NEW YORK — Less than two weeks before some training camps are scheduled to open, the NFL remains in labor limbo, with only the lawyers for both sides meeting.
Attorneys met Monday in New York to clarify language from previous discussions, and will do so again today. Originally, owners and players were to get together for more negotiations Tuesday, but now won't do so before Wednesday.
Several issues are close to resolution, the most significant being the split of total revenues between owners and players.
But snags involving a rookie wage scale, free agency rules and benefits for retired players have slowed the process. While the league's negotiators hope they can present a new collective bargaining agreement to all the owners at their July 21 meeting in Atlanta, not striking a deal before then figures to cause postponement of the start of training camps, and probably cancellation of the Hall of Fame game Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio.
The St. Louis Rams and Chicago Bears are set to play in that game, and both teams planned to open training camp at the end of next week.
The NFL would need about a week to get the new deal ratified and in place, meaning teams couldn't start signing free agents or draftees, make trades or begin workouts until the end of the month. That would jeopardize the first weekend of exhibition games, Aug. 11-15, at a cost of upward of $60 million in overall revenues.
Commissioner Roger Goodell and several owners will negotiate with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and members of the players' executive board later this week. Extensive negotiations last Thursday and Friday seemed promising, but the parties were unable to close the gap on the rookie wage scale — a subject that wasn't nearly as contentious in earlier sessions.
At issue is how many first-round picks would fall under the wage scale, and the length of contracts teams could offer those rookies. The savings on salaries were supposed to go to veteran players and toward retirees' benefits.
Some player agents, particularly those who often represent high draft picks, have opposed a rookie wage scale, saying it eventually would limit earning power for all players.
One proposal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations, would limit the top overall pick to about $7 million a year for five years, with the option to renegotiate after the third year. Sam Bradford signed with St. Louis in 2010 for $78 million over six years, including a record $50 million in guaranteed money. Under that system, this year's first selection, Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, would have exceeded those numbers.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the negotiations are supposed to be private, said minimum salaries for players in their first four years would increase from 17 percent in their first year to 12 percent in their fourth year.
The players insist that unrestricted free agency begin after four seasons, as it did before 2010 when there was a salary cap. Owners, naturally, prefer the six-year minimum in place in 2010 (without a salary cap), and also would like more than the one right-of-first-refusal transition tag they had under the previous CBA.
Each side remains divided on how a "legacy fund" for retired players would be financed, as well.
This week's talks will be held without Judge Arthur Boylan, the court-appointed mediator who is on vacation. He has ordered both sides to be in his court in Minneapolis on July 19 to continue negotiations while hoping a deal gets done before he returns.
Should negotiations last beyond July 19 — or the owners' meeting two days later — that could lead to even deeper cuts in the preseason.
Police: Steelers' Ward failed field sobriety test — Police say Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward had glassy, bloodshot eyes and failed field sobriety tests during a traffic stop in Atlanta that landed him a drunken driving charge.
The police report says a transit officer pulled Ward over around 2:30 a.m. Saturday after he failed to maintain his lane and hit a curb. The transit officer called a DeKalb County police officer who administered a series of field sobriety tests.
The former Super Bowl MVP and reigning "Dancing With the Stars" champ is set to appear Oct. 6 in court. He faces a misdemeanor driving under the influence charge, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Atlanta lawyer Andrew Ree says the 35-year-old was not impaired by alcohol while driving and cooperated fully with police.