The NFL and NFLPA may have a seven-day extension in place but that doesn't mean a lockout has been avoided. There is still a lot of work to be done if both sides hope to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement.
Arizona Cardinals kicker and team union representative Jay Feely said Friday that the extension is a positive but the crisis hasn't been averted.
"I think it's a definite positive," he told Sports 620 KTAR's Sports Interactive. "All the fans of the NFL should be excited and happy. By no means does it mean the deal is going to get done and that a lockout is going to be averted, but it was a big step. Neither side would have taken these steps if they didn't feel a resolution to the negotiations was plausible."
Although the extension doesn't guarantee a new agreement will happen, it does mean the league, players and fans get to avoid the mess of a lockout. At least for another week.
"Had we not had an extension then we would have went into the legal world and all the ramifications and legal wrangling," Feely explained. "Then the CBA would have been decided. Now it would have been decided, not in a negotiation process where rational minds can come to an agreement, but in the legal format and in the legal system.
"You would have had the owners lock us out. Followed by the desertification of the union. Followed by the antitrust lawsuits of top stars in the NFL against the owners and then you would have had emotions brought back into the equation. I think it would have been much harder to get a deal. It would have solidified the fact that we were going to miss games in the season. That it was going to be protracted and go into the season. I'm hopeful now that it's not."
Feely said the biggest hurdle the two sides must clear over the next week, if they hope to reach an agreement, is the proposed 18-game schedule.
"Money is always at the forefront of all these decisions," the kicker said. "The kind of decisions you're working with are budgetary decisions. They wanted a billion dollars back, billion with a b, off of the salary cap. I think the 18 games is something that is very hard for players to wrap their minds around. If you look at this year there was 300 players put on [injured reserve]. If there is 1,700 players, that's almost one-in-six players on every team put on IR this year.
"If you couple that with all the research that we've done in concussions and the long term implications and the changes that the NFL is trying to make in the game because of the research in concussions, 18 games is not just about playing two extra games. For the owners it's really just about making $500 million or so more. To the players it's a health issue. It's a quality of life issue. You're looking at ‘Do I risk my quality of life by playing these extra two games just for some extra money'."
In a hope to avoid an 18 game schedule, Feely and his fellow players have a solution on how to get the owners the extra money they desire without endangering the players.
"I heard a great point from Eric Winston down with the Texans," Feely said. "He said if you want more money you can take the Thursday night game and you can bid it out to the networks. Right now we're just playing that on the league owned network. You could bid that game out and probably get more than $500 million because of the ratings it got last year. It's a very tough issue for the players to swallow."
Just because the players are standing their ground doesn't mean they want the dispute to interrupt the upcoming season. Feely says they want to play.
"There's not a player that doesn't want to have football next year," he said "I'm sure the owners feel that way as well but they were the ones looking at a lockout. They are the ones who opted out of the collective bargaining agreement that was in place. We have a long way to go."
Even though the players don't agree with the steps the owners may take or some of the concessions the owners are asking them to take, Feely and others understand the reality of the world's financial situation.
"I understand some of the issues," he said. "They say ‘OK we need a billion dollars back'. What they're really saying is the economics have changed throughout our country. We are no longer getting public financing for our stadiums so we have to finance them privately. So we need more money taken off before the cap is formulated to account for our investments. I get that. I can see that and I can understand that. We have to figure out a way to figure out that problem even without the justification that they haven't given us and showed us what their profits are."
With another seven-days to settle their differences Feely is cautiously optimistic a new deal can be reached.
"We've got a lot of work to do next week," he said. "I'm hopeful that we can go in there and get it done."