The NFL waiting game continues

NFL Labor Football

Credit: AP

NFL outside labor counsel Bob Batterman, right, followed by Paul Hicks, Executive VP/Communications & Government Affairs,, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, arrive for football labor negotiations with the NFL players involving a federal mediator, Friday, March 4, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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by TED MADDEN

WFAA

Posted on March 4, 2011 at 12:49 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 4 at 12:51 PM

What's going to happen today with the NFL labor talks? Probably nothing.

The NFL Network's Albert Breer said last night on ESPN Radio, All this 24-hour extension has done is bought the two sides time to buy more time. This morning, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that mediator George Cohen already has gotten the union to agree to a 7 to 10 day extension to the talks, but still awaits the owners' response.

On the Ticket (1310 AM), Norm Hitzges talked about how this current 24-hour extension, and the additional extension the two sides are likely to agree on Friday, mean nothing. Norm said it is nothing more than a suck-up to the fans. Neither side wanted to stop negotiating at the exact day and time of the original deadline. They wanted it to make it look like they put in an extra day, an extra week, to work on it.

Norm's not the only one thinking this is the case. On Thursday, the players wanted specific language in the extension agreement to ensure that this was not posturing on the owners’ side and that the owners extended the talks because they actually think there is a chance the two sides can come to an agreement.

My father-in-law and I had a conversation about the NFL's labor situation a couple weeks ago, and he comes from a place of experience. Several years ago, he was the vice-president of a company that was in negotiations with its union. He was in the room when the union's representatives were meeting with the owners' side. He said that they had agreed on a new contract two weeks before the deadline, but both sides agreed to wait until the deadline before announcing it, to make it look like they were fighting for everything they got. Had the union representatives told the union that had come to an agreement two weeks before the deadline, and the union workers didn't like it, they would be understandably upset that their representatives didn't push the negotiations all the way to the deadline.

He thinks that is the case here, that the two sides already know what the deal is going to be, and they're just doing a dance now. I disagree, but I think it's an interesting point, and something to keep in mind. The media that are camped outside the talks are hungry for information -- between the tweets and the blogs and the internet articles, there is much more demand than real information. Do we really think that those people who are talking to the media are being completely forthright? More likely, the sources who are feeding information to the media have an agenda, and we are reading and hearing what they want us to hear.

One more thing to consider is this question: When is the real deadline? It started at 11:59 pm March 3rd, and it's now 11:59 pm March 4th, but really, what deadline is that? If they extend the talks another week, what do the fans lose? Nothing. So in this game of chicken between the players and owners, at what point does a lockout really start to sting? The coaches, especially coaches who have just been hired with a new team, are really going to miss all the mini-camps and training sessions that teams normally hold in April, May, and June. But the players won't really miss it, and the fans won't either.

So what about late July/August, when training camps are set to begin? Is that the read deadline? I doubt it. You can't tell me that the players won't be joking amongst themselves that they should make sure this work stoppage lasts at least until mid-August, so they don't have to go to training camp this year.

The real deadline is when the season itself is affected, and real games are canceled. Until then, neither side is going to truly feel the wrath from NFL fans. Their financial situations will have been affected, but not to the degree that will happen when regular season games are being missed. This is going to be a very long, drawn-out process.

And if the two sides come to an agreement next week, forget I said any of this.

Email: tmadden@wfaa.com

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