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Pash to players: Come back to negotiating table

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL's chief counsel and point man in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement held court at the owners meetings Monday.

Jeff Pash made a plea to the players to resume CBA talks. There has been little communication between the NFL and players since they failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement after 16 days of federally mediated discussions ended on March 11. 

Both sides said Monday they are willing to return to the bargaining table, but with strings attached.

The players don't want to negotiate with Pash and NFL outside counsel Bob Batterman. They prefer to deal directly with the owners. Pash has no problem with that.

"The people who are writing the checks and the people who are cashing the checks should be at the table together,'' Pash said in a large ballroom at the Roosevelt Hotel. "Let’s have decision-makers at the table together.''

Meanwhile, DeMaurice Smith, who was the NFLPA's executive director before it decertified, sent a letter to the NFL on Monday saying the league can contact NFLPA class counsel since the now-defunct union can’t legally represent itself as a bargaining unit.

However, the NFL said refuses to acknowledge that the union has dissolved even though the former NFLPA now calls itself a trade association. The league also will only negotiate with the association's executive board unless the board says it’s a union bargaining for its players.

"There is going to be an agreement with the union. There is no question about that,'' Pash said. "There is going to be a labor agreement. We don’t accept that the Union has ‘decertified’ or something like that. We don’t accept that, we don’t believe that it has taken place. We believe that is a tactical move by the NFLPA. We believe they are continuing to function as a labor organization. We believe they intend to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with us. And we think we should get over the falderal and get to it.''

With both sides saying they will only talk to certain people on each side, the signs that negotiations will resume soon don't look too good. The players and owners might not return to the table until a federal judge in Minnesota presides over a hearing on April 6 to rule on the players' lawsuit that the owners violated anti-trust laws by locking them out.

---Allen Wilson

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