Last week the NFL and NFLPA entered into mediation and committed themselves to seven straight days of negotiations. Additionally, and possibly more importantly, the two sides committed to end their PR war that had dragged the negotiations into something of a war mentality.
The two sides brought in federal mediator George Cohen, who used the last seven days to get both sides working to regain some sense of trust. The two sides have battled in the media for much of the last two months and avoided any semblance of negotiations. However, according to Cohen’s recently released statement, there has been some progress in at least working towards a deal:
Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance. I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions.
At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties. Nonetheless, I recommended and the parties have agreed to resume the mediation process in my office commencing next Tuesday (March 1). During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues.
The two sides will return to the bargaining table next Tuesday with only three days remaining before the current CBA expires. One possible upside to these continued negotiations even without a new deal is the parties might agree to some kind of temporary extension of the deal. At the very least the owners might show a willingness to not lockout the players. Free agency remains a question mark while a new deal is figured out, but for now they’re at least working to make progress.