Union makes deadline demand for books
The NFL Players Association, presented with a proposal from the league's owners group in a federal mediation session late Friday afternoon as a 5 p.m. decertification deadline approached, has rejected the offer as "significant differences" remained, union chief DeMaurice Smith said.
Smith said 10 years of audited financial records must accompany any request from the owners for an extension before the deadline .
The owners' group convened among themselves late Friday afternoon to discuss the next steps, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
As the sides continued to negotiate in Washington, Smith told players during a conference call earlier in the day the plan was to decertify, a source told Schefter.
But the deadline left the union's group time to alter its stance or change its thinking as the sides met at a federal mediator's office for a 16th day of talks.
The league's collective bargaining agreement was set to expire at the end of the day.
Decertification, which effectively disbands the NFLPA, would give the union the chance to sue under antitrust laws if there is a lockout. Without decertification, the union would have to wait six months to file a suit after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
Brees was among a group of about 20 people, including Smith, who walked over from the union's nearby headquarters. Brees and Smith were flanked by several other current or former players.
"To our fans -- I give you my word that we as players are doing everything we can to negotiate with the NFL towards a fair deal," Brees tweeted before the start of Friday's meetings. "The NFL brought this fight to us -- they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and nine of the 10 members of the owners' labor committee, along with various league executives and lawyers, also arrived as talks resumed at 10 a.m. ET.
The NFL has said the union was offered unprecedented financial data, including some the league doesn't share with clubs. The league thought it was the first step in the beginning of financial transparency, but it was not transparent enough for the NFLPA.
"They refuse to give that information to us. They think we should just trust them. Would you?" tweeted Brees, who joined talks for the first time Wednesday. "We have a responsibility to our players -- past, present, and future, to advance this league forward, not take 3 steps back."
Smith was to provide players with an update at 2 p.m. ET Friday.
"We're going to head inside today, try to get some work done," Smith said.
Said lead NFL negotiator Jeff Pash: "We'll do our best."
Though there were small-group talks between NFL and union representatives Thursday, no one gave any indication that progress was made. The CBA originally was supposed to expire last week. The sides agreed to push that deadline to Friday; if a deal isn't reached, there could be another extension.
The owners conducted a 90-minute conference call Thursday afternoon in which Pash debriefed them on what has happened since the owners met last Wednesday in Virginia, a league source told Schefter.
The source said it was a matter-of-fact conference call, with owners in complete agreement about the direction in which they are headed.
The message to Pash and Goodell at the end of the call was, "Do what you have to do and we support you," according to the source.
What sounded more likely, given Thursday's tone, was that talks could break off, leading to a lockout by owners or decertification by the union, followed by antitrust lawsuits by players -- actions that could threaten the 2011 season.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.