Negotiators for the National Football League and the NFL Players Association will resume talks here today for the first time since July 23, but progress toward a settlement appears remote.
"We are waiting for a counterproposal to our July 13th proposal," said Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm. In agreeing to today's meeting, Donlan informed the NFLPA that management had no new offers to place on the table.
Jim Miller, a spokesman for the management council, said Donlan met Monday in Los Angeles with seven members of the council's executive committee to discuss improvements to the July 13 offer. But, he said, there are no plans to put anything new on the bargaining table until the union responds to that offer.
The union says it has no plans to respond.
"They're just being argumentative," said Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA. "We need to have some evidence that they are prepared to bargain. So far, we haven't seen any."
The two sides have not met in more than a month because they could not agree on a site. Arguing that player participation was essential to meaningful negotiations, the union proposed meeting near a training camp so one or more of its player representatives could be present.
Management negotiators said they would meet anywhere but at a training camp, arguing that the proximity of labor negotiations could disrupt practices.
Last week, the NFLPA informed the management council it would meet here if player representatives could be excused from practice to attend. The council agreed.
Player representatives participating in today's session will be Washington's Mark Murphy, Detroit's Stan White and Philadelphia's John Bunting.
Asked if today's talks would likely result in progress, Murphy said, "I don't think so, unless the management council is prepared to come in with a new proposal. Their first proposal was just a rewrite of the existing contract. There is no reason for us to present them with a counterproposal until they come up with something a lot more serious."
In its offer, the council proposed easing restrictions on players moving from team to team and increases in minimum wages, fringe benefits and playoff and Super Bowl bonuses.
Donlan admitted the proposal was based on the existing contract, but argued, "That is the traditional way to bargain." He said that "was not a final offer."
But the NFLPA's basic demand is that the league divert 55 percent of its gross income to a trust fund that would pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale with performance incentive bonuses.
"We are expecting a response to the fundamental issue, a percentage of the gross and how to pay the players," Garvey said yesterday.
Donlan, who says NFL owners will never agree to a pay scale based on percentage of gross revenues, said, "I don't know if Garvey asked for this meeting because he is getting heat from some of his players."
In addition to money, club and league discipline, offseason camps, meal allowances, days off and players' medical rights are scheduled for discussion at the talks.
In another development, both Donlan and Garvey said they have been invited to testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday by Rep. Cardiss Collins (D-Ill.). He heads the subcommittee on manpower and government operations, which oversees the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
An aide to Collins said the hearing will focus on how the mediation service might help resolve the impasse.