League, players agree to extend CBA deadline seven days

The NFL Players Association and the league have agreed upon a seven-day extension of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement, one day after the sides agreed to a 24-hour extension of the expiration of the current CBA.

Negotiations are set to resume Monday, with the sides taking the weekend off. The seven-day clock will not stop over the weekend, meaning both parties will have five more days of negotiations, beginning Monday and lasting through Friday, March 11.

The NFLPA informed the league during Thursday’s bargaining session that it would begin the decertification process on Friday, according to sources, unless the league agreed to a 10-day extension of the talks. The sides have compromised on seven days, during which they will continue mediator George H. Cohen’s request not to publicly discuss details of the mediation.

The extension allows both sides the weekend to determine strategy and decide who should join the negotiating sessions for the final week with Cohen in Washington.

During Friday’s one-day extension, teams were instructed to operate as if the CBA has expired, meaning they no longer can cut, re-sign players or make any player moves until a new CBA is bargained. The terms will remain the same under the new seven-day extension.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters Friday that the existing differences between the league and union are best addressed through continued communication.

“This is going to get resolved through negotiations, not through litigations,” Goodell said. “So, talking is better than litigating.”

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Added Goodell: “We’re going to continue to work as hard as we can. I promise.”

Lead NFL negotiator Jeff Pash credited Cohen and his team for bringing structure, discipline and a seriousness of purpose to the labor discussions.

“There’s been tremendous amount of discussion,” Pash said. “It’s time for us really to dig deep and try to find solutions and try to be creative and try to compromise in a way that will work for everybody.

“If both sides give a little, everyone can gain a lot. And that’s what we have to try to do next week. It’s a challenge. We’ve got very serious issues, we’ve got significant differences, but we are committed to collective bargaining.”

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith noted both sides had committed to giving the talks a chance to move ahead.

“We look forward to a deal coming out of that,” he said.

Smith was cautious when describing the tenor of the talks. Asked if he thinks the league has been negotiating in good faith, he said, “When you say something about trust or when you raise issues about things like confidence, none of those things are repaired quickly.”

Reaction from around the league was swift and mildly upbeat.

“It’s good they’re talking. … I don’t know exactly what’s being done or what’s being said or why it’s being extended, but at least they’re talking,” said Ravens safety Tom Zbikowski.

“Whether it’s done by next week, I’m not sure about that,” he said, “but at least it’s moving.”

Added player agent Ralph Cindrich: “Any time you have an extension in a negotiating process, it is positive. All the more so now because there is a mediator involved.”

Friday’s 24-hour extension was, in essence, to allow Goodell and the league’s lawyers sufficient time to determine if the owners were willing to push the deadline back and “stop the clock” on the collective bargaining agreement for a longer period of time.

Each side met separately with Cohen on Friday at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

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League representatives were first to arrive to discuss the terms of an extension.

Smith and Kansas City Chiefs guard Brian Waters arrived about two hours later for their own two-hour session. Smith left the building at 1 p.m. ET and refused to answer questions.

“We want to continue to thank our fans for still being patient as we work through this,” Smith said.

A union source told NFL Network’s Albert Breer on Friday that “we’ve made more real activity in the last 24-48 hours than we did in two years.” A second union source acknowledged the forward motion, but emphasized that major issues remain in the negotiation.