WASHINGTON - Eagles president Joe Banner left Washington Friday frustrated and angry as the NFL plunged toward the prospect of an extended court fight that could put its 2011 season in jeopardy.
Banner said that the league's owners had made significant concessions to the players and that their union did not even bother to counter.
"Our players, I hope, will really understand the offer that they walked away from," Banner said. "I don't know what the league could have done more . . . that would have proved how badly [the owners] would have wanted to get a deal done and keep the game going forward."
Owners originally had sought $1 billion from players to help pay for investments in the league, arguing that player costs were rising faster than revenues and eating into profits. That demand was whittled as days went on.
"We got to the point where there was a significant gap. We made an offer that reduced that gap all the way to $320 million and asked them to meet us," Banner said. "And they said no."
The players union, however, said it did not receive the financial data it wanted to prove that the league needed more money, especially in light of the NFL's evident success. The union made its own offer that would have given more money to owners and retired players.
Union officials would have contested much of what Banner said in his interview after talks broke down, but his comments offer a glimpse of management perspective after a day in which the negotiations stalled.
He said the owners' offer would have increased the combined salary cap and benefits spending on players to a level higher than any previous spending.
The union, however, pointed out that cap and benefits spending would have been lower in 2011 and 2012 than in 2009. It would have been $141 million in 2011 compared to $149 million in 2009. The difference was that Banner compared the future cap against past spending, while the union compared past and proposed cap numbers.
"To anyone, does that sound like a proposal that doesn't take a significant amount of salary and benefits from people who play for 3.4 years?" NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith asked.
Smith said the players offered concessions to save owners $550 million over four years.
Union lawyers said the league still wanted $5 billion in savings, but Banner said owners had come off that proposal and offered better benefits and a 16-game season for at least two years, giving ground on two significant sticking points.
"You'd think that would be received as a pretty significant step on our part," Banner said. "When the league has been talking about the skepticism that the union was sincerely there to try to make a deal, this is why."
Smith disputed that account, pointing to the players' financial concession.
"For them to say that our path was always decertification, and that we did not engage in good-faith negotiation, and that we did not budge flies in the face of reason, flies in the face of facts, and is simply untrue," Smith said.
Banner is now left to oversee a team whose player movement may be frozen in a league whose rules are likely to be battled over in court, unless negotiations can resume.
"We will continue to do everything we can to try to find a way to get this resolved," he said.
Contact staff writer Jonathan Tamari at 215-854-5214 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JonathanTamari