Whether or not you attach a positive, negative or no symbolic meaning to it, NFL owners and player late into the night, and vowed to pick up the meetings this morning at 8 a.m. It's hard not to see that as progress, but according to the definitive account of where things stand in settlement talks that would end the NFL lockout, things are perilously close to disintegrating completely. Mike Silver's report on the talks paints a bleak picture of talks gone bad and the deep-seeded mistrust between the two sides cropping up again.
A quick overview of things after the jump.
This is by far the biggest issue on the table, and one that appeared to be resolved, at least that's what the players thought. It was understood that the two sides had reached a "verbal handshake" a few week back on the 48-52 percent split of total revenues. Silver now says that owners, late in the fourth quarter, are trying to slip in expense credits that would change the split to 45 percent, according to players. It looks awfully greedy on the part of owners, if true, to walk back from an informal agreement. This is the issue around which all the bad blood originates, and could derail the talks faster than anything else.
Owners also wanted the "legacy fund" to benefit retired players to come out of the salary cap, putting players on the hook, not owners, for retired players. In truth, both players and owners should share the expense for this, since current players will one day retire and owners have financially gained from their labor.
Per Silver, owners wanted to hang on to the possibility of adding two games to the regular season by 2014. Bad idea.
Owners weren't exactly pleased with actions on the part of players, especially their attorneys, naturally. Their beefs included:
Owners say expense credits were part of the deal all along. Particularly absurd, if true, is the suggestion that players wanted to include money from concerts and other non-NFL events at the stadiums in the pot of gold to be shared.
Perhaps even more ridiculous is the report that players want sales taxes included in the revenue sharing formula. Taxes, in case you forgot, are not part of revenue. They're an investment made that help cities and states and the feds pay for things like the infrastructure around those stadiums which help feed overall profits.
Pissing everyone off are the lawyers. Surprise, surprise. You'll notice a direct correlation in the downturn of talks with the reinsertion of the lawyers into the negotiating room. Players say that NFL counsel Peter Rucco is playing shell games with the revenue split. Owners say that Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn have been a divisive presence, as reported by PFT earlier this week.
There's a lot more to it, as you might imagine, so go and read Silver's piece at Yahoo. Talks continue today, and that both sides spent more than 15 hours working yesterday is a good sign. The sudden unity of convenience between Roger Goodall and DeMaurice Smith could be a positive, both riding herd on their wayward parties, keeping them focues and driving toward a deal.
Whether or not a deal comes today remains to be seen. I have a giant yellow streak down the middle of my back when it comes to gambling, so it goes without saying that I wouldn't bet on anything. The bigger tell, in my opinion, will be whether or not the two sides continue talking through the holiday weekend. If they are willing to surrender some holiday time, it at least means they are committed to doing everything they can to make a deal. If they break up an go home this evening with no deal in place, it could well mean that they're too far apart to give up a long weekend.