America's favorite sport is still in business - for another day.
The NFL and the players’ union decided Thursday to keep the current collective bargaining agreement in place for an additional 24 hours so that negotiations can continue.
“The parties have agreed to a one-day extension,” federal mediator George Cohen said in a one-sentence statement after the sides met with him for about eight hours. The CBA was set to expire at midnight, which would likely have prompted the first work stoppage since 1987 for a league that rakes in $9 billion a year.
“For all our fans who dig our game, we appreciate your patience as we work through this,” union executive director DeMaurice Smith said as he emerged from the talks. “We are going to keep working. We want to play football.”
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Said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as he left: “We are working as hard as we can.”
Allowing the CBA to expire could put the two sides on the road to a year without football, even though opening kickoff of the 2011 season is still six months away. The labor unrest comes as the NFL is at the height of its popularity, breaking records for TV ratings: This year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched program in U.S. history.
If the CBA expires, the owners could lock out the players, and the union could decertify to try and prevent that through the courts — something the NFLPA did in 1989. It formed again in 1993.
NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said the sides had “good discussions and exchanges,” and “we’re going to be back here (Friday) morning.”
A person with knowledge of the talks said the 24-hour extension was an opportunity to decide whether there would be a willingness to extend negotiations further.
The person said the sides were apart on economics, but agreed on other topics. The person would not say what the two sides do agree on.
Another person familiar with the negotiations said the two sides were not expected to resume face-to-face bargaining today.
Instead they’ll meet separately with Cohen to hash out whether to prolong the extension — and if so, for how many days.
Washington Redskins player representative Vonnie Holliday cautioned that the two sides are “still apart” on a pact to replace the current CBA.
SEATTLE RELEASES QB DAVIS, TE BAKER
The Seattle Seahawks released veteran tight end Chris Baker and quarterback Nate Davis, who was signed to a futures contract less than two months ago.
Baker played one season with the Seahawks but appeared in all 16 regular-season games.
The Raiders are letting offensive lineman Robert Gallery leave as a free agent after seven years with the team. ... Pro Bowl tight end Owen Daniels agreed to a new contract with the Houston Texans. ... New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis says running back Pierre Thomas agreed to a four-year contract with the club. ... The Carolina Panthers found a potential boost for the NFL’s worst offense by signing four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey to a one-year deal. ... Linebacker A.J. Hawk signed a five-year deal with the Packers just one day after he was released in a cost-cutting move. ... The Denver Broncos continued revamping their roster by releasing veteran defensive linemen Justin Bannan and Jamal Williams. ... The Chicago Bears restructured Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers’ contract to create more salary-cap room for next season. ... Free agent safety O.J. Atogwe signed a five-year, $26 million contract with the Redskins.