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Union not optimistic for labor deal, talks to resume


Talks between the NFL and its union broke off Saturday with no progress, although the sides agreed to meet again Sunday.


"No progress has been made, but we expect more discussions to take place before Sunday night," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

While the NFL's labor negotiations started off well Saturday, with the sides meeting for five hours, by the end of the day neither faction had cause for optimism.


Sources told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the management negotiating team is not overly optimistic at this point. One source characterized it as having "less than a 50 percent chance of getting it done."

Both sides apparently have a lot of concern about the revenue-sharing model.


Union lawyer Jeffrey Kessler, a lead negotiator for the NFLPA, said that the talks "are as dead as a doornail."

Kessler told ESPN that this is "a sad day for the NFL."

Kessler said that executive director of the NFL Players Association Gene Upshaw is on his way back to Washington, D.C.

The talks that took place today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. concluded "because the NFL is unwilling to compromise," Kessler said.

Representatives from teams withheld
comment, waiting to see if an agreement could be reached by
midnight Sunday to avert what could be mass cuts of veterans to get
under a salary cap that will be about $10 million less than
anticipated.

Earlier in the week, negotiations broke off and the league set
the salary cap for free agency at $94.5 million. Teams with a
salary load far higher than that had anticipated an agreement that
could have given them extra room to keep veterans.


A high-level source with one NFL team told ESPN.com the league has informed teams that any player placed on waivers during this period of uncertainty can be recalled from waivers until there is more clarity about the pending free-agency period.

Upshaw said after the earlier talks broke off that the NFL was offering
56.2 percent of its total revenues to the players. Upshaw has said
he will not go under 60 percent.


In Friday's negotiations, sources told Mortensen that the owners narrowed the gap on the percentage that players are demanding with a CBA extension. Management raised the ante by two points, offering players a 58.2 percent cut of the revenue pie. The union has been set at a 60.3 percentage, but could compromise depending on the revenue sharing model.

Upshaw denied that the owners had raised the percentage by two points. Upshaw said the offer was 56.5 percent.

"They want a bigger piece of the pie [than they had under the current deal], and I am heading back to Washington," Upshaw told Mortensen.

Asked for his thoughts on the NFL management negotiating team having a conference call with the owners' executive committee to discuss the situation, Upshaw said: "We see no need to continue because they are offering a lower deal than we had in the past."

As incentive to get the two sides to reach an agreement, the owners also offered the players a $10 million increase in this year's salary cap under an extension, from $94.5 million to about $105 million. That will require an adjustment in appropriations of TV revenues, but that is somewhat easily accomplished, a source told Mortensen. Without a reappropriation of those revenues, the salary cap is projected at about $100 million with an extension.

The bigger obstacles involve the revenue-sharing model among owners. Low-revenue clubs want a limit on how much actual cash clubs can spend each year on their payrolls that exceed the salary cap. Two sources said that the league is trying to limit the cash over the cap spent on players to 2 percent. There is no limit under the current deal.

Management sources have told Mortensen that "there is surprising strength among the low-revenue teams."

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue did send a memo to owners on Friday, telling them to set aside Tuesday for possible ratification of a new CBA, although owners have granted their eight-member executive committee the authority to sign off on any agreement reached this weekend.

If an agreement is reached, it is possible the two sides could delay free agency again for a few days to allow negotiators to get a grasp on the economic model.

Several management sources have confirmed that despite the show of solidarity presented on Thursday morning following an owners' meeting, if there is no CBA extension, it will be because of disagreement among owners on the principles of revenue sharing.

Upshaw has always wanted that issue decided first among the
owners in these last-minute talks,
which began Friday after the deadline for free agency was extended
three days from Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET until Monday at the same
time.

The labor agreement, extended several times since it was agreed
to in 1992, has another two years to run. But 2006 would be the
last year with a salary cap.

There would be no cap next year, but also many changes in the
rules, including some the players find unappealing -- six years for
a player to get to free agency instead of four and no minimum
amount that teams have to spend.

Information from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and The Associated Press was used in this report.