DALLAS (AP) — Trying to kick-start lagging labor talks as the Super Bowl fast approaches, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and union executive director DeMaurice Smith met Monday in New York and drew up a schedule for new negotiating sessions.
Goodell and Smith spoke about “a range of issues related to a new collective bargaining agreement,” according to a joint statement released by the league and union.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello would not reveal details of those discussions.
Goodell and Smith also met Jan. 19 in New York, where the league is headquartered.
Monday’s session was described in the joint statement as “part of a process to intensify negotiations.” It said Goodell and Smith “agreed to hold a formal bargaining session with both negotiating teams on Saturday in the Dallas area.” That’s the day before the Super Bowl is played at Cowboys Stadium.
“They also agreed to a series of meetings over the next few weeks, both formal bargaining sessions and smaller group meetings, in an effort to reach a new agreement by early March,” the statement said.
The sides haven’t had a full group, formal negotiating session since November.
The current CBA expires at the end of the day March 3, and the union expects the NFL to lock out players as soon as the next day.
Monday’s session and the announcement of additional meetings would seem to indicate a sense of urgency by the sides to reach a deal.
In a 1½-hour sitdown with reporters at league headquarters last week, a half-dozen NFL executives said they believed both sides could forfeit hundreds of millions of dollars if a new CBA isn’t reached by the deadline.
“Players have a lot of risk; clubs have a lot of risk,” Jeff Pash, the NFL’s lead labor negotiator, said then. “We know that the financial consequences of no agreement — of a significant delay in reaching an agreement — will be significant and will be shared. It does not fall on one party.”
The league estimates there would be a cut in gross revenues of $120 million without a new agreement by early March; $350 million if there’s no CBA by August, before the preseason starts; $1 billion if no new contract is in place until September. And if regular-season games are lost, the NFL figures the revenue losses would amount to about $400 million per week.
Among the key issues in the negotiations are the league’s push to extend the regular season from 16 games to 18; a rookie wage scale; benefits for retired players; and the owners wanting players to cede $1 billion more of the gross revenues up front.
The old deal was agreed to in 2006, and owners exercised an opt-out clause in 2008. The union wants owners to pledge that they will not impose a lockout and continue to operate under the expiring terms until a new agreement can be reached.