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Union contingent arrives without Kessler

DeMaurice Smith

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith leaves the football labor negotiations, Friday, March 4, 2011, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

AP

The NFLPA negotiating team has arrived at the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, and the lawyer at the center of a growing storm of controversy and criticism isn’t with them.

Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that Jeffrey Kessler isn’t with the union contingent.

Reports emerged Sunday that, when Patriots owner Robert Kraft reportedly chewed out NFL outside counsel Bob Batterman last week, Kraft actually was referring to Kessler. Earlier today, we pointed out Kessler’s obvious conflict of interest. If the situation is resolved this week, Kessler faces reduced revenue and influence. If it all blows up and the union decertifies and launches a storm of litigation, Kessler becomes the de facto head of the union, especially with executive director DeMaurice Smith (pictured) necessarily out of the picture.

There’s one more intriguing point regarding Kessler. Regarding Jim Trotter’s report that a “player” entered the negotiating room last week and declared, “We’re done! We’re decertifying,” Judy Battista of the New York Times reports that the “player” was actually Kessler.

We’ve heard the same thing via our network of sources. This could be another Kraft-Batterman-Kessler matter of perception, or it could be that someone is putting out incorrect information, on one side or the other.

That said, Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal reports that Kessler says via e-mail that he had “other client commitments today that could not be changed.” First of all, we can’t imagine any more important commitment than being available for Monday’s mediation session. Second, with the two sides bargaining into the night, he can still show up. Third, if Kessler had been intentionally benched by the union, would anyone expect him to say so?

Either way, the parties are back for the first day of a week that could determine the future of the NFL, and the union’s primary outside counsel isn’t there. If it helps get a deal done, we won’t be complaining about that.