WASHINGTON — The tension and stakes rose in the NFL labor talks with only a day left before the twice-extended collective bargaining agreement expires.
With the owners and players far apart on economic issues (and union leader DeMaurice Smith indicating the players won't accept an 18-game season), nine of the 10 members of the owners' labor committee joined commissioner Roger Goodell on Thursday at the office of the federal mediator overseeing the talks.
Even though there were small-group talks involving union representatives, no one gave any indication progress was made.
The Washington Post reported a settlement by today appeared highly unlikely and the mediator, George Cohen, might have difficulty even convincing the sides that a third extension of the current deal is warranted.
A third postponement could be lengthy if the sides agreed to terms under which the league disclosed additional financial information. But there was little or no movement on that issue a day after the union rejected an offer of limited disclosure.
Because of court notification deadlines, the union must decertify itself by this afternoon even though the agreement has been extended to 11:59 tonight.
Decertification, or dissolving the union, would let players file antitrust litigation against the owners. The players also would likely seek an injunction in the Minneapolis court of U.S. District Judge David Doty, perhaps as soon as today, to prevent owners from locking them out Saturday.
Thursday's harshest words came during a series of back-and-forth barbs sparked by comments by Jeff Pash, the owners' general counsel and lead negotiator.
"Things can come together quickly. Things can fall apart quickly," he said. "I've said it many times: If both sides have an equal commitment to getting this deal done, it will get done. I don't know if both sides have an equal commitment. Obviously, we have the commitment."
Union spokesman George Atallah responded with an e-mail to the Associated Press: "Jeff Pash was part of an executive team that sold the networks a $4 billion ticket to a game they knew wouldn't be played. The only thing they've been committed to is a lockout."
That was a reference to Doty's ruling last week that sided with the players in their case accusing owners of improperly negotiating TV deals to prepare for a lockout.
Smith added to the sentiment.
"We have been committed to this process. But for anyone to stand and turn to the American people and say they question that?" he said. "Look, I understand that there's probably some things Jeff Pash just has to say. But this is the truth: We know that as early as March of 2009, the National Football League engaged in a strategy to get $4 billion of television money … even if the games weren't played."
That drew a tweet from league spokesman Greg Aiello: "When is union going to respond to our 150 pages of draft CBA provisions that they received eight days ago. Waiting."
Sears uncooperative, so hearing waived
TAMPA — A court hearing for former Bucs offensive lineman Arron Sears was waived after jail deputies had difficulty transporting him to the Hillsborough County Courthouse.
Sears was uncooperative after arriving by bus from Falkenburg Road Jail, and deputies opted to return him to the jail. Judge Kimberly Fernandez set April 6 as the next hearing date.
Sears faces a felony charge of battery on a police officer stemming from a visit to Tampa General Hospital in June under the Baker Act. The law allows authorities to take into custody people who are deemed to be a possible danger to themselves or others. Sears has been in custody since last month after his second failure to appear for a court hearing.
Sears, 26, was a second-round pick of the Bucs in 2007 and immediately became a starter at left guard, where he played two seasons. But during offseason workouts leading up to the 2009 season, the Bucs began noticing irregular behavior. He took a leave of absence from the team and ultimately was released.
Patriots: Police in Orlando want to talk to safety Brandon Meriweather about a shooting outside a bar. The former University of Miami standout was at the shooting in the early morning hours of Feb. 28 in Apopka, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said. It added Quentin Taylor was shot in the face and Nico Stanley was grazed by a bullet. An interview with Meriweather hasn't been scheduled, and no charges have been filed.
Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.