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Decision Day part II: hoping for part III?

1 day extension may turn to longer Andrew Brandt

Print This March 04, 2011, 11:01 AM EST

After two years of sporadic and inconsistent negotiations between the NFL and the NFLPA, Decision Day has come and gone leaving us with....Decision Day II. The parties have agreed to have a groundhog day and replay the stakes of having the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) end and all the machinations that go along with it. So here we are watching the clock once again. Here are some thoughts about the 24-hour extension:

PR matters

Do not underestimate the value of public relations in this latest move. It was ownership, not the players, that extended the olive branch to keep things alive for another day. It was the owners, not the players, that made a move to stave off decertification, albeit perhaps only for a day.

Now, the shoe is on the other foot.  It is the players' requesting a second extension, not the owners.  

Had the NFLPA rejected the offer to keep hope alive for another day and gone ahead and decertified, the owners could point the public relations finger at them for the lost offseason and/or season. The NFL could say to the public, in essence: "We tried to get something done but they wouldn't even extend the talks one more day; instead they ran to the judge, decertified and are costing us all football!"

While the union's "Let us Play" campaign over the past few months has sought the hearts and minds of the fans, they would have lost any goodwill of the fan base had they been painted as the ones that turned down an offer to continue to negotiate.  Now it is the owners that must accept the next offer to extend the deadline or they will be long-known as the side that wouldn't do everything possible to keep football alive.

Tom BradyICONBrady would be lead plaintiff in class action lawsuit.

Nuclear option

The owners have some fear about the decertification strategy. The union is threatening to dissolve as a union and file a class action lawsuit against the NFL with name plaintiffs such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Logan Mankins and others. Beyond whatever feelings the owners have about their chances for success in the courtroom, they do not want to be litigating against their own players, especially these A-listers. The decertification option represents some leverage for the players in a negotiation where they do not have much.

Cohen's role

The hero of the one-day extension is the same person who could be a hero of the negotiation at some point: mediator George Cohen. He has taken these two groups of negotiators that weren't even on speaking terms three weeks ago and fostered some progress. Cohen has triangulated the meetings with the owners in one room, the players in another, and working groups meeting about the issues at hand.

Cohen has taken emotion out of the process and focused the parties on finding common ground. And now today has Cohen meeting separately with both parties asking each side "Can you live with this?" in trying to lay the groundwork for more talks.

Extension part II?

The extension is a bridge to another extension. I remember the negotiations in 2006 when I was with the Packers trying to start contacting free agents but was constantly placed on hold for multiple extensions of the deadline.

We all know that a negotiated CBA is not a realistic option for today, but if there is another extension -- a longer time frame of 7-10 days -- then hope truly floats for a CBA before the decertification/lockout tactics kick back any optimism. My sense is that another extension is a realistic result of this one-day extension, which makes the one-day extension more meaningful than at present.

What about Bob

One person who is on the spot a bit now is the NFL attorney Bob Batterman. Batterman has been aggressive in his legal strategies that he has recommended to management and he may be suffering some backlash. This week's defeat at the hands of the union on the television lockout funding case was a blow. Not only did the owners lose access to $4 billion of funds during a potential work stoppage, they were heartily embarrassed by testimony coming out about their heavy-handed tactics with the networks in negotiation of these deals. Batterman may be a scapegoat for that case. It will be interesting to see his role in the coming days and weeks.

Here we go again. Same D-Day, same four options: (1) a new CBA (not likely); (2) decertification (could happen), (3) a lockout (could happen), and (4) another extension of the deadline, which is now a truly realistic possibility.

24 hours ago, very few people agreed with me that a lockout was not necessarily inevitable. Let's see what this day brings. Hope floats.

Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.

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