NFL Labor Update: 18-Game Season Off The Table, Deal Very Close

Last night in NYC, the major parties involved in the NFL's labor dispute met for 12.5 hours, working feverishly to iron out an agreement in principle for a new NFL labor collective bargaining agreement. The people involved in last night's negotiations included Giants owner John Mara, Cowboys overlord Jerry Jones, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, union president DeMaurice Smith, and players rep (and Colts center) Jeff Saturday, just to name a few.

Things aren't finalized yet, but a new CBA seems very close to getting completed.

From the looks of things, the key issue of splitting the revenues has been, mostly, agreed upon with the players getting somewhere between 46-48 percent (which is what they wanted). Last night on ESPN's SportsCenter, Sal Paolantonio was reporting that the key issue holding up an agreement was free agency. The owners are requesting some sort of 'right of first refusal' with several unsigned free agents, or players who will become free agents when the new CBA is signed.

The players are digging in and saying no, and I don't blame them.

Many of these soon-to-be-free-agents, like Joseph Addai, deserve to hit the open market and get paid. If teams wanted to keep these guys, they should have signed them to contracts before the lockout.

The push to get the framework of a deal down by the end of the day today is motivated by the fact that Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, the man mediating these negotiations, is going on vacation this Saturday. Boylan has been instrumental in getting both sides to sit down and talk out issues. If a deal isn't reached before he leaves the country, this stupid lockout could drag out into the preseason.

One issue that was, at one time, considered a key element of a new CBA was the prospect of an 18-game season. The 18-game season was considered so critical for the owners that at one time last season one of their mouthpieces, Colts then-president Bill Polian, said on the radio back in September 2010 that an 18-game season was 'fait accompli' and that the debate on the issue was over.

Today, John Clayton is reporting that the 18-game proposal is off the table. The owners are no longer demanding for it. So much for 'fait accompli', huh Bill?

Personally, I'm very happy there is no more serious talk of an 18-game season. Personally, I agree with Bill Polian in that the preseason is vital in determining a team's roster. Fans and season ticket holders might not like it because they have to pay full price to see these supposedly 'worthless' games, and I think there's a legitimate gripe with that. The best thing to do is to discount the price of the games, or make them free to season ticket holders. Of course, the NFL is not going to do that. They'd lose hundreds of millions of dollars. And adding two more games to the regular season simply isn't an option because 1) Most fans don't want it, and 2) Most players don't want it.

Seriously, the owners cannot be yapping about 'player safety' one minute and then advocating an 18-game season the next. If any still are, have them sit down and have a chat with John Mackey's widow, Silvia.

When all is said and done, the four-game pre-season is a necessary evil, and season ticket holders just need to deal with it. If they don't like it, then give up the season tickets.

Back to the labor negotiations, talks will resume today in NYC and, hopefully, by the end of the day we'll hear an agreement-in-principle was reached.

Stay tuned...

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