with the players, and to this point it has not appeared that the NFL is interested in doing so.
Smith contends that, since it was the owners who opted out of a CBA that was supposed to extend through 2013 citing financial problems, they should reveal the depth of those problems in detail. That's the first of what's likely to be many conflicts as the union's new leadership works to make sure the NFL doesn't implement a news system that unduly restricts the players' earning potential.
If no deal is in place by March, the 2010 season is to be played without a salary cap, and Smith has said that if that happens the players will not agree to re-institute a cap in future seasons. However, the players fear the prospect of an uncapped year because it would also change the free-agency rules, forcing players to wait six years (instead of four) to become unrestricted free agents. The players also feel their benefits would be adversely affected in an uncapped season.
There's also the possibility that the owners would lock out the players for the 2011 season if no deal is in place by then. Both sides have said they have no interest in a work stoppage, but there are many issues to be resolved if one is to be avoided, and if no deal can be reached by March, it will get much harder to reach a deal in time to avoid a 2011 work stoppage.