"If we can make the kind of progress that you needed to make to have a further extension, that's where we'd be looking." -- Jeff Pash, lead negotiator on behalf of the NFL owners
...and that's exactly what happened.
On the heels of a 24-hour extension of the current collective bargaining agreement, the NFL owners and players agreed to further extend the window during which they will negotiate under an active CBA by seven more days.
This was the latest cordial step in what has been some rapid fire fence-mending between two sides that seemed poised to kill the other in a war of public relations, each side answering one e-mail scud with a proportional press release response.
If labor peace is ultimately reached without a work stoppage, ample credit will be given to Commissioner Roger Goodell and the head of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith, but the fact of the matter is that there are two unsung heroes that have brought these two sides to the precipice of labor peace:
1. Judge David Doty, who issued the ruling earlier this week that the owners would not have access to the roughly $4 billion worth of television money for the 2011 season during the lockout, a dollar pool that would have given owners who are using machine guns to fight a bunch of knife-wielding players (figuratively, of course) a cash-flow nuclear bomb. Now there is a faction of owners who have stadium construction bills who will actually feel some semblance of a pinch. In other words, there is an increased sense of urgency on the owners' side.
2. Federal mediator George Cohen, who has been the neutral party in the room that both sides agreed to employ to facilitate discussion and prevent scenes like Jerry Richardson calling Peyton Manning an uneducated hayseed (not Richardson's exact words, but he may as well have said that). Cohen apparently is very good at his job, to the point where if he were a marriage counselor, I think I might still be married. In short, Cohen has been instrumental in making both sides realize that the solutions to the issues are pretty clear (and have been); just stop being such a group of bitches and fix the problems. (Probably not his exact words either, but that's how I'd phrase it.)
So both sides are still talking, there's movement on both sides (albeit slight movement) on things like dollars, 18-game schedules, rookie wage scales, and player benefits. The union is still intact and their decertification (and subsequent lawsuits from Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees....ellipses dots used for every NFL player in order of how good they are.....and finally Kareem Jackson) has been avoided for one more week.
Now, they better get something done soon, because the leader of the free world is not -- repeat, NOT -- getting involved.
President Barack Obama on the NFL labor situation, actual quote:
"We've got owners, most of whom are worth close to $1 billion, you've got players who are making millions of dollars," he told reporters. "My working assumption at a time when people are having to cut back, compromise, and worry about making the mortgage and, you know, paying for their kids' college education, is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the President of the United States intervening."
President Barack Obama on the NFL labor situation, fictional quote about the actual dilemma:
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"It's March, and I've hardly watched any college basketball this season. I really need this time to get ready to fill out my bracket. Andy Katz will be here in less than two weeks, I don't have time for football's labor situation. And hold all calls from Muammar Gaddafi, unless he has some insight on 5 versus 12 seeds that I'm unaware of. Can we win the White House pool this year? YES WE CAN!"
YES WE CAN!
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from noon to 3 p.m. and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.