Players chief DeMaurice Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell lunched together with a federal mediator Tuesday in Minneapolis as the rest of the league dined on hope that the two-month old labor dispute is going to end at least before training camps open in late July and the preseason begins Aug. 8.
While the NFL said there is progress in the two-month old labor dispute, it looks like there is going to be a lockout until at least June 3, the date of the hearing when the decision to end the lockout is going to be appealed.
But another federal mediation session has been scheduled for June 7 even though most observers believe the owners are going to win the appeal in the wake of Monday's decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis that stayed the lockout until it hears the case June 3. And according to reports the league did make some more proposals to the players for a new collective bargaining agreement.
NFL.com's Albert Breer summarized where the league and players stand in a Tuesday post.
"The ruling makes it a certainty that the NFL will refuse to enter litigation settlement talks, which backs the players into a corner. Engaging in collective bargaining, which the owners favor, would constitute union activity, make the NFLPA's decertification invalid, and finish the players' lawsuit. The players are unlikely to surrender that leverage yet, so the mediation in Minnesota is one forum where they are protected against the argument that their decertification is a 'sham,' and the lawsuit is therefore baseless."
Which appears to explain why nothing gets done until June 3. But NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash expressed optimism as his contingent headed back to New York. Bengals president Mike Brown, three other owners, and Goodell were also at the mediation talks.
"We had a good discussion today," Pash told ESPN. "I've said it many times; the only way we're going to get this accomplished is face-to-face dialogue and really digging into the issues and I think we had a good step in that direction today. And I hope that we'll continue, confident it's going to continue and we'll be back early next month to continue that process."
The belief has been that the side that loses the June 3 hearing is going to be forced to the bargaining table. Plus, federal judge David Doty is expected to render a ruling next week that could give the players nearly $1 billion in the lockout insurance case, another event that could initiate a settlement.
But, as usual, when the smoke cleared Tuesday night there were differing takes all over the landscape. Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated tweeted that a player's source indicated there won't be a quick end to the lockout.
"i don't understand it. the proposal they offered (this week) was worse than the one in march," the player said, according to Trotter.
He also tweeted "the summary statement sought a rookie wage scale that was more restrictive than what was proposed in march."
» Tuesday marked the 28th birthday of the late Chris Henry and his Bengals teammates remembered him on Twitter through tweets and retweets. Wide receiver Quan Cosby offered, " HAPPY BIRTHDAY SLIM! STILL CAN'T BELIEVE U R GONE #15 ALWAYS NEVER FORGOTTEN!" and middle linebacker Dhani Jones came up with "today is slims 28 bday. Spread the word!! Rip. #15."
And wide receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted a pic of No. 85 and No. 15 celebrating with a chest bump: "Happy Birthday Slim R.I.P 85 15=100 ways to be great."
» We remember Slim with one of those what-might-have-been stats. In his brief career he was one of the most potent scorers the Bengals ever had with 21 TDs in 55 games. No one may ever approach what wide receiver Isaac Curtis did with the Bengals when he scored his 21th touchdown in his 30th NFL game, but Henry had numbers to compare with the franchise's best.
Henry reached 21 TDs quicker than Chad Ochocinco (56 games), Cris Collinsworth (57), and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (73). Eddie Brown had 21 TDs in his first 51 games and Carl Pickens in his first 47.
» Speaking of The Ocho, some people have been saying that his play has dipped enough that he won't get much action if the Bengals do indeed let him go to free agency. Certainly on NFL.com.
Former NFL GM Michael Lombardi says The Ocho has declined ever since he began venturing heavily into off-field opportunities in 2008 and Pat Kirwan said there is a limited market for on-the-decline wide receivers, especially one who is as high-maintenance as Ochocinco. "There might not be five interested teams, in all reality, particularly if Ochocinco is intent on earning the kind of money ($6 million) he is slated to make with the Bengals in 2011," Jason La Canfora writes.
It seems The Ocho has been rumored to be with every team this upcoming season but the Bengals. The latest two to surface are the Patriots and the Falcons, but Atlanta doesn't seem to be a fit with former Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski now the quarterbacks coach. La Canfora's top four landing spots are headed by Oakland, a better fit with the Raiders new head coach Hue Jackson, the position coach under which The Ocho had his most success.
Also listed are Seattle, Washington and Chicago. Questions abound there, too. Although the Redskins were reportedly willing to trade for him three years ago, would they go for another aging receiver if Santana Moss leaves? The Ocho doesn't seem to fit the fast, shifty style favored by Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz and would Pete Carroll of the Seahawks opt for him if he is indeed interested in Carson Palmer, as has been reported?