Last week, a new front opened in the NFL labor battle as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith swapped letters. Goodell started with a letter to all players explaining the league's last-minute offer, hoping to plant the seeds of doubt among individual players. Smith responded with a letter of his own questioning the league's offer and commitment to good faith negotiations.
Smith sent another letter to the NFL today. In this letter, Smith reiterated the point he made on a Friday call with SBNation writers that the he and he and what's left of the NFLPA negotiating team can still negotiate a settlement to the players' antitrust suit as the players' class council...and that he was open to doing so.
And how did the league respond? NFL attourney Gregg Levy slapped it down like a Kyle Boller lob, stating that the NFL would only negotiate with a reconstituted players union. The NFLPA won't be getting back together any time soon. If they do, they'll lose the only leverage they have to sue the league and fight out the battle in court.
The NFL threw another potential wrinkle into the situation today filing a brief with the federal court and asking for a stay in the NFLPA case seeking a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout until the National Labor Relations Board issues a ruling on the NFL's claim that decertification is a "sham." Whether or not the court grants that stay remains to be seen. If it does, the lockout could go on even longer taking away the last best hope for playing football this season.
Another factor to consider here. The players will have to demonstrate "immediate and irreparable harm" in order for the judge to lift the lockout. It sounds like a slam dunk since players will not practice, play, etc. but as Albert Brandt points out the immediate part might be a tougher sell in April.
But wait, it gets better.
NFL VP and lead negotiator Jeff Pash briefed the media today from the NFL owners meeting in New Orleans. Besides the usual rhetoric you would expect, he also took the opportunity to drop a bomb. He said that the NFL has the right to use replacement players.