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Jeff Pash, De Smith spar over commitment to negotiation

NFL Lockout Looms As Negotiations Reach Final Day

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 09: Jeff Pash, NFL executive vice president and general council talks with reporters outside the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building following meetings for extended labor negotiations March 9, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) continue to negotiate a labor dispute during a 7 day extension of talks.(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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Well, we can only wonder how much information the two sides in the NFL’s labor fight would be feeding to the media if there wasn’t a media blackout.

As time runs out on the one-week extension, a dispute has emerged regarding the question of whether the union truly wants to do a deal.

Per Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network, Pash told the media after Thursday’s session, “I don’t know if both sides have an equal commitment” to working out a deal. Pash was referring, undoubtedly, to the perception by the league that the union wants to push this matter to litigation in the hopes of getting a better deal in the courts, not at the bargaining table.

Smith disputed the notion that the players aren’t committed to the process, and he then pointed to evidence from the “lockout insurance” case proving that the league wanted to ensure ongoing cash payments from the networks during a lockout. (The video is embedded in the link.)

But a lockout hasn’t started yet, and based on everything we’ve seen and heard, we firmly believe the league wants to do a deal. Sure, the league wants the deal to be done on its terms or something close to them, but the league wants to do a deal.

The question is whether the NFLPA wants to do a deal before launching the litigation option. The league currently thinks they don’t. And there’s some evidence that would support the league’s suspicions; on Wednesday night, for example, De Smith characterized the gap between the two sides as $800 million per year, even though it was already under $700 million.

It doesn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong. If the two sides want to do a deal, now is the time to show their commitment.