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Bucs Beat

Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

NFL, union agree to extend labor talks by 24 hours



TAMPA – The league that created rules to discourage stalemates has agreed to extend labor talks into overtime.

After meeting for more than eight hours with federal mediator George Cohen Thursday in Washington, D.C., NFL owners and the players association decided to extend the midnight expiration for the current collective bargaining agreement by 24 hours.

By stopping the clock during their 10th negotiating session before Cohen, the league avoided – temporarily at least – the first work stoppage in 24 years.

The NFL Player’s Association planned to file papers to decertify the union by 4 p.m. Thursday unless significant progress was made on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The league’s owners would have responded by locking out players by 12:01 a.m. Friday.

The purpose for decertifying the union would’ve been to permit players who were locked out to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL for unfair trade practices.

Rather than face months of legal scrimmages, with federal judges serving as referees to split the $9.3-million in revenue for the most popular sport in America, talks will continue.

Extending the deadline may be the most significant agreement the two sides have reached. The union still will have the option of decertifying if an impasse can't be broken.

The league and its players are thought to be far apart on how to divide revenue. The current CBA dictates that 59.5 percent of revenue go to player costs, after the first $1-billion goes to owners for costs associated with growing the game. But owners were insisting on another $1-billion in credits for construction of new stadiums and debt retirement.

Proposals for an 18-game season, rookie wage scale, retirement benefits and other issues remain unresolved.

If the CBA was allowed to expire without a new agreement, there will be no on-field action or communication between players currently in the NFL and employees of the teams. Players immediately lose all their insurance benefits. Team doctors will be allowed to monitor the progress of injured players, but not at the club's facility. There will be no free agency or trades. The NFL will hold its annual draft, but once those players are selected and have their introductory news conferences, they can have no negotiations or communication with the team that selected them.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to strictly enforce a league-imposed gag order on labor matters.

-- RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

[Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 5:46pm]


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