Rich Eisen, host of "NFL Total Access," asked NFL Network legal analyst Gabe Feldman about U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan's decision Wednesday to adjourn court-ordered mediation until May 16. Eisen also asked Feldman about how the legal and negotiation process might play out between the league and players.
Did (adjourning talks until May 16) just basically come down to the fact that because this litigation button was hit 40 days ago, both sides just want to play out the litigation before anything moves forward on a negotiation front?
"It didn't have to be that way, but that clearly seems to be the case at this point. Both sides feel they'll get a better deal after litigation than before litigation. We were hopeful that the deal would get done sometime before litigation started. Now we've shifted to hoping that litigation will play itself out quickly and we can get a deal done after that."
Should we expect (U.S. District Judge) Susan Nelson to issue some sort of ruling any minute now since obviously her court-appointed mediator decided 26 days of respite is required right now?
"Yes, I think we can expect it maybe (Thursday) or Friday. ... She said exactly two weeks ago it would take her a couple of weeks, mediation is now on hold, there's no reason for her to hold back the ruling any longer, so I'd expect to hear it in the next 24, 48 hours."
Is it possible that the 8th Circuit hears (Nelson's ruling) and issues its own ruling before May 16?
"It's possible but highly unlikely. The loser will file an expedited appeal, and even an expedited appeal will take time, because you have to give each side an opportunity to brief the case and respond to the other side's briefs, and then they have to set a date for an argument, then the court has to write an opinion. ... I think end of May, early June is more likely."
How does the Doty (television-revenue) case factor into this? ... How does that figure as a potential flash point here?
"It may not factor for the owners, but I think it still factors for the players, that the worry is they can't sustain a lengthy lockout because they're not getting paid and the free agents aren't getting signed. If they can get some more money through a damages award, that will make it easier for the players to sustain a lengthy lockout."
Would you agree it has become apparent that any negotiation is not going to happen until every possible judge who can rule in this case is going to rule in this case?
"I think so. I can't see anything getting done after Nelson rules and before the 8th Circuit hears this because no one's going to give up at halftime. They'll see that the game hasn't been played through yet and they're going wait until the appeals process ends."
You said late May, early June (is when the 8th Circuit Court process likely will conclude). So why pick May 16 as a date to pick up talks?
"Well, I think you want to at least give an opportunity to talk again; there's a chance you can reach some settlement. I mean, why did they have the settlement talks now? There was a hope that they'd be able to reach a deal before the hearing, and it may be that the May 12 ruling (in the television-revenue case) does cause one party or the other to move. There's at least a possibility that Doty's decision pushes one side closer together, but you at least want to get them at the table. They can't agree if they're not at the table, so give them one more shot to talk before it gets all the way through the legal process.