FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Tennessee Titans center and NFLPA president Kevin Mawae offered up a fairly grim take on the state of labor talks between the players' union and the league Thursday. Mawae said players are being prepped to be locked out of work by owners for the 2011 season and that negotiations are stalled because owners want players to give back 20 percent of their earnings.
Mawae's response came to questions from reporters regarding the state of labor talks and to comments Giants co-owner John Mara made to The New York Times on Jan. 19.
"We made a proposal in early November," Mara told The New York Times. "I don't think we've received a meaningful counterproposal …They want a deal that is equal to or better than the existing one and that is not acceptable to us."
"They want 20 percent give-backs," Mawae said following the AFC Pro Bowl practice. "It's about 20 percent and the word is they've asked the players to give it back in forms of salaries. We've offered suggestions to help out with the rookie deal and giving cost credits back on any new revenue generating streams over the several years but it keeps coming back to, 'if you don't give us 20 percent back, we can't get a deal done.'
"We've offered, despite what Jonathan Mara said about us not offering any viable solutions or any ideas -- that's completely false -- we've offered several of them; and they're just not willing to hear that."
Mawae then offered a football analogy: "They're asking for 20 percent back and we're not going to give them 20 percent back, so I think we're a long ways away. We're probably about 80 yards away from each other, so I'd say we're both on (opposite) 10-yard lines."
NFL owners opted out of the current labor deal in May, 2008, citing a disproportionate amount of revenues going toward player expenses while their costs of running teams increased. League spokesman Greg Aiello said Mawae's comments are off base.
"That's not accurate," Aiello said. "Between reductions in outrageous salaries for rookies and anticipated increases in revenue, current players should not see their compensation decline at all under our proposal. The goal is to create a system that will allow for investment and growth in revenue and player compensation."
If a new labor deal is not reached by March 5, the 2010 season will have no salary cap -- or salary floor -- meaning teams can spend as much or as little as they'd like on player salaries. Player movement would be significantly restricted and the number of players on the free-agent market would be limited. If there is no agreement before the 2011 season, a work stoppage is possible.
"It would be a sad deal if we can't get a deal done and continue to play football when we're the most popular professional sport in this country and the billions of dollars that are being made," Mawae said. "It's an $8 billion business. It's probably more than that this year. The numbers haven't come all the way in, yet. The way negotiations go, we could reach an 11th hour deal right before March 5. That would be the best-case scenario. Worst case scenario: We get locked out. Somewhere in between, we figure something out before March 2011 and move on."