Ted Phillips says draft prep to continue

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kept out of the public eye as talks continued between the NFL and NFLPA regarding a new collective bargaining agreement.

But the club weighed in Saturday morning, a day after the union decided to decertify and hours after the NFL's 32 teams locked out the players.

"We're disappointed in the need to take this step, but it is necessary for the long-term health of our league," Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips said. "Ultimately, we believe an agreement will be reached at the bargaining table. As an individual club, our team focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season, and we want Bears fans to know we are going to continue to do everything we can within the league rules to prepare for a championship season."

For now, there's not much the team can do toward that goal. With the lockout, players are barred from team facilities, coaches can't make contact with them, and no players can be signed.

Still, Phillips pointed out the team's next immediate step: the NFL draft in April, and evaluations of the players remaining on the roster.

"We will be ready to take advantage of all avenues to improve our team once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached," Phillips said.

It's unclear when that will be, considering the fight now goes to the courtroom because of the union's decertification.

The NFL accused the NFLPA, essentially, of not bargaining in good faith because of its decision to forgo further mediation and the move to decertify.

The NFLPA, meanwhile, continues to ask for financial transparency from the league.

"The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached," the NFL said in a statement. "The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table."

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.