DALLAS (AP) — The NFL and its players’ union met for two hours Saturday to talk about a new labor deal, their first formal bargaining session in more than two months.
The meeting was at a Dallas hotel, one day before the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers play in the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium. The full negotiating teams last sat down face-to-face on Nov. 22.
The sides issued a joint statement, saying they “plan to increase the number, length and intensity” of bargaining sessions so they can reach agreement before the collective bargaining agreement expires March 4. Two more sessions already had been scheduled for next week.
The statement called Saturday’s session part of a “continuing effort to narrow the differences and reach a fair agreement that will benefit the players, teams and fans.”
There was no immediate indication of what sort of substantive progress — if any — was made during Saturday’s talks.
Spokesmen for the league and union declined to comment.
The union has said it expects owners to lock out players if a new CBA isn’t reached by early March. Among the major issues are how to divide about $9 billion in annual revenues; the owners’ push to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18 while reducing the preseason by two games; a rookie wage scale; and benefits for retired players.
During his annual Super Bowl news conference Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said it was imperative to reach an agreement before the CBA expires.
“I frequently have said that I think March 4 is a very critical date,” Goodell said. “A lot of different strategies will take place if we’re not successful in getting an agreement by that time.”
“We need to have intensive, round-the clock negotiations to address the issues and find solutions. I can assure you that I have that sense of urgency and I believe both sides do.”
The league estimates there would be a cut in gross revenues of $120 million without a new agreement by early March; $350 million if there’s no CBA by August, before the preseason starts; $1 billion if no new contract is in place until September. And if regular-season games are lost, the NFL figures the revenue losses would amount to about $400 million per week.
The old deal was agreed to in 2006 and could have been in place until 2012, but owners exercised an opt-out clause in 2008.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)