A week ago, something positive happened: the NFL and NFLPA agreed to pull up some chairs and sit in the same room together again, but this time they did it with the aid of a mediator. George Cohen of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service acted as a referee of sorts, building some momentum as the lockout train continued to steam towards its final stop on March 4.
There was a pledge of silence, and that was golden. It made anyone not named Charlie Batch tip-toe around Washington for seven days, keeping all of their beans sealed in an air-tight jar. They even ploughed ahead through President’s Day, and there were reports of some kind of significant breakthrough, reports that were promptly denied.
The talks concluded Thursday morning and will resume on March 1, with the two sides looking to continue their search for common ground to feverishly pound out a new CBA before the clock strikes midnight next Thursday. Cohen issued a statement, saying progress was indeed made during the week of negotiating, but “very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties.”
Over the weekend the union and the league will re-asses their positions on these key sticking points, and (hopefully) come back to the table on Tuesday with some fresh ideas.
Here’s the full text of Cohen’s statement:
One week ago, the National Football League and the National Football League Players Association accepted the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service’s invitation to conduct their continuing negotiations under my auspices, together with Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh. Because of the number and importance of the unresolved issues, I recommended and the parties agreed to a bargaining schedule commencing last Friday and continuing for seven consecutive days, through today.
Our time together has been devoted to establishing an atmosphere conducive to meaningful negotiations and, of course, matters of process and substance. I can report that throughout this extensive period the parties engaged in highly focused, constructive dialogue concerning a host of issues covering both economics and player-related conditions. The tenor of the across-the-table discussions reflected a noteworthy level of mutual respect even in the face of strongly held competing positions. The parties met both in full committee and in subcommittees where discrete, technical issues lent themselves to smaller groups.
At bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences remain on the all-important core issues that separate the parties. Nonetheless, I recommended and the parties have agreed to resume the mediation process in my office commencing next Tuesday (March 1). During the intervening weekend, the parties have been asked by us to assess their current positions on those outstanding issues.
I have shared the terms of this release with the parties, and they have authorized me to represent that it accurately reflects the course of mediation to date. Due to the extraordinary sensitivity of these ongoing negotiations, the FMCS will refrain from any public comment while the mediation process continues and, further, I have requested and the parties have agreed to do likewise.