Perhaps the best thing to happen to the Collective Bargaining Agreement talks was the NFL filing charges against the NFLPA with the National Labor Relations Board. When I first heard that news, I actually thought it was only going to escalate the bad blood between the owners and the players. Especially since the players have made their view known that they think the owners want to have a lockout. So for the NFL to charge them with bargaining in bad faith, well, I thought that would really set off the bombshells.
Shows how much I know. The NFLPA agreed to enter mediation with the owners, and ever since, all the nasty rhetoric that was flying around has cooled down. KD summarized some of the foolishness that was going on in this post, and I documented a few players blasting the owners here and here. Things were getting quite heated a week ago.
Since the NFL owners filed their charges, and things have gone into non-binding mediation, nobody is talking. They're not supposed to, and for the most part they aren't. And while that leaves us, the NFL fans, kind of in the dark, it's exactly what they needed to happen. They needed to shut down the almost childish smack-talk that was flowing. They needed some kind of grownup in the room to return them to the business at hand.
Before we get to excited about it though, I still am pessimistic about them getting a deal done for a while, I think the March 3rd deadline being missed is a foregone conclusion. At least they're in a room talking, and they're not in the press talking.
After months of infrequent -- and sometimes contentious -- bargaining, the league and union have been communicating face-to-face since Friday. The sessions are taking place in the office of George Cohen at a U.S. government agency about five blocks from the White House.
Not many people are talking about the proceedings, but Charlie Batch did offer this:
"Things are going well right now," Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch, a member of the NFLPA executive committee, said after Monday's talks. "We'll see how things progress over the next couple days."
So what's the immediate timeline?
The plan is for this set of meetings to go through Thursday, with the clock ticking to the expiration of the CBA. Union chiefs will meet with player agents at a mandatory summit at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, and the league has meetings scheduled on March 2 and 3 in Northern Virginia near D.C.
There are still some serious issues to overcome, so this news doesn't fill me with a lot of hope. Our own OCC has detailed some serious financial issues still at play (here, here and here), plus there are safety issues, the 18-game schedule, all sorts of stuff still to be sorted out.
But just maybe, this is the start of having a 2011 NFL season.