You could spin any development in regards to the NFL labor situation in a direction towards optimism or pessimism; that is just the way it works. Yesterday's breaking news is no different.
Apparently there is a resistance within the NFL as it relates to the ongoing labor talks with the players association. ESPN broke a story that cites "unnamed" sources from within the NFL that indicates there is a growing rift between a majority of owners and the more boisterous minority.
After the jump I will get into detail in regards to this situation and give you my opinion about what it means.
According to the ESPN article:
An internal battle is percolating at some of the highest NFL circles in which some owners are resisting the labor deal they've been trying to negotiate with the players, according to multiple sources.
Apparently a few owners have not been happy about the parameters of the CBA discussions. They have indicated this unhappiness to Roger Goodell over the course of the negotiations and decided to make their opinions known publicly through an unidentified source.
The resistance dates back to the 2006 CBA negotiations, in which some believed an agreement came too hastily and affected the long term health of the league.
The negotiations for an extension to the CBA in 2006 was extremely volatile and an agreement wasn't made until March of that year, right before free agency was set to begin. Progress in those talks were far and few between for months, but towards the end of February these talks to a turn for the better and an agreement was hammered out within weeks. Sound familiar?
Well, these owners that have issues with the way the CBA negotiations of 2011 have taken form still hold resentment towards the NFL's decision to give in to some important NFLPA demands. While it is true that hasty negotiations on a matter as important as a collective bargaining agreement can have negative long term affects, both in regards to the health of the league and the collective bargaining situation moving forward. I just wonder whose back pocket these "few" NFL owners are in. Do they represent the broader view of the league or just their financials?
Many of us assumed that there was going to be a rift from the players, not the owners. Roger Goodell attempted to seize on this possibility a couple months ago when speaking directly to the players in a "letter". Well, this didn't work too well for them. Not many of us believed that there was going to be a rift from within the league, but this now appears to be the case.
It is one of the primary reasons team officials are being prepped to stay an extra night in Chicago at Tuesday's owners' meetings. It's not to potentially vote on a new collective bargaining agreement, as many suspected; it actually is to try to fend off some of the resistance that is mounting, according to sources.
Resistance from what? Sitting down and negotiating with the players? I don't think that is the case. It is extremely likely that the two sides are much closer than most people on the outside think and these owners and dissenting in order to up the proverbial ante. A source from within the NFL believes that July 14th is the drop dead date for an agreement in order to have a full pre-season and training camp slate. Mounting pressures from within the ownership circles have caused them to rethink their strategy and these "few" owners do not like the direction the negotiations/agreement are taking.
The simple fact that the NFL and the NFLPA are having discussions about when to start free agency, what would happen with training camp etc... leads many to believe that a deal is imminent and these owners on the other side really don't have a leg to stand on.
24 of the 32 owners have to agree to a new collective bargaining agreement and I am pretty sure the other side doesn't have the 8 votes to hold up an agreement, so this meeting next week may be to tie up loose ends and get everyone on board. I am pretty sure that Mr. Goodell wants to show a united front once an agreement is made and when 5 or 6 of the owners are against said agreement it shows a certain level of weakness within the central leadership of the league. Instead, he has called this meeting in order to get them on board and move forward with a vote.
According to a person with knowledge of the negotiations, the faction of unhappy owners that exists isn't yet large enough to derail an agreement. That could lead to some heavy lobbying in Chicago at the first owners' meeting specifically scheduled to deal with the lockout.
In short, the NFL and the NFLPA have made significant strides over the course of the last couple weeks. Strides that many of us didn't believe was possible just last month. The quickness of the turnaround has caused some owners to question the validity of moving forward at such a fast pace. However, the majority of owners seem ready to come to a conclusion that will enable football to begin on time. The owners meeting set for next week will not only place into question the central leadership of Roger Goodell but they could lead to an ultimate conclusion to the labor issue or threaten to break apart the progress made over these last couple of weeks.
Either way, it is alarming that the league would have a rift this deep into negotiations when such a division wasn't made public until recently. This leads me to believe that the NFL and NFLPA have come to some sort of back room deal in regards to a new collective bargaining agreement and some owners are just not happy with it.
I guess we will hear more about this story as it develops, but I remain optimistic that an agreement will be made before next weekend. Call me overly optimistic, but I like that better than the alternative.