WASHINGTON -- Talks resumed this morning at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service amid a general air of pessimism; the NFL Network reported that the owners are prepared to make one more offer today toward resolving the deadlock on financial disclosure from the league, then shut down the process.
It's a little puzzling why, over the past day or two, both sides have suddenly seemed to be spoiling for a court fight that could paralyze the sport indefinitely. There is no ostensible reason why talks couldn't be extended indefinitely.
NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith arrived with a contingent nearly two dozen strong. Earlier, just about the entire owners' labor committee, minus New England's Bob Kraft, who is out of the country, pushed through the brass revolving doors you see in the background in every TV live shot.
Smith stopped to offer his thoughts and prayers to victims of the earthquakle and tsunami in Japan. Everyone involved in the talks has to realize that some unflattering juxtapositions are going to be made today, especially if these talks break down.
Ex-offensive lineman and current TV analyst Randy Cross tweeted today: "Can all of us really follow breathlessly along with this NFL/CBA idiocy with everything going on in the real world? Not accusing, just asking."
Saints quarterback Drew Breees, who will be among the high-profile players selected to sue the league under antristrust law if the union decertifies today, tried to explain his position to fans via Twitter: "To our fans – I give you my word that we as players are doing everything we can to negotiate with the NFL towards a fair deal. The NFL brought this fight to us – they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request. They refuse to give that information to us. They think we should just trust them. Would you? We have a responsibility to our players – past, present, and future, to advance this league forward, not take 3 steps back."
Eagles player rep Winston Justice previously weighed in, via Twitter.
Justice, voted as player rep by his teammates during the season, has not been among the group of players in Washington. He was heading back to his offseason home in Naples, Fla., after visiting Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola. Andrews performed the recent cleanout surgery on Justice's knee.
"I am looking forward to seeing the CBA outcome tomorrow," Justice wrote on Twitter last night.
"We are behind the NFLPA," said another.
The main thrust of Justice's concern, like most players, is the league's interest in an 18-game schedule.
"The only people who want 18 games are those that have never played ONE," Justice said. "Walk a Monday in our bodies.
"There is no 'new equipment' or 'fines' that can get my knee better. I'll spend all offseason rehabbing because of one game, one play really."
Justice was hurt in the early December win over the Texans and then was hampered the rest of the season, culminating in his being pulled late in the playoff loss against Green Bay.
As the union's Smith has pointed out the average NFL career is 3.4 years and "we lose 25 percent of our players every year."
Eagles president Joe Banner remains part of the league contingent at the talks.
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