In what could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the mediation process — and perhaps a lack of urgency — the NFL and its locked-out players finished four days of court-ordered negotiations Wednesday with no plans to resume for a month.
There is no indication the sides are any closer to reaching a new deal. U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan told both sides he has other matters on his judicial calendar and they probably won't meet again until May 16. Before then the sides expect to hear from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who is considering the players' request for an injunction to lift the lockout.
"There's a lot of uncertainties right now," Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead lawyer, told reporters. "I think when we're back together we'll know more. People's legal positions will be clearer."
Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said of mediation that "everybody believes it was helpful."
As the last act of the now-expired collective bargaining agreement, the owners and players agreed to conduct a draft, which will take place in New York next week.
"We've got to negotiate, not litigate," Kraft said when asked about the situation at an unrelated news conference. "We should have a deal. There's a deal ready to be done where we can play football in the fall."
Even as both sides have taken pains to present unified fronts, a possible fissure surfaced Wednesday among the players. According to a report by Sports Business Journal, a group of about 70 mid-tier NFL players want a seat at the mediation table and are on the verge of hiring a law firm they have been working with for several weeks.
The report said those players are upset that mediation talks broke off last month, before the union decertified.